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'Paralysis has not stopped me from pursuing my dream'

 Felix Ochieng’ Kiche, is a 21-year-old second-year student at Rongo University. [Sharon Owino, Standard]

It’s Friday evening, and the sun hangs low in the sky. As the hustle and bustle of the day begins to slow down and people take a break from their chores and responsibilities, Felix Ochieng’ Kiche, a 21-year-old second-year student at Rongo University gets back into his room in the men’s dormitory. 

An undergraduate student pursuing a degree in Education Arts, History and Religious Education, he is exhausted from attending all-day-long lectures but he feels energised by the achievements of the day and the prospect of a chance to do it all over again the next week.

Born in November 2002, in Kabok Village, Rachuonyo Sub-County, in Homa Bay County, Felix was a healthy baby and grew up active and playful like any other child. Unfortunately, a critical health condition changed the course of his life. 

“According to the information I got from my parents, I was affected in my childhood. My parents took me for a CT scan at Kisii Hospital and they were told that I needed brain surgery. This is because there were claims that I had growth in my head. I was later referred to Kenyatta National Hospital where they disqualified what Kisii Hospital Doctors were claiming to be the disease I was suffering from,” Felix narrates.

He narrates that he was later diagnosed with tuberculosis (TB) and meningitis. 

I was treated at Kenyatta National Hospital for two months and, after that, I was taken back home,” says Felix.

In 2018, Felix became paralysed on the left side of his body. After a detailed medical assessment, doctors concluded that Felix had a neurological health condition known as hemiplegia paralysis. 

“I have lived in that condition to date,” he says.

According to Dr Joash Lumumba, a physiotherapist, hemiplegia paralysis is a weakness of either the entire right or left side of the body, which in most common cases occurs as a result of stroke or when TB bacteria spread to the central nervous system. The bacteria can cause inflammation and damage to the nerves, leading to various neurological symptoms, including paralysis which can be partial or complete depending on the nerve damage,” Dr Lumumba says.

“The main signs and symptoms of this neurological condition are a weakness on the left or right side of the body depending on the side of the brain affected, slurred speech, facial palsy, mood instability, confusion and drooling in some cases,” Dr Lumumba says. 

He explains that in the case of stroke, two types of stroke can occur. One is haemorrhagic stroke which is due to a ruptured blood vessel in the brain, which could be due to an aneurysm (abnormal bulge in a blood vessel wall) or trauma or physical injury. The other one, he says, is ischemic stroke, which is a result of an insufficient supply of oxygen to the brain due to reduced blood flow or clot. 

“All these can only be diagnosed with findings of a head CT scan or MRI,” Dr Lumumba says. 

Felix says that all along, he has been working hard in his academics, despite his health condition, and now he is pursuing his degree in Education, aiming at achieving his life goals. He adds that he does not let any kind of discrimination or stigmatisation to pull him down.

“Some people have asked me, ‘Kwani wewe mbona uko hivi?’ But it doesn’t scare me because I always believe I am like any other normal human being,” he says.

He adds that he has been attending one physiotherapy session a year at Rachuonyo Hospital Level 4. “This is because I cannot further my treatments due to financial constraints,” Felix explains.

According to Dr Lumumba, hemiplegia paralysis through stroke can be prevented by practising a healthy lifestyle, doing regular exercise and adhering to medication if the patient is hypertensive or diabetic.

He says treatment is done by anticoagulants, antihypertensive, rehabilitation, monitoring vital signs and regular medical check-ups.

“Rehabilitation is vital for recovery. This includes physical therapy which aims at helping patients relearn simple motor activities such as walking, sitting, standing, lying down and the process of switching from one type of movement to another,” Dr Lumumba explains.

“It also includes occupational therapy which also helps patients relearn the skills needed to perform everyday activities such as drinking, eating, dressing, bathing, cooking, reading, writing and toileting,”Dr Lumumba says.

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