• It was way back in 1988 when Simeon Kerandi broke his back trying to stop a fight
•Half a million people worldwide suffer from spinal cord injury every year, mostly from road traffic crashes, falls and violence
Thirty-one years down the line, Simeon Kerandi from Boronyi village has not lived in peace since he sustained a spinal cord injury.
Lying on his bed and covered with a stripped blanket, Kerandi, 70, now leads a life that is a shadow of what it used to be.
Looking healthy, Kerandi, a former businessman, recalled a day in 1988 when he was minding his own business in his shop at Nyabiuto centre.
At around 4 pm, he saw two men fighting. That's when he decided to intervene and separate them, but one of them pushed him to a steep area. And that is how his troubles began.
“Little did I know that my effort to separate the two wrestling men was going to permanently change my life. I have really suffered a lot for the last 31 years out of my good intention,” Kerandi said.
“I was thrown into a deep terrain, where I ended up breaking my spinal cord, which enabled me to carry out my daily routines.”
Between 250,000 and 500,000 people suffer from spinal cord injury every year, with road traffic crashes, falls and violence as the three leading causes. People with spinal cord injury are two to five times more likely to die prematurely.
He was rushed to the then Kisii District Hospital, where he was taken for X-ray, which established that he had sustained a spinal injury.
He stayed at the facility for two weeks without improvement before he was transferred to Russia Hospital in Kisumu, where he also stayed for six months.
“After doctors discovered that my injury was irreparable, I requested the hospital management to transfer me back to Kisii to save my family from incurring huge traveling expenses, among other costs, which it did,” he said.
FAMILY FALLEN APART
His family has suffered distress since he was injured. “My injury totally shattered my dreams of taking care of my family, considering I was the sole breadwinner,” Kerandi said.
While in deep thought, Kerandi says due to his condition, two of his sons ended up being involved in crime and were shot dead by police in separate incidents.
The father of four told the writer he received information that his second son Robert Morang’a, alias Momanyi, was shot in Sondu, while the third born, Dennis Machuki, was shot a few months later in Kisumu.
Machuki had gone into hiding in Kisumu after he shot dead two community policing members, who were pursuing him to his home together with the police.
“I was mad when I heard my sons were killed by police because of their involvement in crime. I had good plans for them but the injury shattered them,” Kerandi said.
“My sons would not have been involved in crime if I was in good health. I was injured when they were still young,” said the father, adding that God knows why he is alive.
Kerandi says he cannot tell where the bodies of the two sons were buried, but he believes they were interred in a cemetery.
When asked whether he is aware there is the national and county governments, Kerandi said he hears about them on the radio.
“I cannot tell much about what is really happening out there because as you can see this is where I eat from and go for my short and long calls thanks to my wife, who has devoted her time to take care of me all these years,” he said.
The old man only sees sunshine from his bed. He is taken outside once in four months by Good Samaritans since his wife alone cannot lift him.
I was mad when I heard my sons were killed by police because of their involvement in crime. I had good plans for them but the injury shattered themSimeon Kerandi, 70
CRY FOR HELP
Unfortunately, Kerandi says, he has never received any assistance from any quota, as other disabled people do.
“I hear from radio there is money set aside for the disabled like me, but I have never seen anybody coming to inform my wife, whom I depend on, about the aid. I don’t know who are classified as disabled if I am not among them,” he said.
“I am appealing to well-wishers, especially my area MP Richard Tong’i, to assist me because I have nobody to depend on. My wife has been of great help to me because she struggles to do menial jobs to feed me.”
His wife Pauline Kwamboka said she has been the closest friend and only helper to her husband, despite the hardship.
“Taking care of a person of this nature for 31 years is not a simple task, but because of the grace of God, my love and dedication, I have managed to make him see another day,” Kwamboka said.
“Not many women can persevere under the current situation. I am determined to take care of him until death separates us because we made a covenant during our marriage in 1971.”
Kwamboka also appealed to well-wishers to come to their aid, saying she has been going for casual jobs to feed her husband and herself.
“I am unable to go far because I attend to him like one does to a kid. The furthest I will go is to fetch water from the nearby spring and to work in nearby farms.”
POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS RISK
Psychologist Rose Otieno told the Star such injuries can cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the affected people if there is no strong family support.
Otieno, who lectures psychology at Kisii University, said before PTSD, the affected can first suffer from acute stress disorder (ASD) during the first three weeks to two months.
She said a positive social environment can also see those injured lead better lives irrespective of what they undergo.
“I read a strong personality in this case. Some of those suffering from the condition can end up suffering from PTSD, if there is no strong family support,” Otieno said.
According to the World Health Organisation, between 250,000 and 500,000 people suffer from spinal cord injury every year, with road traffic crashes, falls and violence as the three leading causes.
The organisation says people with spinal cord injury are two to five times more likely to die prematurely. They also have lower rates of school enrollment and economic participation than people without such injuries. Spinal cord injury has costly consequences for the individual and society.
However, it is survivable and need not preclude good health and social inclusion. Ensuring adequate medical and rehabilitation response, followed by supportive services and accessible environments, can help minimise the disruption to people with spinal cord injury and their families.
Otieno said doctors can use clinical evaluation to make a detailed list of all of the patient's symptoms. They may conduct blood tests, ask patients to move their limbs, follow movement in their eyes, and conduct other tests to narrow down symptoms.
She said a doctor can also use imaging tests, where he may order MRI imaging or other forms of radiological imaging to view the patient’s spinal column, spinal cord and brain.