A family’s battle with Leukemia

(Catherine Karong’o) – Lenin Zulu was three and a half years old when he was first diagnosed with Leukemia. This is a type of blood cancer that affects children.

“Initially, there were no signs but eventually he had this sign of limping and eventually he stopped walking and that is when we took him to Kenyatta (National) Hospital where we were told he suffered Leukemia,” his mother Beatrice Okoth tells us.

And 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. Lenin, a second born in a family of four suffered a relapse of Leukemia in December last year, six months after doctors declared him cancer free.

“After the relapse we went to Aga Khan 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 coverthe rest,” she says.

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 everytime 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.

“Its like almost everything has stopped, there is this separation of family because we have to stay in hospital all the time, am away from my other kids, he cant go to school, right now he cant walk so I have to carry him everywhere, to the toilet, everywhere and I closed my business,” Lenin’s mother laments.

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 (AgaKhan) so imagine us taking a whole year of chemotherapy how much would it cost something like over Sh10million but in Italy (Italy) we have a sponsor,” she adds.

However the family needs to raise air ticket.

“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 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.

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. 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 leukemia accounts for about 25 percent of all childhood cancers. 60 percent of children have a type of Leukemia known as Acute Lumphocytic Leukemia (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.

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