As the cold season kicks in, you notice the change in the aroma of the weather. On this Thursday, my boss and I are standing outside our office waiting for my cab to arrive. He is speaking to me but my thoughts are far (sic).
My wife poured acid & electrocuted me, blinded me for Life - police officer narrates painful ordeal [Video]
I had to have one surgery to open my nostrils and be able to breathe again
I notice my fingers were frozen and as I rub them together the cab honks outside the gate. I get in to go pick up a survivor of domestic violence, who will be the basis of today’s story. My seatbelt is strapped and I scroll down my phone looking at pictures of a man who cheated death.
“How did he survive? Is he bitter? Did he think about payback?” all these questions run through my mind, however, one thing I’m certain of is we don’t look like half the troubles we have been through in life.
As we approach Prime Bank roundabout, I call my guest and he tells me “tuko hapa karibu na hii city clock (we are here beside the city clock).”
What Happened to Dan Matakaya? - The cab driver asks
I notice the use of the word ‘we’ just as we are approaching the roundabout, the cab driver takes the u-turn and in a minute I signal Dan Matakaya (a police officer) - our guest - and his companion to come over.
Before they reach where we are parked, the cab driver asks me what happened to him, in a hushed voice and I tell him, he had a will to live and tell his story. You’ll read it on Pulselive.co.ke.
They approach the cab and Dan is assisted to get in by his friend Edward, who he calls Edu.
We exchange pleasantries, and to my surprise, he starts conversing with the cab driver and myself. He asks me about my job, do I enjoy it? He talks about Edu and tells us about the importance of challenges in life.
Ten minutes later, we are outside our offices and I lead the way towards the studio. Our studio director had everything set up and he signals Dan to his seat, only for Edu to hold his hand and help him take his position on the sofa.
Dan tells me his story which left me puzzled and challenged by how one man can overcome adversity and push through life despite almost giving up and harbouring suicidal thoughts.
Dan was just getting home after his shift on September 21, 2013 when catastrophe struck
On September 21, 2013, Dan got home from his overnight shift and went to sleep just like other normal days. His wife was with him and he heard her get out of bed at some point.
However, his rest was short lived as he felt a burning sensation on his face and suddenly he was unable to open his eyes.
“I felt a burning sensation on my face and my arm as if someone had poured hot water on me. It was too painful. I got up to find water and realized I couldn't open my eyes I was screaming at this point.
“When I got out of bed and stepped on the floor, it was wet and before I took two steps I was electrocuted. I wailed. The pain on my face and now my feet are trembling, you can not explain that feeling,” Dan tells this journalist.
Dan pauses and fidgets with his fingers. I interrupt his thoughts and ask him to continue. He tells me that it was the same day Westgate Mall was attacked. “The world is cruel”.
Neighbours trooped to his house after the screams
Neighbours had a terrifying shriek and they trooped towards his house. Dan says a fellow colleague - a policewoman saved his life. She took blankets and helped him out of the house. He was rushed to the nearest hospital for treatment.
“Where was your wife?” this journalist asks.
“Ah, she escaped,” he responds.
The wife, who Dan described as a very calm person, had attempted to kill her husband and left him to die. He recalls waking up in the hospital and doctors telling him he was lucky to be alive.
The officer mentions that he was angry and confused, shocked that he would never see again. According to him, death was option he considered. Questions that he could not find answers to run through his mind.
“I was on medication for over two years. I was always in and out of the hospital. Doctors performed all sorts of surgeries on me. I had to have one surgery to open my nostrils and be able to breathe again. This was not easy for me. At one point you have those suicidal thoughts like no I can't make it, I should just die.”
Often times we want to ask survivors of domestic violence what they did to warrant the abuse. I knew better than to ask that. However, I did ask if they had quarreled. How did they solve disagreements and Dan told me they did not have any disputes that he is aware of.
He was transferred to a better hospital and doctors commenced treatment immediately to save him. Samples were taken from his skin in order for medics to establish what solution had been poured on him. Results came back indicating it was an acid solution that was lethal for the skin.
Blind, Dan had to relearn how to communicate. He was not the jovial man that many had known. Doctors recommended rehabilitation and therapy. Although he admits that he lost friends during that time, he told me that the experience made him appreciate his family and true friends who stayed and encouraged him.
While at the hospital Dan met a man who was living his last days. The man told Dan, “You are lucky and you look okay. I, on the other hand, I’m dying.” Dan says that his will to live was restored. He purposed to live the best life that he could as soon as he got out of hospital.
“I wondered what this man saw in me that made him say I was better than him,” Dan ponders.
Dan Meets his wife again after 3 Years
Three years after the incident that changed his life, Dan was in court and for the first time, he would face the woman who caused him pain and left him blind. This is a moment he had thought of repeatedly. What would he say? What would she say? However, that was the moment that changed him for life.
Dan faced her and asked her why she committed such a hateful act towards him. Her only answer was, “I was deceived”. By who? What were you told? Those were answers Dan never got to date. That day she only managed to shed tears.
At that moment, Dan told me, he realized that hatred towards her was going to eat him alive. He understood that he would never understand the motive but chose to forgive. His belief in God and hope helped him forgive his now ex-wife.
Dan began the Dan Shieshie foundation which helps people who are survivors of domestic violence. The foundation offers counseling services and a safe space for men and women who are in abusive relationships.
The foundation also campaigns towards having acid-free Kenya with tough legislation being implemented to curb easy access to acids.
“Recurrent hospital bills could have strained me but I’m very grateful to my employer, the National Police Service, for the help they have given me and never gave up on me. I still have my job and every now and then when such cases are reported I talk to couples,” he says as we conclude.
As we part ways, Dan tells me to write and encourage men and women in abusive relationships to reach out. Ask for help from anyone. “email@example.com that’s my email,” Dan says.
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