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Woman With Epilepsy Still Lives in Hospital Four Years After Being Abandoned by Family

Woman With Epilepsy Still Lives in Hospital Four Years After Being Abandoned by Family

She marked the Epilepsy Awareness Month in the hospital ward she has called home for four years.

Mercy Akinyi, 21, awaits her discharge from Ward 7D at Kenyatta National Hospital, not because she is unable to pay her bills, but because she has nowhere to go.

Efforts by the hospital administration to trace her family have been futile.

Fear, misunderstanding, discrimination and social stigma have surrounded epilepsy for centuries and it is these that have Mercy wondering whether her family could have neglected her at KNH all these years.

Her radiant smile as she moves from bed to bed encouraging patients can make a visitor think Mercy is one of the nurses.

But the lacklustre lines on the hospital ceiling have become all too familiar and it gets hazier by the day as she watches patients get admitted and discharged upon recovery.

But she has chosen not to despair. “I want to be an ambassador and tell people that epilepsy is a manageable disease and we all deserve love and tender care,” Mercy told the Nation.

According to the KNH communications officer, Mr Kibet Mengich, efforts to trace her people are still futile. Mercy was diagnosed with epilepsy in Standard Three when her family lived in Mombasa.

“It appears I will celebrate another Christmas here with the patients, nurses and doctors,” said Mercy who is the firstborn in a family of six children, the other five being her step siblings. It has been three years since she last saw her family members.

The former Moi Girls Primary School pupil cited English and Kiswahili as her favourite subjects. Next to her hospital bed is a Bible and motivational book whose pages are dog-eared.

Healed burns

She reads the two books interchangeably to draw inspiration. Mercy bears healed burn wounds on her hands and feet from an accident in the kitchen at their Umoja home while she was cooking for the family.

“I was frying onions when I developed a fit and I kicked the cooking stove and the next moment I was on fire,” Mercy told the Nation at her hospital bed.

“My screams alerted our next-door neighbour who came to my rescue and threw a blanket on me to put out the fire,” she added. Her mother later took her to Kenyatta National Hospital for treatment. That was the last she saw of her.

Beginning this Friday, a two-day awareness campaign and a medical camp will be held at Uhuru Park in Nairobi to address stigma associated with epilepsy and offer the public an opportunity to interact with medical experts.

About 800,000 Kenyans have active epilepsy, but only about 20 per cent have access to quality treatment.

Medical Services Minister Anyang’ Nyong’o on Wednesday condemned stigmatising people with epilepsy, saying it leads to a huge social burden to both the patients and their families.

“I’m aware that despite the long history of co-existence of epilepsy with mankind, the condition is still shrouded in mystery and the society still associates it with witchcraft, devil possession and other supernatural forces,” Prof Nyong’o said on Wednesday in a speech to mark the Epilepsy awareness month.

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