It was about 2 pm on a Sunday in April 2018. I was in my kitchen, texting friends to ask for their addresses. In 12 days, I was getting my master’s degree in counseling and I was sending out invitations to family and friends to my graduation party. My boyfriend, James, called out to me from the bathroom.
He said: “Come bring me a towel. There is water on the floor.” As I walked down the hallway, I could see the door was open and he was sliding in a pool of water while holding a bowl in his hands. I stopped in my tracks.
“Where did that water come from? Why are you holding a bowl?” He stepped out of the water and stood in front of me, staring at me. Then he splashed the liquid from the bowl to my face. “What was that?” I asked.
“What did you just do?” I was confused.
Then my eyes started burning. I ran to the sink, screaming. James did not say a word. He stood behind me, watching. That’s the last thing I remember seeing with my own two eyes. Much later I would find out that James threw sulphuric acid-drain cleaner at my face. He called the emergency services as I made my way down the hall. In shock, I slipped to the floor.
I did not know it at the time but the operator on the phone was telling James to rinse me off with water. He never did. Instead, he told me: “They said if I rinse you off, it’s going to ignite the chemical. Just sit there.” He watched me burn for 13minutes while we waited for the ambulance.
I can only describe the pain as like sitting inside a fire. The acid had covered my face, chest and arms, where it burned down to the bottom epidermis, below my nerves. When the paramedics got there, they stripped me and took me outside to get rinsed by the rain. They gave me morphine and put me in the ambulance. I don’t remember anything else. I woke up at the hospital’s burns unit two months later. I could not see.
My eyelids were sewn shut. I could not open my mouth or stretch my arms out. I could not talk, walk, bathe or feed myself. I faced months of reconstructive surgery and skin grafts. When I eventually saw my face, I could not believe it. I could not even make out where my features began and ended.
I was stunned, and remember joking, “I am seriously jacked up.”
It was too much to take in. My family told me that James had been harassing them, obsessively asking about my face and saying he would take care of me no matter what. He told them that he had slipped and fallen, and that’s how had got acid on me. I knew it wasn’t an accident and I knew it would be hard to prove, because he was a clever man. He had never been violent with me before but he was controlling and manipulative.
Over the next four months, I got my sight back in one eye and two months after the attack, I was walking but not that good. The first thing I did was to go to the local police department near my home in Kisumu, and file a report. They said they had questioned me when I’d go to hospital and I’d said it was an accident. I don’t remember that. Months went by and finally, I went to the prosecutor’s office and told the assistant district attorney my story. She believed me and opened the case.
In July 2019, it finally went to trial. James was found guilty of two counts of aggravated assault. He was sentenced to 40 years in prison, with 20 years to serve.
Since I was mono eyed I had to look for an option to be back to my ways and at least have my both eyes returned to normal. One evening as I was returning back home, in a matatu, I met with a man who was really up to date, but he did not reveal his name to me. Thought he was scared of my face and my mono eye appearance. The guy seemed to be old.
He talked in Kiswahili and told me he had a lasting solution to my problem since he clearly saw it was a huge burn on my face. I wanted to know what actually the solution was and the guy said it was Kiwanga Doctors. He directed me to their locality and the next morning I paid them a visit. Three days after I visited the place, my eyes could now see with no difficulty.
The burn scars started to disappear. I started looking more beautiful than I was before James threw acid on my face. It was really a resurgence of a new creature. I later set up a foundation to support victims of domestic violence.
I really thank Kiwanga Doctors. They deserve a hand of applause.