You recall Austin of Peptic Ulcers? When he went for a post treatment check up, Doctor Martin, seemingly in his mid-thirties, donning the typical white coat, ordinary specs and showing a tendency to tolerate beards all over his cheeks, looked straight at him and had this to say;

Please forget alcohol. 

For starters, Austin was never an active drinker. He popped in these stuffy and noisy places say once in three months and it had to be out of influence from friends. In other times it was out of those family gatherings events where men are compelled to drink to appease the so called imaginary ancestors. Speaking of family, it’s important to appreciate Austin comes from a family background stemming from the slopes of Mount Kenya. That’s said, I’m sure you’ve come across these breed of kuyus in social functions struggling to shed off a stereotype of harboring unusual appetite for alcohol. These chaps (and a considerable number of women) drink even when they meet for burial preparation activities.

By the way, I have attended several fundraisers in downtown Nairobi, in joints owned by kuyus usually with funny names like Magomano Hotel, Giathiniwa Cafe, Njogu-Ini Inn, organised by these lads where people literally drink heavily while the ceremony runs. Occasionally, your name will be randomly mentioned by the MC to escort a friend to the basket normally placed at the high table as he takes his contribution. Escorting in this aspect means chipping in to his contribution. You will rise with your beer firmly in hand, while adjusting your symbolic godfather hat whose colour will be complementing your pair of Safari boots and join the queue as you dance to a popular mugithi song.

For Austin’s case, he was not that type of a drinker you would find fixed alone at the bar counter, seemingly in deep thoughts, occasionally teasing the bar lady and having one those uncultivated pep talks with her. You know of these chaps, who walk to the bar formally dressed, straight from the office clinging to the Business Daily newspaper? They never sit at any other place apart from the counter. And if it is fully occupied, they’d rather hang around there for hours holding on their brown bottle, keeping tabs with their phones and sporadically engaging the guy seated next to them, in those tall seats.

For Austin, it was a different ball game altogether. He would never walk to a club alone. He had to be in the pack of other thirsty cubs eager and excited to catch up and kill the night courtesy of drinks. He savored the thrill that comes with drinking in the company of his boys, so to speak and the drama that makes the night wilder. Be it because of the guys seated next to them who would hide some bills much to the frustration of the waitress to the weirdness that comes with all types of drinkers. This was best captured in an article I wrote not so long ago; What Type of A Bar Patron Do You Make .

The good think about alcohol (not that I’m advocating for it) makes one more human if you take it responsibly. You see, these days we rarely say hello to strangers be it in matatus, not in the barber shop queue nor in the ATM line. We hold and keep it to ourselves. This never occurs in the bar. Chaps who have a cordial relationship with the bar counter are normally taken to be lone drinkers but that never deters them from bonding with the rest, with similar ethos. In fact as the hours speed off so does the silence. The more litres ones imbibe the more talkative one becomes, thanks to alcohol. Even when you walk to the washrooms and bump on this stranger as you do your thing, alcohol compels one to warmly acknowledge him, be it through a nod or a smile. This toxic stuff has a way of exuding the human touch.

From what I gathered from Austin, he is keen on ensuring he faithfully stays away from alcohol and its dens for as long as he lives. Of course to the much delight of his girlfriend who was openly against him taking alcohol. Well, she seems to have had the last laugh. But what would happen if he gets invited to one of those bridal parties, birthday bashes and dowry events. Will he survive the jabs and indirect ridicules from friends and relatives? Will his body have conformed to the tough laws passed without much consultation or notice courtesy of Doctor Martin? Martin should have prepaid him for this hehe and be like; well, you have two more months to drink and from then forget if alcohol ever existed in the first place. But that would still be tough for him especially on Fridays when he will be driving past his formerly usual joints and have them unrelentingly throw tempts at him. The familiar music, and mood will take toll on him too.

Being a teetotaler is tough, he quips. Nowadays everybody drinks. How does one manoeuvre life with this kind of stigma? To add on, the doctor also advised him to avoid coffee and lemon and any acidic foods. Meaning, Austin will not be in a position to even take an intern for coffee. Or rather he will take her and drink tea. How do you walk in to Java House – Nanyuki and order for tea? The intern will be taken aback! Tea should be taken at home or in the office not in Java or any other high end place that you could take your girlfriend hehe. She will indulge him;

Why kienyeji tea?

Blame the doctor. Coffee triggers heartburn.

Oooooh woisheeeee. Poor thing.

Meanwhile, he will have to take cues from renowned Kenya public figures who are established teetotalers to name a few; the celebrated radio presenter – Willi M.Tuva, Hip hop artiste – Octopizzo, the flashy – Jaguar, the high rolling – Victor Wanyama, Top Dj – Dj Joe Mfalme, local dancehall guru – Wyre  and Ladies favourite – Jeff Mote. I saw Larry Madowo in the list but wasn’t too sure if he is a strict teetotaler. I’m told Dhoty Family’s Dj Kriss Darlin’ doesn’t drink as well. As it seems, Austin is in a safe company of brave gentlemen who have arguably solid careers at their grip, taking the battle of teetotalling right at the doorstep of the drinking hearth. That’s pure audacity at best.

On the flipside he will have to cut links with his drinking buddies. This has everything to do with friends who never have any other agenda apart from always urging him to go drinking. It will be difficult for him but important, at least to save his health.

All the best Bro Austin! It’s time you did this!

