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A young Black girl writes in a workbook at her desk surrounded by classmates at her school in Kenya
Kenya

Saisa is back at school and learning to walk again

Saisa’s leg was amputated after an unknown critter stung or bit her foot, causing a serious infection. With help from Humanity & Inclusion, she is learning to get back on her feet and has already returned to school.

Saisa, 10, lives with her parents and seven brothers and sisters in Kenya’s Kakuma refugee camp. At a birthday party near her home, Saisa was bitten or stung on her left foot. After the injury, her leg became gangrenous and required a life-saving amputation.

"Saisa was 2 years old when we arrived in Kakuma,” says her mother, Rihad. “My daughter was in good health. And then this happened. One day she went to play with her friends and the next morning she told us she’d been bitten or stung by something. We don't know what. At first, I thought she’d had a nightmare, but then things got worse.

“We took her to hospital, but we were under lockdown because of Covid-19, so we were sent away before she could be treated. Back home, her leg started to swell up and got worse, so we returned to hospital."

The doctors spotted the first signs of gangrene and, to save her life, amputated her leg below the knee.

A support network

Humanity & Inclusion’s physical therapists immediately began providing Saisa with the care she needed. She was also given psychological support to cope with the distress of losing her leg. Saisa continues to visit Humanity & Inclusion’s rehabilitation center, where she is supported by a multidisciplinary team.

“I first met Saisa just two days after her amputation,” explains Stella Mwende, a physical therapist. “We initially focused on treating her stump and giving her emergency psychological support. She was then referred to the rehabilitation center, where she was given rehabilitation care once a week. We started by doing exercises with her to increase her flexibility and strengthen her muscles. We also gave her a pair of crutches.”

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Saisa has already learned to keep her balance and get around using the crutches. Humanity & Inclusion also built parallel bars at her home to help in her recovery.

“Saisa can go out and play with her friends at last without me running after her all the time,” her mother says.

Humanity & Inclusion teams also supported Saisa’s family through this tough time, explaining the different stages of grief that Saisa was experiencing. Her family learned how to reassure her and encourage her to learn new skills and become more independent.

“I found the hospital really stressful because I thought I was going to lose her,” Saisa’s mother explains. “Once we got home, some people from Humanity & Inclusion came and now my daughter feels more hopeful about the future.”

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Back to school

Humanity & Inclusion’s inclusive education team also helped find a place for Saisa at an inclusive school near her home.

“We’ve put a plan in place so Saisa can return to school under the right conditions,” explains Caleb Omollo, an occupational therapist. “The first decision, which we took with Saisa and her family, was to transfer her to a school closer to home, where the teachers are trained in inclusive education and are used to assisting children with disabilities. We have assigned an educational assistant to monitor her progress at school and to look after her welfare both inside and outside the classroom.”

Saisa walks to school each day with a classmate named Ana.

"We’ve also put in place a system to make sure Saisa feels safe on the way to school,” adds Caleb. “We want Saisa to feel she belongs to her school and her community as soon as possible, so she can play a full role in every aspect of society.”

She also attends psychotherapy sessions to help her rebuild her confidence and reconnect with others.

“We work on her interaction with other children, and we help them learn from each other,” Caleb says.

Saisa is now waiting to be fitted with a prosthetic leg from another service provider, which should happen soon. Humanity & Inclusion will continue to support Saisa with the services she needs to move forward.

“It’ll be good to play with my friends again when I get my prosthesis,Saisa says. "I'm really glad to be back at school again now. I want to be a businesswoman when I grow up and sell a lot of things!”

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Header image: Saisa completes classwork at school. Inline image: Saisa with her mother. Copyright: A. Patient/HI