Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas in Hell: Why my glass is half full

Like many other Christmas days before, this has been a less than satisfactory one for the Tin Man. Granted that I usually hold near romantic expectations, it still surprises me when the unfolding events of life fall short of my dreams. But I am forced to be thankful this Christmas with the realization that many other persons were less fortunate than myself. My letter to Santa Claus demanded a party in heaven. He gave me one on earth. Today, I learnt that a neighbour of mine had his Christmas in hell and he hasn’t yet returned.

Let’s call him Austin to protect his real identity. Austin is suffering from some form of oedema. His body is swollen from below the armpits to the toes. Let me paint the picture more grotesquely. He looks like a hippo with a deer head. But this deformation in isolation does not have half the effect it did when it was described to me. It is the contextual superstition in which it was wrapped that created the special effects and sound track befitting a horror film.

My sister narrated Austin’s story to me, herself manifestly shaken. She told me of how he was the unfortunate victim of witchcraft. She had listened to Austin’s mother lamenting the evil of her mother in-law who she had known to be of the dark world. Now she had the unenviable kismet to be her target. To allow you the fearful respect accorded this mother-in-law, I am compelled to relay the tale murder that follows her character. Her husband and son, Austin’s father, are said to have died by her scepter. The grandfather had passed away under suspicious circumstances a long while back. It had been clear to family and friends that the wife, a known witch, was to blame. If only it could be proven in a court of law.

Later, on being introduced to her prospective daughter-in-law, Austin’s wife, she threw a tantrum in disapproval at which the son dared her to do to him what she did to his late father. She responded warningly that if he was to awake the following morning, he ought to thank his God. And so Austin’s father slept and was never to arise. Killed by the hand of her own mother. Austin was to later bear the punishment of his mother’s involvement with the son of Jezebel. Grandma’s name is also made up to protect her identity, but not necessarily her reputation.

Austin was one of the few students who make it to public university but the week after enrollment, he developed an inexplicable condition. His feet started swelling and after many medical opinions that his was not a medical condition, Austin is now bedridden and spoon fed, paralyzed by his body’s disproportionate growth. Doctors at Kenyatta referred her to medicine men who prescribe pills that can transcend the spiritual realms. Being Christians, Austin and his mother resorted to prayer from a renowned preacher. He seemed to have been insufficiently graced and when his laying of hands did not invoke palpitations with the casting of demons, they moved to another man of God. I suspect he has a more direct line to heaven or prays to a more powerful God. Many visits later, Austin is still growing.

So my sister was describing to me, heaving with emotion, how a priest had referred them to Kijabe Hospital where the doctors mix their medicine with prayer. The cocktail has not worked. Alvin has been writhing in pain and calling for his mother to roll him over his mattress as the rest of the country celebrated the birth of Christ. While I was lamenting the inadequacy of my own festivities, a few doors down my street, Alvin was now contemplating fighting fire with fire. He is considering contracting another agent of darkness to fight the principality battle on his behalf. He has sat the devil down to negotiate his quandary.

I am not a superstitious person. In fact I am not even religious a sentiment I shared with my sister quite sternly. I shot the messenger. But my neighbour’s real predicament did not elude me. He is superstitious. He is religious. But he is a disappointed man. He had believed that good would triumph over evil. Like Lot, he would prevail if he did not fall into temptation. Reading the biblical tale was probably easier than living it and so he is now considering taking the bull by the horns. Doctors have failed him by dismissing his case as non-medical. They have abdicated their responsibility to examine his case and employ the benefits of science in remedying his circumstance. He has been failed by his faith, trusting that a strong belief and intercession by a famed servant of God would be adequate to summon a miracle. Now he has been reduced to the evil of his grandmother. He will seek a stronger witch to counter his grandmother’s spell.

As I appreciate my less than desired Christmas, I am left to wonder if Alan’s fate was a God-ordained destiny. Was his script so written even before he was born? Or is his misfortune the fact that he is unable to find a medical practitioner up to the task for which he was granted a license to practice? One thing is clear, not being able to roll yourself over in bed as your peers proceed with their higher education is hardly a choice worth considering. While I do not believe that a solution will result from it, I applaud the decision to try a different method. After all, only a mad man employs the same methods and expects a different result.

Alan, before you proceed to heaven, I wish you a fabulous Christmas next year here on earth. May your endeavors bear fruit. Short of a miracle, may you find a suitable cure.

Happy 2010!

The Tin Man.


  1. Yesterday evening, hardly before the ink on my blog post had dried, Alvin went to have his Christmas in Heaven. My thoughts remain with his mother and brother both of whom I imagine are having the most difficult of times. I wish them comfort for their hearts and rest for their beloved brother.

  2. Hi Tin Man,

    You have an interesting argument about religion and faith but I may not agree with you. God is real and the sooner you believe it the better.

    That besides the point, I would like to regret the death of your neighbour. He really DID suffer from a treatable illness. If miracles would not have worked, medicine would have sufficed.

    I believe he seems to have suffered severe oedema that began from the legs then later to the body. This is common in Liver Cirrhosis. There are many symptoms of this condition and since I do not know what the presentations were on the boy, I may not be able to confirm a diagnosis. The causes are equally varied.

    The treatment of Liver Cirrhosis involves the management of the impediments created on the functions of the liver. This would involve mostly management of the cleansing function and the removal of excess fluids retained in the legs (oedema) and in later stages in the abdomen (ascites). I cannot exhaust the discourse on this topic so I let me leave a link that may prove useful.

    There are more resources on the internet. Happy New 2010!


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