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Home / Health & Science

A little boy trapped in an old man’s body

HEALTH & SCIENCEBy BY GARDY CHACHA | Mon,Jun 10 2013 00:00:00 EAT
By BY GARDY CHACHA | Mon,Jun 10 2013 00:00:00 EAT

By Gardy Chacha

A boy in Makuyu, Murang’a County, faces a bleak future as doctors are unable to diagnose what he has been suffering from for over nine years.

Seventeen-year-old  Patrick Wanyoike is barely responsive to the environment around him. His bones are weak, his eyes are watery and pale red. His skin is covered with fungal infections and he is frail, unable to stand up straight even for a minute.

Patrick is very short for his age and has a ‘mature’ look that is way beyond his years.

“He grew up fine and everything was well until he turned eight” said his mother, Margaret Muthoni.

“He was suddenly hit by a bout of unknown illnesses. At the time we could barely afford our basic needs so I could not take him to hospital immediately. When I finally did, his stomach was swollen and doctors diagnosed him as having kwashiorkor.”

Despite this diagnosis and initial treatment, Patrick continued to ail and according to his mother every subsequent visit to a health facility would lead to another diagnosis — from malaria to marasmus and even congenital illnesses.

Apart from poor general health, Patrick’s speech is incoherent and he understands very little language.

“Since he became sick, he has consistently performed poorly at school and is still in Standard Two. He attends school just to pass time since his teachers have given up on him,” Muthoni said.

Patrick looks like an old man in a boy’s body. Patterned veins are clearly visible on his forehead, he walks with a stoop and his energy levels are way below those of a boy his age.

However, a volunteer doctor at a recent Safaricom Foundation-sponsored medical camp which Patrick and his mother attended, suggested that he suffers from ‘progeria’.

Progeria is a rare genetic disease characterised by physical symptoms suggestive of premature old age. One year, for a child with the disease, is equal to ten years of aging.

Statistics on progeria show that only one in eight million people get this disease, with a total reported incidence of just over 100 since it was first identified in 1886. There are currently between 30 and 40 known cases worldwide of progeria and it cuts across all races and cultures.

Patrick’s mother confirmed that his physical growth became stunted when he was eight years old and he has physical aches and pains that are usually associated with old age.

To support her son, Muthoni does menial jobs. With this meagre income, she cannot afford specialised care for her son.

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