SOURCE: CAPITAL FM
BY CATHERINE KARONG’O
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 11 – As the cock crows and birds chirp signalling the break of a new dawn, Kennedy, a father of two wonders when his miseries will ever end.
He stands at the door of his one-roomed house in Nairobi’s Soweto slum, his right hand tightly clutched to his chin as he explains his 10 years of rejection and ridicule not only by friends and neighbours but also by his own relatives.
“The problem is that I have a child who was born with both sexes and is now 10-years-old. We hadn’t noticed that he was of both sexes until after three days when a friend who had come to visit alerted us,” Kennedy narrates.
“We went to hospital but we were told he would be well by the time he was five years,” he recalls.
But 10 years after the doctors reassured him that his son would be well, Kennedy and his two children continue to be a subject of mockery. His relatives call his child a curse and say he should have been abandoned at birth. Wesley’s (his child’s) school mates tease and laugh at him.
Since the first time he joined school at four years, he has attended eight schools but doesn’t last even for a year and sometimes a term due to the scorn.
Even his mother wants nothing to do with him. She fled with her husband’s friend and it’s been four years since they saw her.
“When she realised that things were getting tough, she eloped with a friend of mine who was a church leader and used to come and pray for us but one time I caught them red handed at a lodging,” Kennedy painfully remembers.
“At that time we were living in Huruma and she carried all the household items while I was at work. I am still trying to reconstruct my life,” he says.
The 39-year-old father says they have been forced to move from one estate to another over the years but suffers the same rejection.
“Sometimes I feel like committing suicide because it is very difficult when you are rejected by a whole community and also I am jobless,” he explains.
In 2007, he sought help from the Mater hospital where he was informed that Wesley exhibited more feminine than male characteristics and that he required immediate surgery which, at the time, was to cost Sh400,000.
“We were advised to start dressing him like a girl, at the age of six! We didn’t know where to start,” he tells us.
Having no stable source of income, he sought help from the American embassy.
A doctor came in 2009 from the United States to perform the surgery on young Wesley who required multiple surgeries. The doctor was supposed to return last year to complete the surgery but he didn’t. This has left Kennedy helpless.
What’s worrying to this father is that Wesley began menstruation in December last year and January this year but it then stopped.
All the time I am conducting this interview, Wesley tosses on a mattress that is spread on the floor, the pain and confusion in his eyes evident.
According to Dr Fred Kambuni, a Urologist, this condition known as indeterminate sex- where the genitalia does not appear to be male or female- is sporadic. It occurs in about one in every 300 live births.
“There are many causes that we know but we subscribe this as either lack of vitamins especially lack of folic acid and exposure to radiation in the environment (during pregnancy). It is not a hereditary thing, meaning that one family will not transmit this gene to another family,” Dr Kambuni explains.
This is how the condition can be rectified.
“You have to look at the hormones whether they are more of a male or a female. We also look at the genetic making because when they are so young you can’t tell whether they are going to grow up to become boys or girls so we must do genetic mapping,” he informs us.
He adds that doctors also normally look at the internal organs that the child is carrying which is a critical process in deciding the sex of the child.
“This is because although we can surgically turn someone to whatever sex we as the doctors decide with the family, the time of calling comes at puberty where the hormones may cause one to start developing the features of a girl or a boy which can be distressing,” he says.
The urologist says there is no age limit to perform surgery though the condition should be treated as an emergency to avoid distress on the baby as it grows.