Thousands of children suffer from heart ailments in Kenya. Although many babies are born with heart defects, most have no signs or symptoms that would help them get early diagnosis and treatment. When signs and symptoms occur, a heart murmur is the most common, yet not all murmurs are signs of congenital heart defects as many healthy children have them. This is the dilemma that parents whose children are born with heart defects face. George William Obinga is one of such parents. His son was diagnosed with a heart defect at the age of six. He and his family have walked through a very challenging journey, as he narrates to MWAURA MUIGANA.
Derrick Otieno Obinga is 15 and in class seven but his peers are in form two. Sickness has kept young Derrick on and off school and at one time he dropped out completely. Derrick was born a healthy boy but things started going wrong when he was three years old. He became weak, inactive and preferred being alone and watch his peers play from a distance. When they forced him to join in play, he didn’t seem to enjoy, got tired very quickly and withdrew to his cocoon.
Derrick ran a permanent cough and when his parents took him to the clinic, the doctors prescribed cough syrups. The symptoms would temporarily disappear for a few days then recur. When the cough was really bad, doctors would prescribe antibiotics but they too didn’t seem to work. His performance in various activities at nursery school was dismal and continued to deteriorate when he got to primary school.
Other children mocked Derrick for lacking enthusiasm and being a weakling. They termed him a lazy bone. This put him down all the more and he became withdrawn. His parents were frustrated at their son being bullied by other children, often much younger than him, yet he couldn’t stand up for himself. His father, George William Obinga, who comes from Homa Bay, Rangwe division, re-lives the traumatising journey he has walked with his son.