In her own words: Vallent Athiambo
In the year 1990 on 23rd of January on a Saturday at around mid day, a beautiful baby girl was born in mission hospital in Migori District now in Migori County. As usual the parents and relatives were very happy and grateful to God but the mum’s joy exceeded all this.
The baby grew up to be a very jovial and healthy girl until the age of one and half years when something strange started happening to the little girl. The mum tried her best to seek medical attention from different health facilities but it was all in vain . She received different advice from different people; some advised her to go to the local herbalist/ witchdoctors that they tried trying to sugar coat the name by calling them prayer persons/men but the mum trusted so much in her God and kept on praying for the girl and to seek medical attention.
The doctor told her that the girl was developing a brain condition as a result of the prolonged labor the mother had during the girl’s birth, what a shock the mum! By this time the girl was experiencing regular convulsions and the dad had started distancing himself and all this while left the poor mum alone.
The girl grew up and started going to school, she was a very social and talkative girl who could engage everyone she came across in very mature and interesting conversations. When the mum gave birth to the other three children, they were all boys and were just okay, not experiencing the same condition that the little girl was going through.
By this time, the parents had separated one of the reasons being this strange condition their first born and only daughter developed. Every time the girl had an attack, the dad could blame the mum that this strange condition came from her genes and that in his family, no one had this strange condition.
But I like the heart that God gave to mothers despite all these; the mum didn’t give up in her only daughter but instead became even stronger and tried to give her the best. When the was in class three, the condition became severe and the mum was worried, she was advised by a colleague to take the girl to a herbalist somewhere in Migori. The herbalist gave her some herbs to boil and give the girl to drink; she did so and for seven years the girl never had any attack, what a relief to the poor single mother!
Teenage Years’ Challenges.
When the beautiful girl now a young woman was in high school, she went to a boarding school far from home and when she was in form two, the convulsions started again! It was a scary scene to her classmates, friends and teachers. Worst of all, her friends started distancing themselves from her something that made her feel much pain.
The mum was called to school and she took her to the hospital and this time round to see a specialist because she was referred by a doctor who told her it was Epilepsy, a brain condition causing the convulsions. The neurologist prescribed some drugs to her and she went back to school, although this didn’t stop the condition completely, the attacks were regular and could come once after three months. This went on until the girl completed her high school, went to college and completed, never giving up.
The young woman has undergone a lot because of this, it took her a very long time to accept this as a result of this, she couldn’t participate in some games and activities in school simply because people were cautious and afraid that she might get an attack and the other students would be blamed. She couldn’t even get to any relationship with a man and at one point she decided not to disclose this to any man approaching her for a relationship.
Whenever she went for an interview and the interviewer got to know about this, the interviewer would find an excuse to not give her the job. After all these experiences, the girl is now grown into a woman and has decided to accept and view Epilepsy as a condition like any other. Whenever a man approaches her for a relationship, even before she gives in, the first thing she does is to tell him of the condition. What a bold and brave step! This has brought along many “potential” suitors, by simply being comfortable with herself and forging ahead.
Her view towards alternative medication
She recalls when she completed her high school an old man from a place called Lolliondo in Tanzania came into picture. This man was believed to have medication that could heal even HIV positive people. Many people including the rich and learned people in society were caught up in this wave and unfortunately most of them neglected their drugs and died.
Her mum’s friend once tried to convince her to take her daughter to Lolliondo but gladly her mum’s faith in God did not permit it.
How myths Contribute to Stigma
Many people have different perceptions concerning epilepsy. Some believe its as a result of witchcraft, others think its as a result of something done wrong by the parent and that a sacrifice must be offered! While others especially back in my community believe that it’s something transferred from one individual to another. In the sense that one with the condition can pass it on to another without .
How is this even possible given it’s a brain condition that can be managed like other heath conditions? All these are but myths and misconceptions about the condition.
What matters is acceptance and once you have discovered the triggers for instance in my case it’s usually triggered by malaria and stress. Both positive or negative, so I try my best to avoid this. I am always thankful to God for the far He has brought me given that by His faithfulness I have been in a position to accomplish what all others within my age gap who don’t have the condition have accomplished. With confidence I can boldly say that epilepsy is not witchcraft, all that is needed is acceptance, medication and control of the triggers.