For 19-year-old Collins Mwangi visits to the hospital has been his order of the day as long back as he can remember, having been diagnosed with severe pneumonia that led to the near failure of his lungs and now has to depend on an oxygen machine to breathe.
However, despite the challenges, Mwangi stunned the nation after emerging as one of the best students at Nanyuki high school in this year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Examination (KCSE) after he scored a B+ plus of 72 points after results were released on Wednesday by the Education Cabinet Secretary (CS), Prof. George Magoha.
Mwangi featured among the top 10 disabled students who sat this year’s KCSE and even got recognition by CS while he was releasing the results at the Kenya National Examinations Council (KNEC) headquarters.
His was all joy as she marveled at her firstborn son’s success in the examination having had an uphill task to bring him up with his rare medical condition.
“These results are answered prayers for me as Mwangi has spent most of his time in hospitals than in school,” Ms. Kiama said.
She says her son underwent surgery in his back to straighten his spinal cord while he was in class six and the procedure saw him stay away from school for eight months as he recuperated.
Later on, after completing his primary education he developed breathing complications and was diagnosed with dextrocardia, a condition where his heart was discovered to be on his right side of his chest.
A cardiologist ruled out the condition as the one responsible for his breathing problems and after further tests it was discovered that his lungs were failing and doctors at Kenyatta National Hospital recommended an oxygen ventilator machine to aid in his breathing.
The mother who is a business lady in Nanyuki said the family had to pull ends on all sides to afford the oxygen ventilator that cost them Sh. 800,000.
After Mwangi sat his Kenya Certificate of Primary Examination (KCPE) in 2015, he scored an impressive 407 marks and was admitted at Utawala Academy in Gilgil but unfortunately, he could not be admitted to the school due to his medical condition that saw him have difficulty in breathing.
“His doctors had warned against enrolling the boy in a boarding school since he needed to have an oxygen ventilator all the time and conditions in many institutions might not be favourabe for such a student,” added the mother of two boys.
The mother was now left to find a day secondary school where his son could be enrolled for his secondary education and also for ease of monitoring his health condition.
“Luckily for us the principal at Nanyuki High School agreed to admit my son as a day scholar despite the school being a boarding institution,” she further said.
The institution also agreed to fix electric power sockets on the wall next to Mwangi’s desk so that he could plug in his oxygen ventilator while he was in class.
“Despite the challenges my son has undergone, I am glad he posted such impressive results we never expected that have eclipsed the many times he has been to various hospitals especially when his breathing problems worsened,” Ms. Kiama said.
Mwangi says he wishes to join university and study medicine so that he can dedicate his work to assisting patients with similar conditions as his.
“I want to become a doctor and inspire other children who are undergoing health challenges and let them know they can excel academically despite their setbacks,” Mwangi said at his grandfather’s homestead at Icuga village on the outskirts of Nanyuki town.
He said his determination to excel in class was so high that he always carried his tablet during the numerous times he has been admitted in the hospital so that he could catch up with his class notes.
“My teachers were very helpful since even when I missed classes they would send me notes on my tablet to download and read later when my condition improved. I missed many lessons but I worked had to catch up with my classmates whenever I resumed class,” Mwangi added.
His mother said that at one time while in form three he almost missed an entire second term after he was admitted in hospital when his breathing worsened.
She said Mwangi is always on medication to manage the condition and has to take at least nine types of drugs daily and also has to use an inhaler to decongest his lungs all the time.
By Martin Munyi