At the age of 13, Reuben Shalom Kaguru is only beginning to experience teenage-hood and all the dreams and aspirations that come with his age.
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He is now at the age where he will be bombarded with messages like ”You are the future”.
Unlike other teenagers though, Shalom is diabetic.
He joins 70,000 children under the age of 14 who develop Diabetes every year according to WHO.
Far from the statistics is a personal battle waged by Shalom from Racecourse estate, in Nakuru to effectively manage type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes, once referred to as juvenile diabetes affects children when their pancreas does not produce insulin, the hormone that helps in the movement of sugar or glucose into the body’s tissues. It can also affect adults.
Because Diabetes has no known cure, managing it is key. Shalom understands that and has mastered the timings when he should injects himself with insulin.
It is now a ritual that he follows every morning and before going to bed, injecting himself with insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar and glucose in the body.
“I have accepted my condition and understand how to manage it. For example, I inject myself with insulin every day,” confirms Shalom, his confidence and the defying his age.
The standard 8 pupil at Racetrack primary school was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the Rift Valley Provincial General Hospital in 2014.
Early symptoms he presented were, general body weakness, frequent urination, eye problems and even vomiting whenever he had a meal.
His sight problems worsened each day, subsequently affecting his academic performance.
”At school, I was not able to see clearly on the blackboard more so whenever a teacher used colored chalk. I could also fall on several occasions for failing to see clearly,” recalls the pupil.
He was taken to Langa Langa health center and was later referred to the Level 5 hospital where he was admitted for two weeks and later diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
“I was worried about my son’s most of the time, he complained of general body weakness and the rate of water intake and urination was worrying,’’ his mother Lucy Kaguri recalls.
He was put on diabetic medication and currently attends clinic after every three months for regular examination and monitoring.
He currently manages the disease with a healthy diet for instance which has meant striking off sugar from his meals. When other teenagers are indulging in all manner of sugary limits sugar intake, takes sugarless tea, porridge and takes a lot of green leafy vegetables.
“My son understands more about diabetics at such a tender age and I am happy to see him manage the condition by himself,” she says.
Shalom is among thousands of children who suffer diabetes disease in the country according to medics.
Doctor Njenga, a diabetic specialist attached at Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi says there are two categories of diabetic namely type 1 (affects children and those under the age of 40) and type 2, among adults.
He says that prevalence of diabetic in the country is worryingly high with about 750,000 people suffering from the disease.
“There is a high number of people including children currently living with diabetics. The disease is hereditary but it is not clear on what causes type 1 in children,” says the doctor.
Symptoms of type 1 diabetes include weight loss, dehydration, frequent urination and general body weakness.
According to the doctor, type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition in which the body gradually loses capacity to produce enough insulin in the pancreas. The disease he says is attributed to genetic factors and lifestyle.
Dr Njenga cautions that failure to manage diabetes through proper diet and exercises can lead to other complications that include heart attacks, kidney failure, stroke, amputation and blindness among others.
Immunity of people with diabetes according to the doctor is also very low that require regular checkups by a specialist.
“Management of the disease is very vital for example regular exercise, avoid high intake of carbohydrates, fats and sugar, regular physical exercises, early diagnosis through blood test and maintaining a healthy body weight,” Dr Njenga warns.