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13-year-old living in hospital since 2021 tragic gun attack

Health & Science
 Nasike Lokura, a 13-year-old boy at the children's ward in Tophill Hospital, Eldoret converses with Mary Etyang, a nurse at the facility. Lokura was referred to the facility in 2021 after he was shot in South Sudan.June 30. 2023. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

Armed with crayons, exercise books and pencils, Nasike Lokura aged 13 is engrossed in drawing on a bed in a corner of the children's ward in an Eldoret-based hospital.

A reading table has been set beside a moveable cupboard for Lokura to read, write and draw.

Lokura, who hails from South Sudan, has been at Tophill Hospital since September 2021 and no one has come to visit him since January 2022, hospital staff now say.

He was shot by an unknown man while drawing water from a stream in his native village near the Kenya-South Sudan border. The bullet entered his right hip, crushing some bones and urethra.

After the near-fatal attack almost two years ago, the South Sudanese boy was referred to the facility with a serious gunshot injury that shattered his urethra.

Lokura recalls how he bled profusely as he stared at death before he was rushed to a nearby health facility, which referred him to Lodwar County Referral Hospital in Kenya, but he needed specialised attention and was quickly moved to Tophill - a private hospital in Eldoret.

When he arrived at the facility in an ambulance, Lokura could neither speak English nor Kiswahili; he only conversed in his local language - Toposa.

An uncle who accompanied him also spoke Toposa, worsening the language barrier problem. Workers at the facility said they sought the services of a local South Sudanese who translated Lokura's conversations with doctors and nurses.

Weeks passed by and three surgical operations were successfully done. Lokura was responding well to treatment.

"The hospital has become my home. The nurses and doctors have become my friends and family. They have taught me Kiswahili and I now know how to speak, read and write," the 13-year-old boy says.

"Back in South Sudan, I had not set foot in any school. I would only help my mother look after our goats but one day as I was fetching water someone shot me. It was devastating because I couldn't sit, I could only squat," he adds.

Lokura says with his mastery of Kiswahili and basic English, he is ready to return to South Sudan and attend a formal school, but tracing his mother and other relatives has proved difficult. He says he wants to enroll in school and become an orthopaedic surgeon in future, so as to treat injured people.

"I wish to go home to see my mother. I love her so much and I know she is worried about me. I have forgiven the man who shot me and I thank the hospital for treating me without any relatives around. I know all the nurses and doctors and I am grateful that they took me as their own child. They give books, pencils and crayons," Lokura says.

"My daily routine is waking up, taking a shower and then breakfast. After breakfast, I get to books and always do my assignments before having my lunch. In the afternoon, I spend time interacting with the nurses drawing," he adds.

The injured teenager still uses crutches. Doctors at the facility said he was ready for discharge about one year ago. He says he has a widowed mother and four sisters in South Sudan.

"I want my mother and siblings to know that I have been treated and am now well and ready to go home. My uncle left me here and never returned to check on me. If I go home, I will be back at the hospital from time to time because this is my second home," says Lokura.

Tophill Hospital orthopaedics chief, Dr Denis Rono, said the bullet reduced Loruka's right femur (thighbone). Dr Rono said two surgeries were conducted to treat and prevent infections on the fractured femur and urethra.

"He (Lokura) was referred to the hospital from the border of Kenya and South Sudan after he was shot by a rifle. It is unfortunate that all the medical care has been done without any relative or a guardian," the medic said.

Neurosurgeon Dr Florentius Koech said the first batch of surgeries helped to stabilise Lokura's bones.

Dr Koech said the subsequent surgeries corrected his injured urethra. He added that the bullet injury reduced the boy's femur by eight centimeters.

"Lokura has become one of us. His relatives are not reachable. He has been tutored by our nurses. Our major request now is to trace his parents and other relatives so that we release him back to his family," said Dr Koech.

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