This week on Youth Mtaani, we feature the story of Kelvin Kairu alias Kelvin Wa Nyambura, an acid attack survivor who has attempted suicide twice. Before learning how to embrace and be proud of his scars and in the process live positively, his journey to physical and mental recovery carries a number of painful twists and it’s a miracle he is alive today.
I went on Facebook Live to commit Suicide - acid attack survivor Kelvin Kairu tells it all
I have attempted suicide twice - Kelvin Kairu
March 21st, 2018 was a normal working day for Kelvin Kairu who used to work in Nanyuki town. On the fateful day, he was up very early in the morning ready to report on duty but little did he know somebody with an ill motive was out to destroy him.
Kelvin suffered an acid attack from a stranger who ambushed him on his way to work leaving him blind for two weeks with a burned face. The attack changed his life completely.
I washed my face thoroughly but still couldn't see - Kairu
As we sit down to have a chat, Kairo tells this Pulse Live writer that as he approached his workplace, a man emerged from a near by dark spot and poured a fluid on his face and disappeared.
“I was walking towards my work place at around 5:45 and as I approached the main gate a stranger emerged from a nearby dark spot, poured acid on my face and ran away. The act left me in serious pain as I felt like I was burning severely. In fear I started screaming as I ran towards the nearby gate and asked the guard who was on duty to help me wash my face. Unfortunately the damage had already been done. I washed my face thoroughly but still I couldn’t see. In shock I asked the guard to go through my phone and call a friend of mine who came and took me to Nanyuki Teaching and Referral Hospital,” said Kairu.
While at the Hospital, Kelvin narrates that it took hours before he could be attended to and even when it was time to see a doctor, he only concentrated on his eyesight, with a promise that his skin will heal with time and go back to normal.
“From 6am, doctors attended to me at around 9:00am. They later came with a spotlight pointed at my face but I couldn’t see anything. They went into a nearby room and I could hear them say, they didn’t think I would ever see again. They never bothered with my skin and so it continued to burn from the inside. With time it got worse and the affected parts started to ooze pus. The doctors administered medication to help regain my eye-sight,” he stated.
My wife was in Shock
The father of two noted that after the treatment he was allowed to go back home, but before they could reach where he used to stay they decided to report the matter to the police even though they didn’t have a suspect.
“I remember reaching home and my wife was like, ‘Leo umeamua kututisha ukuje hivi’ because I was covered with a Massai shuka. I uncovered myself and she was in shock because I left the house in good shape but now I’m back with a burned face. With time, however, she accepted the situation and helped me in my recovery journey. For the first few weeks even feeding was a problem. I continued going for check-ups with the belief that my skin would also heal. So one morning I woke up and I could see a little. I took a mirror just to see how I looked like just in case I went totally blind, I have a copy of how I looked like and the moment I saw myself in the mirror, nilikuwa nakaa kama Nyama choma and that broke me even further,” narrated Kelvin.
All this time Kelvin had not told his parents or any of his relatives what he was going through, an act that forced his wife to reach out to one of his uncles who came and helped him seek medication elsewhere.
Undergoing plastic surgery
Following the concerns from his family members, Kelvin fled to Nyeri without the knowledge of his family members and started to drink alcohol to forget his sorrows.
“I was familiar with Nyeri so I booked a room and ordered lots of alcohol. All I wanted was to forget what I was going through, I had never taken alcohol in my life before but here I was. When I woke up the following morning, I was a bit sober so I called a good doctor friend of mine. I told him my woes and he insisted I send him a photo, upon seeing the photo he advised that I should be admitted immediately to have my wounds cleaned because they were getting worse,” he added.
He was thereafter referred to Kenyatta National Hospital to undergo plastic surgery. This involved going for tests, which culminated in the first skin grafting surgery. Here, skin was removed from his right leg and transplanted on his neck where the burns were extreme.
