Story By Wangeci Kanyeki
When I was 12 years old, while watching a children’s television cartoon after a school day, I fainted and got a fit in the living room. Luckily my mother was home and protected me from hurting myself. After several trips to the hospital I was diagnosed with grandmal epilepsy which was to dramatically affect my life.
My life became a life of restrictions and medications. I couldn’t swim like other children, could not cook without someone in the kitchen, could not go for school hikes or my girl guide camps and as a young adult I couldn’t go dancing cos the disco lights would trigger a seizure. My mum, who was a nurse would faithfully take me for regular clinics at the National referral hospital and wait through the long queues at the hospital. To enable me live a close to normal life, I joined St. John Ambulance Brigade and my St. John Ambulance Friends would know exactly what do in case I got a seizure while camping or doing life skills training. At first I would get 2 to 3 seizures in a month, so I had bruises, biting of the tongue and episodes of unconsciousness.
The medicine helped to control the seizures but had side effects. There is also a lot of stigma and taboos associated with Epilepsy in the African setting. Others said I would never get a job, never get married nor have children. I must admit there were times that I inwardly believed that lie.
Architect T. S Nandhra gave me my first job and would give me days off when feeling unwell. He also connected me to Kenya Welfare of Epilepsy who were able to give me subsidized and affordable medication which was required to be taken daily and who provided practical support on how to live with epilepsy.
While attending a healing service at Nairobi Baptist Church, Dr Maathai prayed over the epilepsy disorder. He had a medical background and was able to advice me not to stop my medication but to continue following the instructions of my doctor.
Right into my 20s, I met my sweet husband, Kanyeki during this season and I was careful to disclose the epilepsy condition, early in the relationship so that he would be aware before getting too involved.
In his usual calm self, he saw absolutely no problem closing the deal and in 2000 we got married and we were blessed with three uniquely beautiful daughters. God dealt with all my fears and concerns of ever having a family,
After 15 years of a life of epilepsy, the seizures stopped. After 20 years of medication, the medication was slowly and gradually reduced and by God’s mercies, I have been seizure free since then.
I thank God, Jehovah Rapha for healing me. For giving me a chance to do things I never thought possible such as going back to school to finish my higher level education, having a husband and becoming a mother.
I would like to see epileptic children get consistent medical support through their epilepsy journey, I would also like to see them included in the education system without discrimination so that they can acquire life skills and independence skills to live a full and as near as possible normal life.