Nancy Pyatich knows just what it means to get a second chance in life.
Ms Pyatich walked out of her hospital bed at Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH)-Eldoret yesterday, filled with gratitude to God for allowing her live to tell her story of two days of dark horror, and the dedicated team of medics for treating and nursing her back to health.
On April 18, she was among those caught up in the landslide that buried Chesogon trading centre on the border of Elgeyo Marakwet and West Pokot counties.
The scars all over her body and impaired hearing she suffered in the wake of the landslide will eternally serve as a constant reminder of the chilly experience of the calamity that claimed 17 people and left 26 others unaccounted for.
Luckily for Pyatich, 23, she was pulled out of the sludge after two days under the mud, having survived raging waters and moving mud carrying rocks and iron sheets.
“The experience is something I do not want to recall. My whole body aches and a cold chill runs down my spine when I try to figure out what really happened. My life has really changed,” she told The Standard yesterday after she was discharged from hospital.
Pyatich spent six weeks in hospital undergoing a series of surgeries for traumatic brain injury, fractured clavicle, multiple lacerations, hypothermia, and psychological trauma.
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“The thought that I got a second chance in life still baffles me because it is a miracle that I survived,” she says as she fights back tears.
The fourth year bachelor of education student at Moi University recounts the events of that fateful day. She was with her three siblings inside their family shop.
“We had just returned from tilling our family land and we were inside the shop which also happens to be our house. There was a light drizzle. Then we heard a thunderous sound akin to an earthquake emanating from the hills that sandwich the trading centre,” she recalls.
“When we stepped outside, we were met by people running in our direction and screaming that there was a landslide raging downhill.”
With no time to think, she joined those fleeing for dear life. Then she remembered an assortment of important documents back in the shop.
“I rushed back to the shop with my elder brother to collect the documents and some money our father had kept inside. We then tried to flee to the Marakwet side but the river was already flooded and was spewing rocks and mud on its banks ferociously,” she narrates.
The other siblings had rushed downstream, and that’s where they chose to go.
“By then, the flood waters were raging, so we decided to climb up one of the trees that had not been swept away,” she says.
Other people, including one of her siblings, had already scaled the tree branches.
“The cries of my younger brother unable to scale up the tree and was on the verge of being swept away forced me to climb down. I assisted him up the tree. Unfortunately, I lost my grip and fell into the raging waters,” she said.
It then occurred to her that she would be drowned, and in an apparent resignation to fate, Pyatich sought divine intervention.
“I asked God not to let me drown or be crushed by the rolling rocks. Iron sheets swept in my direction missed my neck by a whisker and as I dodged them, it chopped off my right ear. As the water buoyed me, mud then filled my eyes and my world went dark,” she recalls.
A rock hit her on the head, rendering her unconscious as her world caved in around her.
She was literally buried in the mud and as luck would have it, her body from the neck downwards was under the rubble.
“I could not see. The biting mosquitoes awakened my consciousness. I groped around and felt a tree branch. I clung to it and pulled myself out of the mud. Since I could not see, I hung on to the tree,” she says.
As she left the hospital yesterday, she thanked doctors led by MTRH CEO Dr Wilson Aruasa, her medics for the six weeks including Dr Heri Manyru, and nurses Gladys Mastamet and Sr Martina for the treatment, love and care.
“Dr Aruasa and his team have been like family to me. During the death of my father two weeks ago, the hospital has been supportive of me. They organised for me to attend the burial,” she said.
Aruasa said the government and MTRH cleared Pyatich’s bill that had accrued to Sh142, 000.