On February 2, eight-year-old David Muthee sneaked out of his mother's compound in Murang'a County to play with his age mates before nightfall.
What the Grade Two pupil at Mwana Wikio Primary School did not know was that fate would transform his life into a major health crisis and keep him out of school.
"A neighbour’s donkey had been tethered on an electricity post to graze by the roadside. My son ran near it and fell ... The donkey bit him on his right leg and inflicted a fracture. This has now turned into a crisis after the leg became paralysed," said the boy’s mother, Jacinta Nyaga.
Ms Nyaga said she had agreed with the donkey's owner, Beatrice Mwangi, that if the latter paid the hospital bills for the schoolboy, she would not report the matter to the police.
"But the moment my son was admitted to Thika Level Five Hospital, she abandoned us. The doctors said my son's leg needed corrective surgery and to be fitted with a metallic plate to aid the fractured bones to grow again," Ms Nyaga said.
She added that well-wishers raised the Sh22,000 that was needed for the surgery.
"But things did not work out for my son ... instead of the leg healing, it started to rot. The meat around the metallic plate started falling off ... and now the leg is dying and I fear that soon, doctors will recommend that it be amputated," she said.
She said she decided to report the matter to the Ngati Police Station in Ithanga/Kakuzi sub-county on May 15.
It was recorded that the owner of the donkey had negligently failed to attend to her domestic animal causing grievous harm to a human being.
Ithanga/Kakuzi sub-county police boss John Ogola said if the case ends up in court, Ms Mwangi will be charged with the offense of "omitting to take precautions against any probable danger from any animal in her possession contrary to Section 243 (d) of the Penal Code".
Mr Ogola said he had taken a personal interest in the issue "and my officers are closely monitoring the health development of the boy and we have since issued him with a P3 form for medical examination reports to be indicated".
Suspected to be rabid
Trouble is the donkey that was suspected to be rabid was killed by irate villagers soon after it bit the boy.
"If it can be ascertained that the donkey was rabid and its owner knew of its condition and proceeded to tether it in a public place ... it amounts to premeditated malice that had the express intent of endangering public safety," Mr Ogola said.
Getting that evidence would demand that the donkey be exhumed and a forensic veterinary autopsy be conducted on it.
Mr Ogola said investigations had revealed that before the donkey attacked the boy, it had bitten its owner, who nursed the resulting wound for three months.
Ms Mwangi acknowledged that was indeed the case but attributed the attack to typical aggression from the animal.
She denied abandoning the boy's family, saying she paid admission fees plus Sh350 in daily expenditure for the boy.
"I spent more than Sh40,000 on the boy. It is regrettable and it was an accident that was not intended. I feel sorry and I pray daily that the boy gets well," she said.
But Ms Nyaga’s priority now is how to salvage her son’s leg from amputation.
"A private doctor has now told me that if I raise Sh300,000, he can redo the surgery on the leg, cut off the rotting flesh and replace it with flesh cut from other parts of the body and rescue the leg," she said.
She said she didn’t know how to raise that kind of money, saying well-wishers had helped raise the Sh22,000 that was needed for the initial surgery and she is uneasy about begging from them again.
"It is now about my God, my son and well-wishers. As a casual labourer and a single mother of three, my interest is not in a court case but in seeing my son walk again and resume school,” she said.
“The pain he is going through is too much. He cannot comprehend why he is walking with the help of crutches. He is asking me why the doctor who took our money failed to make his leg heal."
A doctor at Thika Level Five Hospital, who sought anonymity, said "the issue surrounding this boy is simple".
He said "if the mother is enlisted to the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF), the corrective remedies can be executed at no cash obligation on the mother."
However, "if she is not enlisted, she only needs Sh80,000 and he will be treated".
The doctor said "the biggest problem around the boy is that the metallic plate that had been fitted has overstayed on the leg leading to disintegration of the flesh".
He explained that "the metallic plate cannot be removed since there is a non-payments conflict between the hospital and suppliers of the plates".
He said "the suppliers have not been paid for one year and they have [stopped] replenishing our stock, leading to the suffering of the boy alongside others, hence leaving patients to foot their own bills in private hospitals".
Ms Nyaga told Nation.Africa that she has an NHIF card "but my son is yet to secure a birth certificate".
She said she is pursuing to get the document "so that my son can be incorporated as a beneficiary”.