Life will often throw curveballs at you and as you battle for respite, you will be left bearing marks of valour. Mementos of fights won. Mercy Adhiambo meets three victors who celebrate their scars.
A mark of love
For Abdirashid Adan, his scars are a representation of the universality of love. He says that when he passes his hand over his body and feels the bumps that make up his scars, he is reminded of the act of selflessness he encountered in a bus heading to Mandera.
On December 22, 2015, the world woke up to news that Muslims had refused to cluster themselves along religious lines when members of Al Shabaab terror group attacked a bus and ordered passengers to disembark. The Muslim passengers defended the non-Muslims and dared the Al Shabaab militants to kill them all as they were not going to segregate themselves. Infuriated, they shot aimlessly inside the bus. Four bullets hit 19-year-old Abdirashid Adan and he fell down on impact.
"I was seated by the door, when I heard a huge bang, followed by another. I felt something hit me, then I fell down," he says.
It took a few minutes for him to realize that the bullets had raptured through his hips and abdomen, and he was bleeding. A teacher at Mandera school, who later passed on had also been hit.
Abdirashid stayed in hospital for seven months. Going through a series of surgeries, slipping in and out of consciousness, and praying that he will walk again.
Almost a year later, he still bears the scars from the incident. To him, those scars embolden the reality that when people unite and love each other regardless of religious, political or ethic barriers, they conquer evil.
"Had we segregated on religious lines, today we would be telling a different story. Many people would have died," says Abdirashid.
He says that even though his life was interrupted and he has not worked since because the bullet weakened his body, he still considers those scars a beginning of a different narrative. A narrative of love that he hopes will be told through generations.
A mark of resilience
When Melody Maina, 23, talks about the scar running down her tummy, she lauds it as a symbol of pain that birthed beauty.
Her scar, she says, is a representation of motherhood, and the struggle women go through to bring forth a child. Her journey towards getting the wound that had now dried up into a scar is one filled with confusion, tears and pain.
A few days after Melody had brought home her new born baby, she felt a nudging pain on the pit of her stomach.
She ignored it.
Being her first child, she assumed it could be her body adjusting to delivery. The pain got sharper. She took medication and napped with her baby. She was woken by a stinging pain that seemed to be spreading all over her body.
"It felt like something was tugging on my intestines," says Melody.
Her husband rushed her to a local dispensary. Several tests later, they couldn't find what was ailing Melody.
The doctor gave them two possibilities; Post birth constipation or postnatal depression.
She was given a cocktail of medication and sent back home. The pain didn't subside. She couldn't sleep at all that night. She tossed and turned, occasionally taking deep breaths to numb the pain that seemed to increase with every passing second.
The subsequent days were marked by her screaming in pain, taking laxatives, painkillers, and making frantic calls to other mothers to ask what could be causing her pain.
They consulted many doctors. None of them could explain why Melody who had left the delivery room healthy and strong was suddenly battling stomach pains that didn't respond to painkillers.
It is at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) that the doctor realized what was wrong. Her intestine had been accidentally sewed in while she was undergoing Caesarian Section (CS)
The discovery painted a gloss on the gloomy reality. Her pains were about to end, and she could enjoy motherhood after torturous days of pain and tears.
She says the only thing that gave her strength on the days she battled the pains was her baby.
"I knew I had to live for her. There were days when I felt like my life was ending. The thought of leaving my baby made me fight for life with all the strength I had," she says.
It has been five months since she was wheeled into the operating room to have corrective surgery. She had to use a colostomy bag to collect her waste. This made her self-conscious, especially when the contents started leaking. She recalls the many nights her new born daughter woke up crying, and she had to nurse her while caring for her own wound.
"Sometimes when I look back, I marvel at the strength of a mother. You get super powers when you give birth," she says with a laugh.
Her wound is now healed, leaving behind a huge scar that runs from her stomach to her bikini line. Melody says it is a mark of heroism. A sign that despite the pain, she brought forth life. The scar, she says, is a permanent reminder of what motherhood entails; pain, worry, confusion, and beauty, all wrapped into one.
"If I had to go through that pain again to have this angel, I sure would..." she says while rocking her baby.
A mark of recovery
Rose Gakii Kirimi looks at her scars and sees the beginning of her journey towards healing. She had lonely and distraught teenage years. She would lock herself in the room and cling to the delusions of grandeur that her young mind had learned to build.
Her parents would worry over her seclusion. They were unaware that she had also picked up a habit of cutting herself. Neither did they know that their child was struggling with bipolar disorder.
"I didn't understand what was going on with me. I felt like a misfit," she says.
By the time she was in college, she had horrible mood swings and would engage in fights. Her body is riddled with scars that tell the tale of a young woman's struggles with mental disorder.
Things took a downward spiral one evening when she realized her emotions were oscillating between melancholy, paranoia and rage.
She ran to the toilet, locked herself in and started banging on the wall. The mirror around her came crashing down. She took a piece and sliced through her wrist.
"There was blood everywhere....so much red, but I kept cutting," she says.
By the time an ambulance was called, she was curled in a corner, weeping.
She was taken to Mathari Hospital where she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a mental condition characterised by extreme mood swings, changes of energy levels and in serious cases, violent episodes.
She is currently under medication, but says she wears her scars like a badge. They tell a story of victory – of how she battled mental illness, and is proud of the milestones she has made.
"The scars remind me that the dark past is gone. I know what ails me, and how to control it," she says.