I will always be grateful to my sister for saving my life

Imagine this,you are 25,with all the energies of a youth,working as an industrial engineer and everything is just fine for you.An ailment strikes and before everything makes sense,you are in India awaiting a kidney transplant.

That is the story of Joab Wako who narrated to us his experiences and how his sister Selina Wako was more than willing to save his life.

Joab and Selina are recovering well post-transplant and he is writing a book to demystify transplants especially among the young people.

It is a long read but very informative.Here we go:

Q.Tell us about your ailment and how it got to the point of going to India

I lived with End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) otherwise known as Kidney Failure. I found out in 2015 my kidneys were failing, and by the time I was diagnosed, it was so advanced I was immediately put on dialysis.

Kidney disease is a silent killer, and few people are aware they have it until it is too late. In my case, doctors couldn’t pick point what exactly led to my Kidney Failure, so they pinned it on uncontrolled hypertension (as it is one of the most common causes of kidney failure).

I remained on dialysis for a year and a half. During that period I continued to work full-time to support myself as we organized a kidney transplant.

All this occurred when I was in the US where the price of a transplant is exorbitant. As a result, our family decided on India because they have the expertise at a fraction of the cost.

Q.How was the relationship with your sister when growing up?

I’ve always been close to my sister. She is my older sister, and we have two older siblings (I’m the youngest).

We grew up playing together, so she is in most of my fondest memories. She was my best friend before Kidney Failure, and now she is even more than words can describe.

Q.How was it decided that she would donor and how was the conversation like?

Lucky for me, my sister was one of the first to tell me in person that she wanted to be a potential donor; so it was an easy conversation.

She is an action person and quickly got tested to see if she was a match. Luckily we are the same blood group (one of the most important requirements), but we weren’t a HLA (Human Leukocyte Antigen) match like most transplant donor/recipient pairs.

I learnt that as long as the recipient doesn’t have any antibodies that target the donors antibodies, the transplant can proceed.

Q.What did your parents say?

My parents have always been supportive about the whole process. However, the medical teams were worried because my sister is young and not yet married.

Apparently some men are so superficial they wouldn’t marry a woman with scars from a transplant. Gladly that was not the case for my sister.

Q.So you go through the process and you are now in India.How was the experience

India was an eye-opening experience. In the medical field, they are very advanced.

If you find a good doctor and hospital, the treatment a patient will receive is world class. However, like anything else, medical tourism has become a market.

Therefore, there are people whose primary objective is to make money. Make sure to do research on every doctor and surgeon, plus know the hospitals record on dealing with your particular ailment.Our procedures were very successful.

Q.How’s the post transplant recovery like 6 months down the line?

Post transplant is more about the medication.We take immunosuppressants, hypertension medicine, and a couple of supplements.

Q.Any advise to people who have had a transplant?

Be disciplined and keep track of your progress with your nephrologist.

Q.How are you two recovering?

Of course we feel a lot better physically, and it is something I don’t take for granted anymore. Getting out of bed with energy is truly a present. So use it wisely.

Q.What’s the relationship with your sister like now?

Words can’t describe how special she is to me. Now that I have her kidney, it makes me respect her even more than I did before.

She went through a surgery she didn’t require to save my life. There are selfless people on this earth, and then there are donors.

I believe donors have what is known as sacrificial love, where they are ready to sacrifice themselves in the hope of saving someone they love.

Q.Any advice to guys in the process receiving a transplant?
Patience, patience, patience…Throughout the process there will be bumps, potholes, punctures and even breakdowns.. Be patient and don’t give up.

Sometimes the best way somewhere isn’t the fastest. Take each day as it comes, enjoy the process and the fact you have someone who cares enough to donate to you.

Q.Tell us about the your the book in the works and your website

The book focuses on my experience from kidney failure to a kidney transplant. I want it to serve as a guide for younger people with this condition.

Hopefully in the next couple of months I’ll have a complete manuscript that I can take to a publisher. The website started as a blog of my day to day life on dialysis, now I am in the process of upgrading it to deal with transplants in general.

From my research, non-communicable diseases don’t collectively have a platform here. In Kenya we mostly hear of Cancer and Cardiovascular; Kidney, and Liver maybe on their respective months or world days.

This needs to change, as most non-communicable diseases are chronic and very expensive. We definitely need support.

Parting Shot? I love philosophy, so I’m going to quote a philosopher.
”The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.’- Socrates .Let’s build a Kenya with affordable world-class health care.


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Interview by Wanja

1 thought on “I will always be grateful to my sister for saving my life

  1. I know them personally, the are a wonderful brother and sister team. Love them both!
    Such courage for the both of them.

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