Burn survivor hopes for better life as a nurse after near-death ordeal

Irene Mumbi (left) with her mother Ann Wangeci in Majengo in Nyeri Town on Thursday, August 15, 2019. PHOTO | JOSEPH KANYI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Mumbi was burned while saving her mother and a six-year-old from a burning house on June 6, 2018, at their home in Majengo slums in Nyeri.
  • For three months, she received treatment at various hospitals in Nyeri, but her condition only worsened and slowly she sunk into depression.

  • Since she could barely walk, she spent hours in bed crying due to excruciating pain and wishing that the tragedy that visited her family was just a bad dream.

When the Saturday Nation team visited Irene Mumbi, 19, a few days to Mashujaa Day celebrations in October last year, she was bedridden, in despair and with little hope that she would live to celebrate another birthday.

Mumbi was nursing burns she had sustained while saving her mother and a six-year-old from a burning house on June 6, 2018, at their home in Majengo slums in Nyeri.

SUNK INTO DEPRESSION

For three months, she received treatment at various hospitals in Nyeri, but her condition only worsened and slowly she sunk into depression. Since she could barely walk, she spent hours in bed crying due to excruciating pain and wishing that the tragedy that visited her family was just a bad dream.

But when the Nation highlighted her plight in a special feature to recognise heroes in the country, well-wishers started flocking her home. During the October 20 Madaraka Day celebrations in Nyeri, she was recognised as a heroine for her daring rescue mission that left her nursing burns and unable to walk.

“Since my story was published in the Daily Nation, I received a lot of support from Kenyans. My recovery would not have been possible if well-wishers had not supported me and my mother,” she told the Nation at her home.

Mr Samuel Gateri, a social media influencer, mobilised youths in Nyeri and Embu counties to raise funds to cater for her treatment. They facilitated her transfer to Tenri Embu Children’s Hospital where Mumbi was treated for eight months.

Mr Gateri helped organise a series of activities aimed at raising funds for her treatment. They included charity walks in Nyeri and Embu towns as well as hiking on Mt Kenya.

Several legislators, including Nyeri MP Ngunjiri Wambugu, Murang’a Woman Rep Sabina Chege, her Kirinyaga counterpart Wangui Ngirici and Kiambu Town MP Jude Njomo, also came to her rescue.

SKIN GRAFTING

By the time she was arriving at the hospital, her wounds were seriously infected to an extent that worms had found a breeding ground in them. She was on the verge of losing hope.

“At Tenri, the doctors and nurses showed me a lot of love,” she said.

Her wounds were cleaned daily for two weeks to prepare her for skin grafting. Previously and during her stay at hospital and home, the wounds were cleaned after four days which only worsened her condition.

For faster healing, the area around the wound needs to be washed regularly to reduce the risk of infections but this was the opposite in Mumbi’s case.

The first skin grafting was unsuccessful and Mumbi had to go back to theatre for a second procedure. This one was successful and her journey to full recovery started.

In March, Mumbi was feted at the Malaika Tribute Awards as the Teen of Courage 2019 for her bravery, exhibited in saving her mother from a burning house.

A look at her Facebook page paints a picture of a teenager who has refused to be defined by the marks left by the near-death experience and, even with the option of corrective plastic surgery, Mumbi says that she is proud of her scars as they serve as a reminder of God's grace. Now she wears a broad smile, takes pictures at every possible chance and sometimes even refuses to use clutches as she walks.

PURSUE NURSING

At the point of the tragedy, Mumbi was a Form Three student at Temple Road Secondary School in Nyeri Town. She now intends to join the Form Two class in third term.

This, she says, will give her time to study and revise as she works on earning good grades that will allow her pursue nursing. Her inspiration to become a nurse came from how she was handled at Nyeri County Referral Hospital.

Mumbi was in ICU for 10 days before being transferred to the general ward where nurses dressing her wounds only caused her tears and pain. Her worst encounter, she says, was during one of her periodic visit when some nurses declined to dress her until they were compelled to do so by the hospital’s matron.

“That was the most painful session because the nurses did not give me painkillers to relieve the pain. I pleaded with them to give me drugs but all they did was scold me”.

Her mother Anne Wangeci has resumed work at her kiosk in town although she confesses that she is struggling to pay house rent and raise money for her daughter’s school fees.

“We were forced to move to a self-contained house as advised by doctors to ensure that she has a clean and hygienic environment. We are welcoming any form of support from well-wishers,” she said.

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