Blind masseuse on healing call

Ms Dorcas Kamene demonstrates how she administers massage therapy on July 6, 2020. PHOTO | PIUS MAUNDU

Photo credit: NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Most first-time clients are hesitant when they learn the therapy involves a massage.
  • Known as Shiatsu, the massage is part of a regimen of traditional therapies in Japan.
  • The masseuse typically uses a light cloth so that her hand does not come in direct contact with the skin of the client.

  • Ms Kamene says the massage therapy should be repeated at least twice for it to be effective.

It is Monday mid-morning and a short queue lazily builds up outside one of the consultation rooms at DWA Community Hospital on the outskirts of Kibwezi Township in Makueni County.

They will end up in the hands of Dorcas Kamene, a physiotherapist who is highly sought after in the region and beyond for her massage therapy – especially for stiff shoulders and backaches.

Ms Kamene keenly listens to each patient’s account and enquires about medical history. As she goeas about her work, there is little indication that she is blind.

Her face lights up as she now gropes for a light piece of cloth in a box lying in a corner of the room and directs the client to a low-lying massage table.

Most first-time clients are hesitant when they learn the therapy involves a massage. “However, I assure them that this is a special type of massage that does not entail removing clothes. Importantly, I also remind them that I am totally blind,” she says.

Known as Shiatsu, the massage is part of a regimen of traditional therapies in Japan. It entails identifying points of energy, known as chi in Japanese, and applying sustained pressure and rocking motions for a few seconds, mostly using finger tips, to reinvigorate the body.

Light cloth

The masseuse typically uses a light cloth so that her hand does not come in direct contact with the skin of the client.

“The tips of my fingers are very sensitive. I guess the sense of touch compensates for the lost sense of sight. I easily use the finger tips to relieve patients suffering from stroke, diabetes, backaches, muscle pain and high blood pressure through the massage therapy,” she said.

Ms Kamene says the massage therapy should be repeated at least twice for it to be effective.

“Most of the patients are workers at DWA Sisal Estate. The rest come from the neighbourhood and yet others are referrals from as far as Kikuyu Mission Hospital,” the mother of three says.

Ms Kamene, 39, was not born blind. She went to Kalulini High School in Kibwezi. The former sweeper at DWA Sisal Estate lost sight in 2014 while undergoing a delicate operation at Kenyatta National Hospital to remove a growth in the head.

Medics had recommended the operation after they linked the growth to persistent migraines, vomiting, blurred vision, and seizures, which she had suffered for years.

Become sickly

“The operation was successful but it cost my eyesight. I initially became hopeless,” she said.

Aware that most employers have a penchant of hiding behind the anticipated reduction in production by workers who become sickly or are disabled to dismiss them, she was pleasantly surprised after the company not only retained her but also sponsored her studies in college.

“When we eventually succeeded to convince her to join college, we enabled her to enroll at the Machakos Technical Institute for the Blind for the Japanese massage course,” said Ms Joan Mdenyo, the human resource manager at DWA Sisal Estate.

Ms Kamene was eventually redeployed as a physiotherapist and has been credited with improving the well-being of fellow workers.  Now a beneficiary of an aggressive dispersal of Shiastu skills across the world as an effective therapy and a source of livelihood, especially for the blind, by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, Ms Kamene admits that the rehabilitation and her supportive family and colleagues also empowered her to cope with the new normal.

“I met and made friends with many people who lost sight in various circumstances at the college. Although I had lost sight under unique circumstances, I was moved by the testimonies of my coursemates,” she says.

Ms Kamene explains that some had lost sight after being attacked by poisonous snakes and others at the hands of abusive spouses.  Yet others became blind after taking dangerous alcoholic drinks. The lesson for Ms Kamene from the college is that those with physical disabilities are abled differently and as such should aspire to be productive in the society.

“The rehabilitation facility also teaches the blind how to perform basic chores such as washing, cooking, and moving around with or without a white cane,” said Ms Catherine Muthengi, the lecturer in charge of the Japanese massage course at the Machakos Technical Institute for the Blind.

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