As an officer at Kisii Police Station, Dan Shieshie Matakayia was committed to ensuring that his life and that of his family was a comfortable one. As a hardworking and ambitious young officer, Dan Shieshie was committed to carving out a successful career. One that would enable him to make a change in the society he lived.
The Forensic Science and Criminology Diploma holder encountered one of his darkest hours on the morning of September 21st 2013. At 5:30 am on that day, while asleep, his wife poured acid on his face leaving him with multiple injuries that would take years to heal. More than 5 years on, Matakayia is refusing to give up.
Shieshe who is now 32, is still impacting lives and working to ensure that he makes the society a better place to live in. But now he is doing it without his sight. He has taken a degree in Counselling Psychology at Mount Kenya University in Nairobi which he is completing next year. He hopes to continue with studies to PhD level and strongly believes learning never stops.
Despite the ensuing stigma that he has experienced, Matakayia is pressing on, defying all expectations. He sheds light on the ordeal and its significance on the course of his life.
Who is Dan Matakayia?
My name is Dan Shieshie Matakayia. I am a police officer and VI- Visually Impaired. I am currently attached to the Industrial Area Police Station.
Before the injury, I used to be an outgoing man. I used to have fun and I used to travel a lot. One of the things I used to do was try and reach out to the youth. To talk to them, to help them come out of criminal activities and to make them understand their potential. Teaching them to use their strength and energy to work towards improving their lives and the life of other people in society.
For those who have not heard your story, what happened to you?
This happened on 21st September 2013. On that day, I was at work, on the night shift. So, I went back to the house that morning at around 5:30 am. When I went to the house, because of the tiredness, I went straight to bed to sleep.
My wife was in the house, but she was supposed to travel that day. A few minutes after I went to bed, she woke up and poured a solution on my face while I was asleep. The solution was Sulphuric Acid. It burnt me. When she poured it on me, I couldn’t see. I got out of bed to look for water to wash my face to reduce the pain from the burns.
As I stepped on the floor while getting out of bed, I felt some kind of electric shock. She had poured water on the floor and connected power. She wanted me to be electrocuted. Immediately I felt the shock, I screamed for help and my colleagues came to my help. They took me from the house and rushed me to the hospital.
You mentioned that your wife was supposed to have travelled yet she was still in the house. What might have been her motive for doing this?
What happened is that my wife used to stay in Nakuru. I was staying in Kisii. That same year in 2013, we lost our kid. Two weeks after burial, she came and told me that ‘we needed to get another child so that the memories of losing the child could go away.’ I told her that it was a good idea but that we should give it some time. We discussed the matter and we both agreed to give it some time before deciding to get another child. So at that time, she had come to visit.
As I had said earlier she was in Nakuru and I was in Kisii. We used to visit each other. She had come to visit me and we had stayed together for two weeks. So, she was supposed to leave for Nakuru. We had a small disagreement before that because she wanted to take our dead child’s belongings. I refused and told her “there is no need to take them because we are still together.” When I realized we won’t agree on it, I called her mother. Her mother called her to go back home. So on that 21st, she was supposed to leave and go back home.
I read somewhere that you forgave her for all that happened?
I have forgiven her for what she did to me. As you can see the acid affected me quite a lot because I lost my ability to see and I also had breathing problems because I had blocked nose. I have had two surgeries but I still have problems in breathing. I just told her that ‘I had forgiven her.’ I didn’t want it to disturb me for too long. I felt like the moment I kept her in my heart, I would suffer more than her wherever she is. So, I forgave her and when I did it, I had peace and the healing was much better. Everything became okay.
Dan has been able to move on after the setback. [Source/Dan Shieshie/Twitter]
You mentioned that you underwent surgery twice on your nose alone. You have also been treated in various hospitals locally and you are to go to the US for specialized treatment. What would you say about your journey in treatment?
Hema [Hospital in Kisii] was the first hospital that I went to. I was given First Aid. My face was washed and I began seeing. I even walked on my own to the ward but because the pain was so much, I was struggling and using a lot of energy. The pain was so severe. They tried to give me painkillers but there was no change. So, after two days I was referred to Kakamega County Hospital previously known as Kakamega Provincial Hospital. I was there for two days then I was brought to Kenyatta National Hospital.
I was happy that I did not lose my sight but that was shortlived. Apparently, the acid continued to work on my eyes even after and it made me go blind. If we had known better we would have kept pouring water into my eyes to dilute the acid and I wouldn’t have lost my sight.
At Kenyatta, I underwent many surgeries. I underwent 15 surgeries. This was because the burns take time to heal. They had to do grafting, they removed tissues from other places so that the burns could heal from inside. From September until February I was in the hospital and after that was when I was discharged from Kenyatta Hospital.
I was in stable condition although I had not fully healed. I was given a nurse who attended to me while I was at home. The nurse attended to me for six months by cleaning my wounds and dressing the wounds.
