‘Help me access treatment for this strange disease’

Evelyn Cherop

Evelyn Cherop in her house in Chekeneroi village in West Pokot County on May 1. She has been battling a strange disease for 14 years and is now unable to stand on her own.

Photo credit: Oscar Kakai | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The disease manifests in swollen legs and joint pains in the whole body
  • Cherop relies on her elder sister, does casual jobs to earn a living, for food.

Lying on a wooden bed in her grass-thatched, mud-walled house in Chekeneroi village, Siyoi ward in West Pokot County, a frail Evelyn Cherop groans in excruciating pain.

Her leaking roof and a window covered with black polythene papers may be the least of her concerns; the unknown disease that has confined her within the walls of her house is what bothers her.

Her health has been deteriorating daily and now she can neither walk nor stand on her own. But Cherop, 32, lacks money to seek medical attention. An orphan, she has battled with the unknown condition for the last 14 years but has never gone to any good hospital to seek medical help. She has been on painkillers throughout her life.

The disease manifests in swollen legs and joint pains in the whole body. In 2020, she started experiencing severe pains in her leg joints. The legs got swollen and she gradually became too weak and found it hard to stand, and has never walked since then.

Tired of life

She has sought treatment from nearby dispensaries and health centres, which have referred her to higher-level hospitals, but she says she cannot afford it.

“I don’t sleep at night, and I don’t know what I am suffering from,” says the mother of one. “I have suffered from youth into adulthood. I can’t walk or do anything. My hands and legs can’t stretch. I can’t imagine being in bed the whole of my life. I am now tired of life,” she said.

With the overwhelming odds and challenges against her, Cherop managed to clear her high school education at St Mary’s Siyoi Secondary School where she scored a C-. Growing up, she wanted to become a doctor.

Situation worsened

“Many times I failed to go to school when the situation worsened. I used to sit and rest along the road when going to school,” she explains. “I call on well-wishers, our leaders, and the government to help me get the treatment I need.”

“There is no day I concentrated well in class. I used to miss school and used a walking stick. At first, it was painful but it was not alarming. I would use painkillers that I got from the hospital to relieve the pain,” she says.

Cherop relies on her elder sister, does casual jobs to earn a living, for food. Their mother died in 2005. She feels she has become a burden to others.

“Imagine a life trapped inside your home, with serious health or mobility issues with no treatment or support in sight. I just sleep all day long, only changing sleeping positions,” she says.

Sick with pain

“My siblings carry me in and out of the house. Some have become sick with pain in their chests and are also tired. I just relieve myself wherever I am. They bathe me like a baby and I go for my long and short calls wherever I am,” she says.

Her niece, Nancy Chepsuto, who has been her helper, says carrying Cherop in and out of the house has been a difficult and cumbersome task. She says she has been using herbal medicine

“I cannot go out and look for work because we can’t leave her alone,” says Chepsuto.

A classmate, Garrison Topilla, says Cherop has been suffering since he knew her while in school. “It has been a painful journey. Sometimes she used to come late to school. It has been hard for the family.”

Another classmate, James Kamaru, says that on many days, Cherop would be unable to continue walking while heading to school.

“Sometimes we were forced to carry her to school,” he says.