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Family Struggles to Unravel Mystery Surrounding the Blindness of Two Sons

Dennis Avokoywa

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In August last year, Joakin Muchesa, then aged 30, left his rental apartment in Kericho for his father’s home in Shagungu village, Shinyalu Constituency in Kakamega county.

He was in perfect health and was beaming with joy at the prospects of seeing his family after close to a year outside.

Like any other youth who had completed his basic education, Mr Muchesa had left his home for greener pastures in Kericho county where he had secured a job of working as an information technology expert in a private firm.

Before he left his father’s home for Kericho he had left his young wife Vickilance Khaoya, 21, heavily pregnant with his son. His initial attempts to secure off days at his work place in order to see the bundle of joy the wife had given to him failed as he was told to wait a little longer.

When it finally did, the soft-spoken Muchesa could not hide his joy as he could not wait any longer to set his eyes on his new born son. On the phone his wife and mom would occasionally tell him of the uncanny resemblance between his son and him.

As he boarded a matatu that was leading him from Kericho to Kisumu, a tinge of restlessness grew in him, when something strange happened.

“I was scrolling my phone in order to call my dad with the intention of informing him that I had left Kericho,when I experienced some strange feeling on my left eye, a sharp pain appeared from nowhere, images became blurry I could not see clearly, all I saw was Suddenly there was pain in my eyes. All I could see was a white stars. When I told the person who sat next to me they were all perplexed, everything happened so fast,” said Muchesa.

The pain persisted, and became unbearable. Then, as suddenly as it started, the fog dissolved into white stars on his right eye too.

When he arrived in Kisumu he was helped into a vehicle that was heading to Kakamega.

When he arrived home he tried to tell everyone around he could not see but none believed until his wife noticed that he could not spot the presence of his young son, at that point the wife broke down.

At that point the family became concerned and what was to be a moment of joy and celebration suddenly turned to a moment of grief and pondering.

“They (family) struggled to understand how one could go blind so suddenly and so mysteriously, this was not normal, I had no signs of sickness and had no issues with anyone, life had decided to turn its back on me, I also asked many questions, why the disease came at a time I was to share a moment with my son.”

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The St Gerald Sanjero’s alumnus mother Agnes Khatiala took her to Sabatia Eye Hospital in neighbouring Vihiga county for diagnosis.

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An assessment at the eye hospital showed that Muchesa was permanently blind. They were stunned.

“I never thought the condition could be permanent. When I went for the diagnosis my prayer was that a solution be found, there was no way I could be blind,” he said.

A diagnostic report conducted by Dr Regina Ondigo at the health facility revealed that Joakin Muchesa was suffering from optic atrophy, it was discovered that there was irreversible damage to the retinal ganglion cells and axons which led to vision loss.

The disease is usually caused by inflammation, Ischaemia, nutritional deficiencies, trauma and hereditary conditions.

“The doctor said my son would never see again, and that there was nothing they could do. It was painful since he was the light of this family, our hopes were banked on him until the bad luck s paid us a visit,” says Khatiala, amid sobs.

Months before the mother of nine could recover from the shock of her first born son’s sudden blindness, the misfortunes surrounding her family compounded when her fourth born son Kevin Muchesia began experiencing similar condition becoming half blind.

To Khatiala, bad luck had decided to pitch a tent in her homestead. What pained her most was that she could not unravel the mystery surrounding them.

“Kevin is in his form four but is partially blind, three weeks ago he began complaining of serious pain in his eyes, he was struggling to read his books, though his condition we have been told can be treated, my fears are that he will soon be permanently blind,” recounts the woman in a small faltering voice.

The family was baffled.

Though Kevin has not been taken for diagnosis due to financial constraints of the family,he has had to survive on painkiller drugs to quell the sting.

“What amazes me is that I began having this condition after my mom had visited some spiritual leader who had informed her that I was going to partially lose my vision in few weeks’ time, it happened as she had been told,” recounts Kevin Muchesa.

Despite all the odds s against her sons, Khatiala remains optimistic that they could be treated, if not in Kenya, then across the border in Uganda.

“Since there was no money for specialized treatment, we are hoping that our bitter waters will be turned sweet by a miracle, my only concern is my daughter in law, she was barely into a year in her marriage when the misfortune struck, she is going through a lot at the tender age of 21 where every young woman wants to enjoy her marriage, I wouldn’t blame her if she left.”

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The situation took a toll on Ignatius Muchesa, the father of the two who resorted to seek solutions in the spiritual world.

Not even the spiritual world has been able to overturn his son’s conditions.

“A friend told me that my misfortunes were not normal and that they were spiritual. I fasted for three days at a local hill hoping to get a breakthrough, but failed, have walked almost in all places of worship trying to seek help,” says the father.

Early this week, the father’s desperation pushed him to a certain spiritual leader who asked him to conduct some rites.

“The man of God told me to carry some water sample my sons have used to bath, take to him, then he (spiritual leader) will conduct some prayers and in less than a month my sons vision will be restored,” recounted Ignatius Muchesa,the dad.

Joakin Muchesa, terms the diagnosis the lowest moment in her life, and a blow to his dream of elevating the status of his family.

He has since turned to writing books and poems, at least this keeps him from depression. Whenever his son is being breastfed, his only wish is that God grants him chance of setting his eyes on his bundle of joy.

“Such is life, it’s been hard but sometimes things we have no control over you live to God,my only prayer is that I get someone who can enroll me in a braille school, my sight is lost but what is my brain is still intact, this is why through the help of friends have written the Swahili book Utazoleka.”

The book is an anthology of short stories that castigates the style of leadership in the country and is only waiting to be published.

“Every day I ask God to send someone to save me from this darkness. I also pray that my brother’s case does not degenerate,” he says.

The sight of the two brothers prodding their way around their home with bamboo canes is heart wrenching.

They walk stealthily, steps calculated, their unseeing eyes staring across the compound, looking for somewhere to sit.

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