, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 16 – Lenin Zulu was three-and-a-half years old when he was first diagnosed with Leukaemia. This is a type of blood cancer of the blood or bone marrow.
“Initially, there were no signs but eventually he had this sign of limping and later he stopped walking. That is when we took him to Kenyatta (National) Hospital where we were told he suffered from Leukaemia,” his mother Beatrice Okoth tells us.
Five years down the line, Lenin, a young and cheerful boy is still battling hard to live. We meet him at their humble home in Nairobi. He is playing computer games to keep busy. The second born in a family of four suffered a relapse of Leukaemia in December last year, six months after doctors declared him cancer free.
“After the relapse we went to Aga Khan (hospital) for almost one and a half months and the bill came to Sh1.2 million. The insurance covered Sh1 million while the family is to cover the rest,” she says.
Eight year old Lenin, had received chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment at a hospital in Italy for one year, in 2010 where he was also supposed to undergo a bone marrow transplant but could not get a matching donor.
“His father used to work at an Italian sponsored hospital in Meru and his employers are the ones who helped us get to the hospital in Italy where he underwent treatment for free,” she explains.
After that, he came back to Kenya and continued with therapy at the Aga Khan hospital until June last year.
Lenin has become weak and cannot walk. He also has to wear a mask every time because of his low immunity. If he is not the one in a mask, the rest of the family has to be in one. Lenin’s illness has completely changed his family’s lifestyle.
“It’s like almost everything has stopped, there is this separation of family because we have to stay in hospital all the time, I am away from my other kids; he can’t go to school; right now he can’t walk so I have to carry him everywhere. I closed my business,” Lenin’s mother points out.
The young boy is still undergoing chemotherapy once a week as they source for funds to go back to Italy because they can’t afford treatment here. They also hope to get a bone marrow donor while there.
“The insurance cannot cover that (Chemotherapy) anymore because we have exhausted all the money for insurance, it means we deliver cash,” she says.
“It’s very expensive and we can’t afford it. For instance from December 23rd to February 2nd, the bill came to Sh1.2million so imagine us taking a whole year of chemotherapy how much would it cost – over Sh10 million! But in Italy we have a sponsor,” she adds.
However the family needs to raise the air tickets.
“The problem right now is getting money for the ticket which is Sh150,000 plus money for stay but medical is covered and we would really appreciate any help,” she says.
Due to his illness, Lenin attended his first ever class in the second term of last year. He joined standard two at Green Garden Academy.
“He was a bit behind but because of the eagerness and hard work, Lenin really worked and by the end of second term he had attained 400 in his grade. He even participated in games and won two medals for racing and treasure searching,” says Roselyne Oduor, Lenin’s Class teacher.
He hasn’t been to school this year, after he suffered the relapse.
At his school, we find his classmates leaving for the day. Lenin’s best friend Michael misses him.
“I want him to come back to school because I want us to learn together. I really, really miss playing with him,” says Michael.
“Our only prayer now is that Lenin gets better, he has been doing anything a normal child would do, we had Taekwondo classes and the most amazing thing is that he joined and was even able to do the drills. When we closed school he was fine so you can imagine our shock when we were told that he was in hospital, he could not walk. It has not been easy even for us,” the school Manager, Mrs Lorigi says.
Statistics indicate that leukaemia accounts for about 25 percent of all childhood cancers. Sixty percent of children have a type of Leukaemia known as Acute Lymphocytic Leukaemia (ALL) which Lenin suffers.
If you want to assist, you can send M-PESA donations to 0718-732 939 or bank money in the account of Beatrice Adoyo Okoth, Barclays Bank, Meru Branch Acc. number 4510641.