Why I Raise Awareness About High Blood Pressure by Zablon Orina

Imagine receiving a call from a doctor in your home town to let you know that your blood brother has kidney failure and urgently needs medical attention to save his life.

You swiftly plan his travel to Nairobi where he is admitted in a hospital you consider affordable since the deposit is ‘only $150’.

Within a week the bill sits at $5000, an amount that has to come out of your pocket, remember your brother doesn’t have a good medical cover like you.

You think you are good to go but the doctor reminds you this is the beginning: your patient needs dialysis twice every week at a cost of $90 per session-do the math.

Despite your sacrifice your brother dies after one year and a half of spending on him, leaving behind a young family. If you had picked his hypertension earlier and had it treated his life would have been saved. 

This is exactly what I went through at the prime of my career, having cleared my first car loan and ready to invest and grow my finances. My brother had hypertension and later kidney failure and death. 

This is what many people in Kenya and other developing countries are going through footing medical bills to save the lives of their loved ones.

I borrowed money from shylocks and banks to try and save his life, I borrowed from friends and even sold part of our land to try and save his life.

It didn’t work- he died at 36 from the deleterious effects of hypertension. His name was Nicholas Orina, our first born in a family of 5.

His death left me hooked up to loans. I lost my financial freedom till date. 

Since his death I made a decision to invest my time and resources towards ending the burden of high blood pressure. 

Through Kidney Focus Kenya Foundation, which I founded, I have been able to raise awareness in various places across the country. 

In 2019, I ran for 3 days from Nairobi to Gilgil, a distance of 120KM symbolic of normal blood pressure which ideally should be below 120/80mmHg.

On 29th September 2020, I walked barefoot from Kenyatta University to the Ministry of Health offices to signify the sacrifice we need to make in form of physical activity to end the burden of high blood pressure.

I have been doing door to door education and blood pressure checks to raise awareness about high blood pressure until March 2020 when the country was hit by the first case of corona virus when I moved actively to social media where I educate people about high blood pressure on Twitter and Facebook as The Blood Pressure Champion and Zablon Orina respectively.

I help people to manage their weight in a practical manner that is easy to understand and implement. 

More deaths and hospitalizations have been reported among people with high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease hence the need to focus on these diseases if we are to lower the effect of the corona virus in the world. 

We can’t have more people gaining more weight in the middle of a pandemic yet excessive weight puts them at risk of hospitalization and death. 

Currently, we’ve come up with an online community where people will log in and be educated by medical doctors on hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and kidney disease.

The online platform is called Wezesha hosted on www.kidneyfocuskenya.org 

I have also set up a platform where people can record their blood pressure readings, blood sugars, weight and daily activities for many years and still be able to share these records with their doctors. 

My goal is to change the discussion around hypertension completely so that people prevent a high blood pressure diagnosis by cutting all excessive weight and exercising most days.

The emphasis has been on pills more than lifestyle which still throws a burden to the general population. 

Even people with normal weight who carry fat in their bellies are at a higher risk of getting hypertension.

70% of people with type 2 diabetes have excessive weight.

Why then do we have such a large number of people with type 2 diabetes if we can fix it by cutting our weights?

If we keep our blood pressure below 120/80mmHg chances of getting a heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and heart failure will be very low. 

When you see your blood pressure rising, it’s because your blood vessels are beginning to narrow making your heart to work harder than normal, meaning your physical activity is wanting and you are adding weight.

It’s not the genes majorly. It is our lifestyle.

I have a background in Biochemistry and have interests in Health economics. 

Until January 2021, I worked for Pfizer in the area of high blood pressure and infectious disease as a medical representative having looked at most of the available studies on hypertension medicines and hypertension.

With my vast experience, I am able to educate people about high blood pressure and what to do to avoid a diagnosis based on available guidelines.

If we are able to avoid a high blood pressure diagnosis, we will end up avoiding a type 2 diabetes diagnosis and some forms of cancer. 

I am working towards ensuring that every adult knows and understands their blood pressure. 

I am so passionate about this and won’t give up until I see that the lives of millions of people have been changed. 

I have remained consistent even after losing my job at Pfizer at the start of 2021, doing all I can to ensure the campaign is running. 

I appeal to well wishers to fund this campaign to enable me save more lives. 

This is a story I will like to share to the world to change the lives of millions of people by saving them from the unnecessary complications brought about by high blood pressure.

Thank you. 

Zablon Orina

The Blood Pressure Champion 

@zablonorina1 on Twitter 

Zablon Orina on Facebook 

Tel: +254702260923.