Alice Gitau,32, a single mother from Muranga, stepped on a rusty nail in Nairobi 10 years ago and failed to get a tetanus jab in good time.
Her leg healed normally but after a year a swelling occurred at the base of her left foot, the swelling became uncomfortable and painful forcing her to get medical attention.
It was at a Murang’a hospital that it was realized that her foot was rotting prompting the medics to amputate her leg at the ankle joint.
What Alice did not know is that the effects of the nail had reached her mid-leg and one year again down the line her leg was amputated at the knee joint.
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“I have never been worried and hopeless like then when my leg was cut at the knee, I had to rely on crutches to do the smallest of my daily chores,” Alice says.
Her life turned upside down as performing her daily chores in the house and at the farm became a near impossibility.
“I could not tend to my vegetables. I could not wash my house and even bathing was a daunting task. I hated myself and hated even being consoled. life was tasteless and full of misery,” she recalls.
But hope springs eternal.
An institution in Kijabe is giving amputees and children born with bone deformities a new lease of life with prosthetic limbs made at the centre.
The prosthetic limbs whose cost is beyond the means of many Kenyans are assembled at Cure Center workshop and fitted on amputees from across the country.
The doctor who amputated her leg at Murang’a helped Alice get at the Cure Centre, Kijabe.
Alice was not even sure if the artificial leg would be of any help but she gave it a try.
“I have never had difficulties in life such as moving from Murang’a to Kijabe via Nairobi in a matatu and with crutches. Such a day goes down as one of the most difficult and lowest moments of my life,” says Alice.
Alice was admitted at the ward to allow the prosthetics technician from the centre’s orthopedic workshop to analyse her leg and determine the most suitable artificial leg.
Her leg was heavily bandaged by Seith Simiyu, the orthopaedic technician at the centre, to allow fitting of the prosthetic leg.
“I felt hopeful at the centre. The orthopedic technologist gave me hope that I will leave the crutches and walk again. A tear rolled down my chin. How I missed walking!”
After three weeks Alice was fitted with an artificial leg and walked around the centre in a new lease of life.
”It felt like a hot cup of tea in the morning I was so elated. I almost fell when hugging the technician.”
Alice went back to Murang’a walking on her legs to the amazement of the villagers and child.
Paul Kiprop,28, from Baringo stepped on a snake skeleton while grazing his cattle in Baringo, he immediately plucked off the bone from his foot but before the close of the day, the leg pained excruciatingly.
At the hospital, doctors noted that his swollen leg was losing its colour.
A test revealed that poison from the snake bones had damaged his foot. His foot had to be amputated to prevent the poison from reaching the rest of the body.
“I cried so much when it was evident that my foot was going to be chopped off. My life was shattered. I could not herd my cows and goats, I could not walk to talk to my peers. I could not even respond to cattle rustlers. I at one time felt like killing myself,” recalls Kiprop.
During a tour by the NGO Cure Kenya in Baringo the doctors were notified of Kiprop’s predicament. They found that Kiprop had healed completely but he was walking on makeshift crutches.
Kiprop was driven to the Cure Centre where the prosthetics technicians worked on his artificial leg. Because of the distance, Kiprop stayed at the centre for several weeks before his artificial leg was ready.
“When I was called at the orthopedic workshop and found my artificial leg ready I got emotional. When it was fitted I walked around the hospital in disbelief. Cure Kenya has given me new hope in life. I will be able to at least walk with my cows here and there.”
The raw materials to make the prosthetics are sourced from Germany.
The technologists make prosthetic limbs depending on the needs of a particular patient.
“These raw materials are pretty expensive but we do all we can to make our patients walk again,” says Dr Simiyu.
At the centre, we bump into nominated MP Joseph Sankok who is a beneficiary of a prosthetic.
“If there is something that the government should zero rate then it’s these materials used to make artificial limbs and on top of that, offer subsidies to the patients,” Sankok says.
Cure Centre, a church organization moves throughout the country to conduct surgeries including Knock knees, club foot, burn contractures and spine deformities to deserving and needy children.
Doctor Joseph Theuri says that ordinarily, an artificial leg would cost Sh 300,000 depending on size but at the centre the prosthetic costs Sh70,000 and goes for free to needy children.
Doctor Seith Simiyu the chief orthopedic technologist said that his best moment is seeing a patient walk, leaving behind the crutches.”
“It elates me. It makes me happy. Some of the patients even challenge me for a walk there and when they cry because of happiness I get overjoyed”.
Simiyu’s lowest moment is when he fits artificial limbs to people with terminal illnesses only for them to die before using the artificial leg.
“It breaks us into tiny pieces when we are called to remove our prosthetic limb from a patient who has died”.?