Photo courtesy of Standard Digital Entertainment – SDE 



Image result for private hospitals in KenyaWhen people hear of ulcers what mostly comes to mind is that the victim is probably battling stress related issues or depression. I won’t call it ignorance but rather lack of information. I was in your position too before I met Austin and listened to his story.

I bet you want to be in the know about this infection that is not so popular but painful and draining. Join me as we go through Austin’s medical journey as I compiled it few days ago;

To what started as mild pains around Austin’s chest quickly developed to intense discomfort in a couple of days. When the pain became tough to endure having toyed with the idea that it could be stress which could somehow be solved by going easy on himself and opening up to close friends and relatives, the pain had none of this. When this failed to work, the most prudent thing was to call a friend to rush him to a nearby hospital one late evening. He was misdiagnosed with Asthma by the nurse on duty. The doctor was away. Be careful with private clinics. He actually learnt of the misdiagnose close to a week later when he checked in another hospital only to be treated for Anxiety Disorder. The doctor made him believe he was a Type A personality just like renowned familiar public figures to name a few –  Presidents Uhuru and Obama. Google defines Type A personality as more competitive, outgoing, ambitious, impatient, aggressive and self critical. They are short fused meaning their temperament can be slightly out of normal. They are also highly status – conscious, workaholics, rigidly organised, anxious and proactive. Type A personalities are highly vulnerable to stress related illnesses than the rest of the personalities.

Austin having been diagnosed with Anxiety disorder was prescribed with medicine that would make him relax his mind. The side effect was, he tended to sleep more. No sooner was he done with his dose after a month or so, than his chest pains re-emerged once more. He visited another different hospital and this time round diagnosed with stress. He was made to believe his body was producing excess acid which in effect, affected his esophagus, because acid burns, right? He was cautioned to avoid issues that would make him overly stressed and also consider engaging in hobbies that would relieve his mind off the serious stuff. In other words he was to embrace unwinding seriously than before and to have a strong support around him. The remedy here helped him relieve off the acid but had nothing to do with treating peptic ulcers.

Two months later the pains kept playing hide and seek; jumping from one area to another. It went to a point where his rib cage ached from time to time. Austin became convinced its time he had an X Ray of his chest. He booked an appointment in an established Mission Hospital where the result came with a clean bill of health. Here, he was diagnosed with pneumonia. He was advised to keep warm, avoid conditions that would lower his body temperatures unusually, exercise more and strictly drink warm water. He was medicated and got temporarily recuperated.

As soon as he was done with this medicine composed of antibiotics and pain killers, the pains resurfaced this time more angry, rebranded and confronting. Meanwhile, Austin was developing stress out of not getting a lasting solution about his pains. Besides, the checkups were draining him financially and disappointing. One day, he sipped tea and felt nausea. The next minute, he was holding his breath to stop untimed vomit. How so? With the pains stubbornly persisting he was dealing with another problem; of handling nausea. I remember him joking – I felt like I’m pregnant. No pun intended.

By sheer chance, one of his distressed siblings advised him to go to a reputable hospitable with a credible laboratory where he would be tested for amoeba. For your information, amoeba causes nausea and headaches. Austin identified another hospital where he had his tests done. This time round, he met a proficient doctor who diagnosed him correctly. He calmly told him his illness had nothing to do with stress but hygiene! How? Yes. He was suffering from an infection called Peptic Ulcers caused by a bacteria referred as H.Pylori. This was evidenced by the tests done from his blood and stool samples.

The doctor advised him to avoid taking meals and water from public places – Hotels etc. The bacteria is mainly caused by contaminated foods including fruits , water and spread from person to person. I assumed it’s through kissing. Washing ones hand regularly and thoroughly is also highly recommended. By all means avoid those tempting street mutura in your neighborhood, normally prepaid by this lad who is always in a dirty, dust coat. Please also ignore the aroma that comes from that kibanda that sells chips mwitu. Be careful with where you buy your greens too. They might have been grown in sewage rich areas.  The bacteria attaches itself along the digestive tract and triggers acid which the burns the esophagus which lead to pain around the upper part of the chest. As you read this, Austin has fully recovered. He has shed off the pains and carried along vital lessons.

He is worried of one thing; Social media. You know of those ‘forwards’ on Whatsapp that read – if you have this type of pain bla bla bla please consider visiting a doctor as it may be trigger a particular chronic illness bla bla bla…. They end with familiar conclusions that go like; please share with at least ten of your loved ones. 

These messages made Austin paranoid. They made him struggle with self assurance. He consoled himself with the fact that, most of these information spread across social media are mostly inaccurate and unverified. However, Austin has one plea to put across; that please do not forward any message on whatsapp or whichever platform especially to do with one’s health if you are not a clinical officer or health expert. This messages can easily trigger panic attacks to individuals who are not as lucky as you forwarding them. Lucky in the sense of a credible support system and people around them at that time of reading these forwards. They can easily get paranoid. They may also be living alone, you know. Think of what could happen when their blood pressure suddenly shoots up out of reading such forwards.

The issue of going for comprehensive medical checkups at least once in a year should be taken more seriously. It might be slightly expensive but; ….THIS IS ABOUT YOUR HEALTH! The cliche that prevention is better than cure is so true. In any case, the money we spend in clubs drinking ourselves silly just in one weekend is enough for a thorough medical checkup. Is that much to ask!

Lastly; Avoid alcohol as much. Alcohol worsens these conditions.

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