Sylvia gave birth to her son Gyan in December 2016, two months premature of her due date. Gyan stayed at the hospital for an extra month and a half before he could go home with his mother.
Whilst on the neonatal ward, Gyan was mishandled by some student nurses and got an open wound at the left side of his head near the ear. The wound would not seal and kept on bleeding until it was recognised by a more senior member of staff. As is the case in Kenya, Gyan never received any ear or eye screening after birth.
It was only at two and half months that Gyan’s mother noted that something was wrong with his head and neck. Regularly, infants of this age should have more strength and movement throughout their head and neck. But, Gyan’s neck was stiff, with the head fixated in one direction only, facing upwards.
Sylvia ignored Gyan’s grandmother’s advice to take the child to Mbagathi hospital, until Gyan was six months old. She heard about the screening and early intervention programme run by Sense International (SI) Kenya from her neighbours and took her child for screening.
Initial ear screening results showed that Gyan had a hearing impairment. His left eye had a severe squint and had become dormant. He appeared to be significantly behind in functional development and his neck, back, arms and limbs were stiff. The hospital’s Ear Nose and Throat and ophthalmology departments confirmed the results that Gyan had multi-sensory impairments. The ophthalmologist recommended an eye patch to cover the good eye to help stimulate the bad eye to see and focus.
Gyan has been in the programme for two months now. His mum and he attend therapy twice a week. His mother had the following to say:
“The father to my son, with whom I was planning to get married, kept calling to know if his son had started sitting yet, if he could turn his head… My answer was always negative. At some point, he just stopped calling, and he stopped picking my calls as well. That was the last I heard from him. I was helpless, I never knew what to do. My mother gave me strength and encouraged me to seek medical advice despite talk form my neighbours and friends that my child had been bewitched. Such children are a bad omen and are usually abandoned.
But through this project, I now have hope. I can laugh with other mothers and my self-esteem is back. Gyan can now raise the head while lying on his stomach. By following advice form the Occupational Therapist, I cover the good eye with the patch during the day. And the other eye is now trying to focus. Gyan is responding to loud noises now. I am so happy.”
During the initial therapy sessions, the Occupational Therapist had to take Gyan’s mother through a lot of counselling due to the trauma that she experienced. She was depressed as she could not really understand what was wrong with her son. She was very much convinced that her child had been bewitched.
At some point, she had to organise for a sharing session with another mother who has a child with a similar condition. Gyan’s mother says she was glad to know that her son’s situation is not unique. This has helped a lot as she has stopped talking about traditional beliefs but is now more focussed on her son’s progress.
First published: Friday 7 June 2013
Last updated: Wednesday 20 September 2017