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Painful Christmas for chaff cutter amputees

Health & Science

Francis Nganga at AIC Litein Mission Hospital after his hand was amputated. [Courtesy]

Melon Kipngetich had an amputation on his right hand, at the wrist, following an accident.

The 26-year-old, now admitted at Litein Mission Hospital, recalls arriving home last Tuesday evening and preparing fodder for the dairy cows using a chaff cutter.

“In the middle of using the machine, it started producing a strange sound and suddenly my right hand got trapped between rollers and dragged it towards the blades, which chopped off my fingers,” says the man from Kamachumo village in Bureti Constituency.

Kipng’etich was first taken to Kapketet Sub-county Hospital for first aid before being transferred to Litein Mission Hospital. “Due to the extent of the injuries to my fingers, the doctors concluded that there was nothing they could do to salvage them but to amputate the hand at the wrist,” says Kipng’etich.

The Bachelor of Commerce graduate from Catholic University of East Africa termed the accident a setback on his life, as his right hand was the dominant one. “Having lost it, it might affect my life negatively. I have to train myself to use the left hand,” said Kipng’etich.

Francis Ng’ang’a of Kuresoi Constituency, Nakuru, is another chaff cutter amputee. While slashing maize for silage his left hand was trapped by the rollers and crushed before being pulled to the blades, which began chopping off his fingers “to the wrist”. Miraculously, he says, the maize jammed the machine, stopping it from chopping his whole hand.

Kipng’etich now urges dairy farmers to be careful, but reckons that the manufacturer should also redesign the machines to prevent accidents.

“I am still young, a prosthetic arm will do me a favour,” says Kipng’etich, adding: “I still want to be able to fend for my wife and our two children.”

John Kanyi, a consultant general surgeon at AIC Litein Mission Hospital, says farm machinery account for many agricultural-related accidents in South Rift region, with chaff cutter accidents often leading to amputation of fingers, wrists, and sometimes whole arms.

Most victims says Dr Kanyi, are aged between 15 and 25. “The injuries range from the tip of the fingers, mid-hand, and at times to the whole hand. We have had incidents whereby a whole forearm went through a chaff cutter,” said Dr Kanyi, suggesting that policy makers should have chaff cutter manufacturers compelled to put security measures like having a switch, foot peddle, or a lever to stop the machine and avert injuries. 

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