MY STORY: I lost my leg, but not my dreams

Victoria Mbuki  during the interview at her parents’ home in Tasia, Embakasi. 

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • My fellow students supported me, but I could sense some pity. People kept staring at me.
  • From what I heard, the matatu I was in had been involved in a collision with a lorry. Apparently, I was one of only three survivors of the accident that claimed 11 lives.
  • Before this incident, I used to go dancing and I loved going out with friends. It all came to an end. I am confined to the house.

“Going back to school feels like facing the world for the first time after the accident. I had gone back to school for the first time in March after being discharged, but a couple of days later schools were closed due to Corona. When the accident happened, I was in Form Three. I remember I kept asking myself if I would be able to sit my Form Four exam. I wondered if I would complete my high school education or even go to college?

Pandemic


But, in March I was back in school. My fellow students supported me, but I could sense some pity. People kept staring and although I appreciated their concerns, they made me uncomfortable. I was lucky the headteacher allowed me to stay at her place while going to school daily. But, even before I settled, the pandemic struck and a lockdown was in place.
I was grateful for the lockdown because it’s like my recovery period was extended. It wasn’t a waste of time though as during this break, I was homeschooling and I’m ready for the national exams.
Rewinding back to that fateful day, my fate took an abrupt, unfortunate turn. It was around 9am when I boarded a matatu from home in Utawala to town, where I was supposed to attend a 1pm Mass at St Peter’s Clavers church.
I don’t know what happened next. I found myself in the casualty ward at Kenyatta National Hospital. From what I heard, the matatu I was in had been involved in a collision with a lorry. Apparently, I was one of only three survivors of the accident that claimed 11 lives.

Excruciating pain


I woke up in excruciating pain. My face was bruised, but all my body parts were intact. As the doctors kept walking into the ward, I sensed there was a problem with my right leg. They kept asking me whether I could feel it.
At that point, I sensed danger. Being a TV fan, I had watched a few medical series and movies, and I knew what the doctors meant when they asked if I could feel my leg. I knew if I said no, then I faced an amputation. So, I kept lying to the doctors.
But, this wouldn’t last long. I remember they used a sharp object to poke my sole and I couldn’t tell the difference, and that was when they realised I was not being honest.
My mother had to make a quick decision and give the doctors the go-ahead to amputate my leg. Going into surgery, I kept asking God to spare my leg and promised to be a good girl.

Amputation


Hours later when I came from theatre, I still did not know my leg had been amputated. I could see my mother crying. I was in denial and I didn’t want to look at the lower part of my body.
It still never occurred to me that my leg was not there. This was until a fellow patient in the ward, talked to me. She kept assuring me that everything would be okay, and I would get another leg. That was when reality hit home.
I finally gained the courage to look at my leg and I noticed it had been amputated up to just below the shin. I was mad at the universe for allowing this. Angry at myself for leaving home on that fateful day. I kept telling myself that perhaps if I had missed church, then, maybe, I would still have my leg.
Three months after the amputation, I was discharged. However, I had to go back to the hospital later after I developed an infection. Another amputation was inevitable.

Surgery


I remember the second surgery kept on being postponed, as the doctors said I did not have enough blood. Later, the leg was amputated further to just above the shin. I spent another two weeks in the hospital.
Before this incident, I used to go dancing and I loved going out with friends. It all came to an end. I am confined tothe house.
Everything has changed. I have to depend on people for the little things I used to do on my own like taking a bath, changing clothes, going to the bathroom and preparing meals. It’s frustrating.
Sometimes I want to do things for myself, but when I struggle, I get angry. I sometimes insist on doing some things like cooking and when I succeed, I feel good about myself. It’s a form of therapy.

Acceptance 


I’m on a journey towards accepting my situation, nearly a year on. It feels like I’m in a bad dream. I sometimes pinch myself, hoping to wake up from it. I pity myself sometimes, but then I reflect back and think hey, I was one of the three people who made it alive from the accident. Coming out alive was a blessing and I can’t take that for granted. I thank God for it.
In all this, my mother has been my pillar. Our relationship has grown stronger everyday. Even though this is a tragedy that nobody would wish to face, it is fair to say it has strengthened our relationship. We talk to each other more, which wasn’t the case before.
However, it has also been so hard on her. Being an only child, she probably fears she might lose me.
Another hard part is that she has been forced to work harder to take care of me, especially after I lost my father in June, just a few months after my accident. She works as a taxi driver, runs a small hotel, and also owns a mobile money transaction shop, all to ensure that I’m comfortable.
How did I get the strength to smile again? I frankly don’t know. I haven’t undergone any counselling. I’ve had to do this without any professional psychological help.
The secret is, perhaps, that since childhood, I’ve been taught to be independent. I’ve always managed things on my own.

Financial Support


But, this experience opened my world to new and wonderful things and people. During the lockdown, especially daytime, I split my time between studies and watching American amputee, Footless Joe. I watched her every day go through her journey. It reminded me I’m not alone. I believed in myself and realized that despite the setback, there’s still a lot that life has install for me.
All I can say is that, as a society, we should also learn to embrace not just amputees, but all people living with disabilities. Financial support is important, but it’s not always the key variable. We need to be loved, understood and respected. My wish is that people look at me the way they did when I had all my limbs.

Temporary Prosthetics


I am hopeful that I will walk again, of course through prosthetics. The doctor advised me to get temporary prosthetics since my body is still developing. Otherwise , my pelvic bones could tilt.
Prosthetics are quite expensive, and for now, getting them feels like a distant dream .
But in all these, my hope of pursuing my dream of being a journalist and particularly a news anchor, remains intact. I know I have lost one leg, but I could always read the news while seated.”


Welcome!

You're all set to enjoy unlimited Prime content.