After a few weeks another surgery meant to close up wounds on his neck backfired leaving his neck exposed again. He was back in the surgery room, this time doctors opted to remove skin from his shoulder and place it on his neck. It was a success and he started healing with a number of hospital visits. At this point Kairu was healing physically but mentally he had not accepted the transformation that the acid attack had caused on his body. The scars disturbed him to a point he decided to take his own life by committing suicide.
“After sasa kupona, everybody alikuwa anaona Kevo amepona, but little did they know sikuwa hapo. Physically I was healing lakini mentally bado ilikuwa ina ni haunt,”said Kelvin.
Attempted to commit suicide twice
In May 2019, Kelvin tricked his wife and kids to go visit a relative in Buruburu, so that he could use their absence to commit suicide.
“I had already bought some tablets from a Chemist so when they left I just locked the door and took an overdose of the medicine and lay on the sofa waiting to die. Luckily I did not die, my next door neighbor got suspicious when his kid came knocking on my door and no one was opening. He broke the door and found me unconscious. He called other neighbours and they rushed me to the nearby hospital and the overdose was neutralized, but unfortunately no one bothered to ask why I had tried to kill myself,” he said.
A day after the incident, Kelvin tried to reach out to five of his friends but only one was available to listen to his tribulations, and that’s one Dan Matakaya who is also an acid attack survivor.
They linked up in town with a request that Dan could accommodate him at his place so that he can talk, away from family and relatives.
“When I met Dan we talked but he couldn’t accommodate me at his place because he had visitors but he gave me Sh1,000 to book a room and I used the money to travel to Thika, booked a room, and went to a nearby Chemist to buy more drugs. This time around I wanted to succeed with my mission so I went for the strongest antibiotics and pesticides. Before taking the concoction in my room, I went Live on Facebook and bid goodbye to my friends and Family. Then went ahead and drank the mixture and logged off Facebook knowing the mission had been accomplished,” he narrated.
Why I did not die
Unfortunately, Kelvin did not die, he was woken up by noises of cleaners who were cleaning the facility he was sleeping in. Frustrated he went down stairs in search of more pills to complete his mission.
His suicidal Facebook Live video had gone viral so people outside the hotel he had booked could recognize him. They alerted the supervisor of the hotel who took him in for questioning. In the middle of their talk, a friend called his phone and it was answered by the supervisor.
“My friend came and I was taken to the hospital and the drugs neutralized again. The doctor explained that the reason why I did not die, is because the neutralizer I had been given before was still in my system so the second overdose didn’t have a major impact. And that is how my second attempt failed” Kelvin explained.
Against his will, Kelvin was taken to Mathare Mental Hospital by his relatives, as it was clear that he was suffering from clinical depression. He stayed at the facility for two weeks and through counselling and therapy he learned to live with his scars.
“I was still in denial but after spending two weeks at the mental facility, I began feeling better. Counseling helped change my perspective on life and it set me on a path to recovery. I now live life in a very positive way, and learned to embrace my scars,” said Kelvin Kairu.
My biggest inspiration
Asked if he wishes to know the person who poured the acid on him he said, “I forgive the person who did this to me but I would not like or wish to meet the person. Sai nimeshapita hiyo phase it's good ibaki tu venye simjui.”
He also mentioned that his wife has been his biggest support system, as she walked with him through all the challenges he has encountered.
Kelvin also thanked Dan Matakaya, for being his biggest inspiration (Dan lost his eyesight after being attacked by his estranged wife).
Read Dan Matakaya's story here: My wife poured acid & electrocuted me, it has blinded me for Life - police officer narrates painful ordeal [Video]
A word of advice to people going through a difficult time; Kelvin says;
“The only thing you can do in life is seeing things positively, and being positive is not a one day thing, it’s an everyday task. You can never run away from pain the only solution is to face that pain and at the end you will overcome. It’s very important for someone going through a difficult time to speak out, that way you will be able to heal. Usijiwekee mambo sana as for me I was not speaking out, you may not find a solution but speaking out heals.”
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