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People Call us Witch, No One Wants to Marry us Because of Our Strange Condition” Lady Painfully Says

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My name is Ruth Gloria Obonyo, this is where I live. What kind of life were you brought up in? Everything was okay; the family was okay, our parents were okay. But when we started getting sick, life wasn’t going on well for us. My sister was going to church one day and she just dislocated her ankle; she could not walk, so she was taken to the hospital. But things got worse slowly by slowly; the leg started swelling. The pain was on and off but each time the leg kept growing big. At the hospital, they used to give her pain killers; the pain would subside but the swelling kept growing. The leg grew even bigger then stopped, and now the other one got affected.

She was taken to so many hospitals, but there was no medication. Mom was even advised to try out the natural remedies. They did not succeed; my sister, who was in class 7 by that time, had to drop out of school because she was always sickly. In school, most of the time she was always sick compared to the time she was okay. Later on, another sibling developed the same condition; it started as just a normal itch.

She was taken to the hospital, but the doctors would just give painkillers; the swelling started growing slowly. That is how their lives got disoriented. Our house was like a ward; one crying here, another one writhing in pain over there. We had a lot of cattle here, but my parents sold them off just to see their kids get the help they require. But it was all in vain. It was so painful to see my parents and siblings suffering; I kept praying that I do not fall victim as well because that will be a burden. They were in so much pain; when you looked at their legs, you would think they got burnt by hot water. The legs were oozing a lot of water, and the water had a pungent smell.

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What years did you start experiencing this condition?

And how did it begin? I was 12 years old. I remember we had gone to the farm when a stick scratched my leg here. I thought it was normal because it did not even get deep into the skin. Later on, it became a small wound; I was taken to the hospital and given a tetanus jab. A month later, the wound disappeared, but my leg was swelling. I went back to the hospital, and as usual, they just tried to kill the pain but not the swelling of the foot.

I could not put on shoes, and for 3 months I could not move because of the pain; I was bedridden. I felt like I had lost my legs; the pain was unimaginable each day the swelling kept growing. I used to cry to God to help me each day but nothing changed. I tried different hospitals, but there was no cure. A few months later, I developed another boil which went away later but the foot kept swelling. So it was like a seasonal kind of sickness; a boil develops, then it goes away, and the leg keeps on swelling each day. The sickness was on and off. It has been really challenging.

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After some time, the other leg got affected; it started off just like a small itch which developed into some small boils and now here we are; this other leg kept growing. My parents have gone through so much pain; each day they have tried to give us the best to no avail.

What about school?

I had completed class 8 before the condition begun. When I developed this condition, I could not continue with my education because I was scared and embarrassed. I even escaped from home. Why the shame and I felt like there is a problem here. So I went to Nairobi to live with a family friend. I joined form one, I studied only for one term but when things got out of hand I had to drop out because I was always sickly. I would attend school for one week and after that fall sick for a while. That is how my journey is school ended.

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Why were you scared of staying here in the village?

I thought it was something like witchcraft, and I felt maybe I can avoid it; it was so hurting to see how my siblings were suffering in pain.

So you decided to run away?

Yes, so that I don’t have to undergo such a predicament. But that was not a solution. I met your mum and noticed she was okay. Who in the family had this condition that seems to be affecting you guys? Mum is okay; dad was also okay since his childhood. But after he started having kids, he developed the problem. I heard he was his by a stone, shortly after he developed a tiny swelling it went on to grow big although not as big as ours because he used to put on shoes. I really can’t say we inherited this condition from our fathers in the family because I have asked around and non of our relatives has experienced this.

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You traced deep in the family? Yes. So you are the first ones? Yes, no one from my dad’s side or mum has ever had this problem.

So you guys have done thorough research? Yes.

What are people saying around? People talk, they say so many things, some even say my parents need to disclose about the sin they might have committed. When I ask mum and dad about it they say they have never wronged anyone; they denied having tried to do anything evil. Instead, they are as shocked as anyone else.

So people say your parents must have done something that now you are paying for those sins? Yes. Surprisingly those of us who developed this condition took after dad; the rest who are okay took after mum.

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What! Those of you who developed this condition took after dad? Yes, but those who are okay took after mum.

