When Beatrice Makokha felt a mild pain on the right side of her head, she brushed it off as a mere headache. That was 21 years ago.
By last year, the pain had morphed into a serious growth that had covered virtually her face.
Her breathing had been severely hampered.
Makokha, 68, said the niggling pain began back in January 2000. Over time, the mild pain just above the eye worsened and covered even the nostril. And the pain grew with each passing day.
"It felt like my eye was being stabbed with a knife and I just couldn't stop rubbing it. The rubbing would slowly get intense and vigorous until my eye turned red," Makokha told The Star of Kenya during an interview at her home in Stabicha in Kimilili, Bungoma county.
When the swelling persisted, she decided to go to Kitale Referral Hospital. Doctors found no problem with the eye and only advised that she take painkillers.
"The scan showed that nothing was wrong with my eye and head, so the doctors prescribed painkillers for the perceived migraine," she said.
The swelling defied the painkillers. Makokha's face swelled even more. The headache became unbearable forcing her to seek a second check-up.
"I went back to Kitale Referral Hospital and was referred to the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH) in Eldoret for further medication," she said.
Makokha did not go to MTRH. She cited lack of money.
Instead, she went to a private hospital in Kimilili where she was admitted for eight months.
"I was diagnosed with a rare growth. I stayed in the hospital for eight months but there was no improvement so I was told to go home."
By then, the swelling had grown so huge that she couldn't breathe with ease. It had covered her right eye and nostril.
"I had difficulties in breathing. I could only breathe through one nostril," she said.
But she was worried more about the fate of her children. She had given birth to 14 before the growth surfaced. Eight had since died.
The grotesque tumour weighed nearly three kg. Makokha appealed for financial help to seek specialised treatment.
The Star of Kenya led a fundraising campaign for her and said: "Someone out there can give her a smile back. We urge well-wishers to help Beatrice breathe with ease by making donations towards her medical bill."
Help poured in. The government offered support. But the sum fell short of the amount needed for her surgery.
Eventually, doctors at the MTRH stepped in for the surgery and waived some of the costs.
A multi-disciplinary team attended to her after conducting a number of blood tests, including full blood count, group and crossmatch and a head CT scan.
A Covid-19 test was also done and she was negative. The operation was successful.
"We removed a huge cystic growth on the right side of the face. The mass had 3 litres of dermoid fluid," the hospital CEO, Dr Wilson Aruasa, said.
Doctors said she would be able to breathe normally.
Former Nairobi governor Mike Sonko lauded The Star for its contribution towards the treatment of the woman.
Although she lost her right eye, Beatrice can now heave a sigh in relief as her painful condition has finally been removed. THE STAR, KENYA
- This story was first published by The Star of Kenya in April 2021.