Joan Lebene

Nurses attend to Ms Joan Lebene at Baraka Nursing Home in Nakuru on November 17, 2015.

| File | Nation Media Group

Joan Lebene suffers permanent paralysis for rejecting suitor

She is wheeled out of a dilapidated two-room timber structure, which serves as the abode for her and her five siblings.

As she struggles to sit owing to painful bed sores she has developed after spending most of her time in bed, over the years, she finally gets comfortable speaking to us under an acacia tree in their dusty compound.

Ms Joan Lebene, 29, from Marigat Inn village in Baringo South, suffered permanent paralysis and has been confined to a wheelchair for the last eight years, a situation she describes as unbearable.

She has been left with scars, sleepless nights and relying on people on virtually everything—a lifelong reminder of what befell her.

When we visited her on a Friday afternoon, her mother had just arrived from a nearby shopping centre where she had gone for a few foodstuffs.

Lebene’s woes started in 2013, a few days after she secured a job at a cyber café in Marigat town.

A male friend, Ben Kiplimo, who worked in the same building, approached her.

She says Kiplimo told her he had received information that she was looking for a house within the town to rent and he was willing to help.

Secured a new job

The man claimed he had secured a new job at a construction company in Loruk, dozens of kilometres away, and since he was planning to relocate to the new working station, he was willing to leave his rented house in Marigat town for her.

“He was just a mere friend and we had no strings attached. I took the offer, and, after all, I was the one paying for it,” Ms Lebene says.

The move, she says, was the genesis of four-month quarrels with the perceived friend-turned-suitor. He made frequent visits to the house unannounced.

“A month after I moved into the one-room house, the man sneaked in, claiming he wanted me as his wife. I objected because I had not even known him well and I had a dream to advance my studies since I had just completed my secondary school,” she says as she adjusts her sitting position to relieve the painful sores.

When she failed to give in to his demands, the alleged suitor, she says, started issuing threats, insisting that she must marry him, or he would use unorthodox means, including seeking a witch doctor’s services to get his way.

“I did not confide in anyone because I perceived his utterances as empty threats just to coerce me into yielding to his demands. He never stopped coming.

“I even informed him that if he was serious about marrying me, he should seek the blessings of my parents as per the traditions of the Ilchamus community, where I came from, but he declined,” Ms Lebene says.

Joan Lebene

Ms Joan Lebene at her home in Marigat Inn, Baringo South.

Photo credit: Florah Koech | Nation Media Group

Her world came crumbling down four months later when Kiplimo stormed the house one afternoon and found her passing time with one of her friends.

He demanded that the friend leave because he had ‘pertinent issues’ to discuss with Ms Lebene.

“My friend was adamant and advised him that since we were planning to go to the shopping centre, he would discuss the issue as we walked, to which he agreed.

“I went to take a bath but when I came back, the house was partially dark, with all the windows closed. He grabbed my hand and closed the door,” she narrates.

A commotion that lasted close to half an hour ensued among the trio. No one was there to rescue her.

“During the melee, I managed to open the door and fled but fell a few metres from the house. He took a knife, which was on the table, pursued and stabbed me in the neck, back and the ribs more than 12 times. I wailed, but no one came to my rescue as the friend we were with had also taken to her heels,” narrates Lebene amid sobs.

Condition worsened

“My body became numb, I realised he was determined to kill me. I pretended I was dead and that is when he threw the knife where I lay, and left me for dead,” she says.

A passer-by who saw her bleeding raised the alarm and locals took her to Marigat Sub-County Hospital for first aid. She was then referred to Baringo County Referral Hospital in Kabarnet.

She was again referred to the Nakuru Level Five Hospital after her condition worsened.

“The MRI at the facility was not functional and I was taken to the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret after four days where it was established that my spinal cord had been damaged, leading to paralysis from the waist down to my limbs,” says Lebene.

Medical bills

Two weeks later, she was taken to St Luke’s Trauma and Orthopaedic Hospital where she spent close to a year, a situation that led her family selling all their livestock, their main economic mainstay, to supplement the amount raised through fund drives to settle the accumulating medical bills that hit close to a million.

She adds: “When the medical bills at the private facility hit the ceiling in 2015, my parents took me home to nurse my injuries because we were virtually dependent on well-wishers, even for food.

"Some of my younger siblings would alternate going to school to nurse me because my mother was already exhausted.”

Lebene developed body sores owing to the sitting on a wheelchair for hours, forcing her parents to take her back to a Nakuru hospital, where she was admitted for another eight months.

Since then, she has been in and out of hospital, rendering her family paupers.

The sores on her buttocks have worsened, forcing her to sleep on her chest throughout.

“This attack has reduced me and my family to beggars, living squalid lives. We have literally lost everything, including property, yet my health is deteriorating each day. I was supposed to undergo Sh350,000 surgery in 2019, but we don’t have money,” explains Lebene.

“My dreams are shattered. I never enjoyed my youth because of a selfish man. See now, even the wheelchair is not assisting me either because the sores cannot allow me to sit. My mother cannot go out to provide for us because she has to be there to nurse me,” she says as she forces back tears.

Grace Lebene, her mother, says she has spent more than Sh2 million on her medication and the family is still looking for more money to settle bills in some of the health facilities.

“We have been kicked out by landlords over the years because of accumulating rent. With a family of seven, we are now residing in a dilapidated iron-sheet house, which is still hard to pay,” she says.

“Due to her paralysis, my daughter cannot control urine and faeces and has to use diapers, which are costly. She is also using a catheter that needs to be changed frequently, but due to lack of money, she sometimes uses it for a month, which may also cause another infection,” she adds.

The mother of six narrates that she is sometimes forced to carry her ailing daughter on her back, a move that has also affected her health owing to old age.

“She has been writhing in pain for more than eight years, just because she rejected a marriage proposal. I want justice for my daughter because what she is going through cannot even be explained in words; it can just be described as baptism by fire, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone,” says the distraught mother.

After going into hiding for eight years, the suspect was arrested early this year and the victim is still battling the case in court, hoping that justice will be dispensed.


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