So you are 11 of you in the family and one died? So 5

of you who took after dad have this condition and the rest are okay? Yes.

How is the relationship between those who are sick and those ho are okay? We are okay; it’s not like the family is divided? No, we love each other.

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How do you respond to people saying this is witchcraft? I just leave everything to God because I don’t know how a witch looks like. Even if it’s witchcraft, people need to be human. You can’t just finish a whole family. If this was done by a human being, I wish they could just have mercy on us and may God forgive them. But I know the true healer is Jesus. We keep our hope in him; he is the only one who knows if this is witchcraft or whatever it is.

Do your siblings have families? Those who are okay? Yes, yes they are married and they have families.

What about you? Personally, I have come across suitors and I always ensure I tell them the truth so that someone can choose whether they want to be with me or not.

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You would meet someone when they look at your appearance they think you are okay but when I show them the reality, they disappear. Has someone ever done that to you? Yeah, people get scared because they think you might infect them, or what his family will say. That has been happening so I gave up.

I gave up on matters marriage, unless God heals me so that I can be like the other girls, then I can think about it. It’s a challenge; I have lost friends, no one wants to be associated with me and none of them wants me in their home. No one wants to walk with me; they feel ashamed. They feel I am different and that is a big challenge for me.

Have your other siblings tried to date? The situation has not been different with my brothers; they meet girls who run away from them because of the condition they don’t have. It hurts so bad, we ask God why us.

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Do you experience tough moments?

I have contemplated suicide so many times because I don’t see a future. It’s painful when people keep off because of this condition; at times I feel if I was like the other girls maybe I would be far. I know I would miles away but this condition has paralyzed my life; I can’t even get employment. I have received job offers as a domestic worker but my condition has made it hard for me to be employed; people are scared that I might infect their kids, so I end up losing the job. I have tried seeking employment in restaurants or salons to no avail. At first, I am told I can begin work when they look at my appearance because I love putting on long dresses but when I open up about what I am going through, I am told no. Some customers won’t be comfortable; it really hurts.

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What is the worst thing someone has ever told you?

That I will infect their kids or their family and end up being like me. I did not wish this upon myself; this condition appeared from nowhere.

Have you accepted yourself?

Yes, I am trying. Yes, God has been helping through, I have been watching your work and people out there have gone through a lot, so that gives me hope. I decided to accept my condition; God knows why.

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What was your passion?

What did you dream to become growing up as a young girl? We fellowship in a Catholic church, so I have been asking God to help me so that I can become a nun. I also wanted to be a doctor; those dreams died.

What keeps you going?

Mama Emmanuel and the dad who are those?

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They are family friends whom I have been living with in Nairobi. They have been really supportive; when I fall sick, I don’t even call back home to inform anyone instead I tell them later when I am okay because I just don’t want to stress my mum; she is burdened already. God brought that loving family my way; they treat me like their own child. At least they took me in when everyone was running away from me.

How do your brothers deal with their stress?

Mum has been their big source of hope. My elder siblings with this condition have sort of given up because they feel there’s no future; they can’t get jobs, no marriage. But we keep encouraging one another; God is very much aware of what is happening and this is not the end of life. He knows our beginning and the end. Mum has been encouraging them a lot; she has been praying for them, and life keeps moving. And when people say she must have done something wrong, it hurts her. But she is a very religious person; she prays a lot, so lately she is used to people gossiping. Deep inside of her, she knows she is innocent, and also she can’t sit there watching her kids suffer this much when she knows she is the problem. She has been a religious person since she was a young girl; God has been with her all through, and she is strong by the grace. Without God, we wouldn’t have come this far.

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Has any of you gone to hospital and come out successful?

Yes, one of my brothers was worse than all of us; his legs were so big, and the flesh was even peeling off. He nearly died last year; we had to do a fundraising, a few guys came through for him. We thank God for the little they gave; people around contributed, and my parents had to sell off their remaining cow, the money was used to take my brother to the hospital. He was taken to Kijabe hospital; initially, he had been taken to some 3 hospitals around, and they advised that he gets amputated because there was no hope for him and no medicine. So the doctors advised that he gets amputated because it was likely going to affect his backbone. But mum was not comfortable; she said it’s better he remains the way he was and has his legs. He was taken to Kijabe where they recommended plastic surgery.

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