Mother’s pain as three daughters go blind

Agnes Kaburo with her three daughters Pamela Kendi, Jennifer Kalayu and Linnet Kamathi at their home in Muririi, Tigania East. The three sisters went blind a few years ago after a strange disease hit them. [Peter Muthomi, Standard]
A mother's life has turned into an endless nightmare after her three daughters went blind.

 Born healthy and with good eyesight, Agnes Kaburo’s three daughters developed complications that gradually rendered  Pamela Kendi, Jennifer Kalayu and Linnet Kimathi blind.

It all started with itching eyes.

Pamela Kendi’s eye problem started with itching that grew worse over the years culminating in total blindness.

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A tearful Kendi, 17, says she was in Class Six at Lailuba Primary School in Tigania West when she experienced the initial itches and at first dismissed them as normal.

“But I noticed that whereas in the past I could clearly see what was written on the blackboard from the back, the letters were becoming blurred,” said Kendi, seated with her mother and sisters outside their mud and wattle huts.

Her mother could not afford to take her to hospital, so she had to use inexpensive eye drops to lessen the irritation.

“I used to sit at the back of the classroom but in order to see the letters on the board clearly, the teacher moved me to the front. At some point in 2011 the left eye lost sight, followed by the other soon after,” she said.

Locals contributed some money to take her to Kambi ya Juu Integrated School in neighbouring Isiolo County, after which she was transferred to St Lucy Centre for the Blind (Igoji).

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Ms Kaburo who is in her 50s says she had taken her daughter to a clinic and was told a blocked vein had led to the blindness.

“Unfortunately I could not afford to pay a corrective operation,” the sad woman said at the homestead at Lailuba village, Tigania West (Meru).

The blindness of Jeniffer Kalayu, 23, started the same way; with an itch.

She says it started when she was in class two at Lailuba Primary School when her itches progressively turned painful, and eventually her vision became blurred.

“I was also forced to shift my desk to the front of the classroom to make out what was on blackboard,” she said.

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Her mother, alarmed at the prospect of another daughter becoming blind, sought help at the Meru Catholic Diocese.

The diocese took Kalayu to a clinic run by the Lions Club in Nairobi, but in spite of efforts to save her eyesight, she at first lost one eye followed by the other.

That was before she had sat the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education in 2014.

For a short period before she was totally blind in 2016 she worked at a laundry shop to get a little money for the family, which is too poor to afford basic needs, including food.

“But I went back home when I became totally blind. I feel terrible because I know my mother is too poor and weak, yet we all have to depend on her to get a little food just to make sure we don’t starve,” said Kalayu, a tear forming in her left eye.

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Kaburo is now even more desperate because her other daughter, Linet Kamathi, 6, has complained of itchy and painful eyes.

“She keeps on squinting and rubbing her eyes, so I am very worried for her. I need help to save her eyesight but we are too poor and I don’t want to bother neighbours because they are also poor,” she said.

"I am at the end of my tether. The two goats you see there are my entire wealth. I work at farms to raise some coins for food, but I cannot feed all these mouths. I need assistance," she added.