At eight years, Michelle Awuor should be in school, playing with her age mates and dreaming about a wonderful future. Except she can’t.
Instead, she is confined to her family’s single room house in Kisumu from sunrise to sunset where, for two years, she has been unable to close her eyes, not even at night when she is sleeping.
She also cannot turn her head around.
It never used to be this way. Everything was okay for the former pupil at Ombujo Primary School in Homa Bay County until the evening of September 21, 2015, when she fell into a three-stone cooking fire while playing with her friends at home.
Her father, Japheth Otondi, was home at the time of the accident and rushed her to hospital. But that incident has altered Michelle’s life completely.
Mr Otondi says he took her to Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital in Kisumu where she was admitted for nine months.
She had suffered 55 per cent burns on her face and neck.
In an interview with the Nation, the 38-year-old father of three says that since his daughter was admitted, life has not been the same for his family.
“Her condition was bad and I did not have any money. Selling my property was the only way to raise money to pay for hospital charges and to take care of her needs,” says Mr Otondi.
He was left with a Sh71,000 bill to settle when the time came for Michelle to be discharged.
Mr Otondi, a casual labourer, sought help from close friends and family members to clear the bill.
But few were in a position to assist and he only managed to collect Sh27,000.
Luckily, Kisumu Health executive Elizabeth Ominde Ogaja heard about his plight and helped clear the rest of the bill.
Clearing the bill was, however, just a brief respite.
The doctors had found out that the muscles in Michelle’s face had over-stretched in the fire incident. As a result, she could not close her eyes and turn around her head.
To correct the complications, the doctors referred her to Kenyatta National Hospital for surgery, a procedure that costs Sh400,000.
“That was the information I least expected because, all along, they had assured me that everything would be okay; so I was shocked when they referred me to KNH,” he said.
Back at their Railways home in Kisumu, hope continues to fade away. In February, she was forced to drop out of school because she could not stay in bright light.
Before the accident, Michelle says she wanted to become a lawyer. That dream could prove to be elusive.
Well-wishers can reach Mr Japheth Otondi on 0724596241.