After the wounds healed, I went to the clinic where I was admitted again at Nairobi West Hospital. I had further surgeries again. Although the burns were healing, there were contractures. My hands had healed but they were stiff. The neck had also healed but it was stiff and bent to one side. They had to release the contractures through surgery. They also tried to open my nose but it closed again a few days later. That was towards the end of 2014.
In 2015, I went back to Kenyatta where I had surgery on the nose because the previous had not been successful. So another surgery was performed but still, this nose is not okay. It is still blocked from inside. I still have problems breathing. Sometimes when breathing I feel like am running out of air.
When at Kenyatta, my doctor said something that devasted me. “Dan, I have doubts about your life.” It really affected me so much because I was so hopeful. I was praying that my sight would be restored. When the doctor told me that, I was so affected. I felt like my life was coming to an end. I felt I couldn’t do anything again.
I started thinking about committing suicide. But something told me “what if you try to take your life and you don’t die?” I was on the 9th floor of the hospital and I thought about throwing myself off the building. But something told me, “what if you throw yourself down and you don’t die?”
But there was another patient inside there who said to me, “Dan, I wish I were you.”
I asked him, “why?”
He said, “I am dying. You are better off because you are okay even if you are not seeing. You are sure you will come out of this place.” That is when I started wondering to myself; “how is it that am thinking about committing suicide yet someone wishes to be like me?’
I realized that I still had something to offer. That I was still worthy. So I started to reconcile my mind to the idea of living. I also had support from my friends, family and some of the nurses and doctors at Kenyatta. They called in a counsellor who talked to me to just making me understand that the loss of eyesight is not the end of life. The counsellor made me understand the value of life. He told me there were people who went in there and never got out alive so I should be happy to be alive even though I had lost my eyesight.
I started seeing the positive side of life. Friends encouraged me and it gave me some strength. Apart from a little stigmatization after I got out whereby people started seeing that because I cannot see, that maybe I am a liability. People don’t want to be associated with you. Some of my friends had that perception but now I am okay. I had many friends and family members who gave me the support that I needed at that time. That is how I managed to overcome the stigma.
Your Foundation the Dan Shieshie Foundation aims to help individuals overcome stigma and a host of other objectives and goals, tell us more about it?
Through the Dan Shieshie Foundation, he hopes to reach out to other Gender Violence victims. [Source/Dan Shieshie/Twitter]
While at Kenyatta, I came across many patients that had been abused by their loved ones. Some people give up in life because they think the world has turned against them. I could understand what they were going through and that is why I had the conviction that there was something I could do to change that situation. I may not be able to end it entirely but I can come up with a platform where people can share their stories.
The Dan Shieshie Foundation is meant to help such people. To help men who do not want to come out and share their experiences in their marriages. I understand that men have been labelled as the perpetrators when it comes to domestic violence. When it happens the other way round, the society is not ready to listen to you. This has led to mental problems among men. Some are very depressed to an extent that others commit suicide. Other even murder their family members. This is all because men do not have a platform to express such things. There is no one to listen to them. This is why I came up with this initiative.
I notice you can use your phone very well and you also have a variety of keyboard skills. How did you learn this given you lost your vision?
Dan can use his phone for communication [Source/Dan Shieshie/Twitter]
After my treatment, I went for rehabilitation. I went to the Kenya Society For The Blind where I was rehabilitated to this new life in this new condition. I went there and learnt Braille, I also learnt Adapted Computer. Adapted Computer is installed with a software called JAWS [Job Access With Speech] The software reads for you what is on the screen so it becomes easy to use the computer. I also learnt mobility.
When I lost my eyesight, I couldn’t move because I used to think I would fall if I attempted to move. It helped me gain confidence. I also learnt the Daily Living Skills. This is where you learn to cook, to do cleaning and many other things. This is so that you can be able to cope well when on your own. This enables you to live an independent life.
As a gender-based violence victim and advocate, what would be your message to married couples or other victims out there?
Gender-based violence affects both genders. Whether you are male or female. It is everywhere in the world. It depends on how you handle those things. I came up with the Dan Shieshie Foundation to help address this issue. We are offering counselling services to those affected. Anyone can come in and get help.
My advice to those in marriage and experiencing this violence is that whenever there is a problem, try and find a solution. Look for anyone to help you solve it. It could be your friend, your Church Elder or Sheikh. Share your story to get help. You can also look for family therapists to help you solve the problem at hand. When there are disagreements, let us look for solutions. Do not be proud. In an argument, it’s not always a must that you win.
For those who want to get into marriages, my advice is that they should take their time. Take your time to know who you want to commit your life to. Marriage is not something you try to experiment or trial and error. You get into marriage, make sure you know the other person fully. You can even disagree a little to know someone’s true colours. Just take time.
So what are your plans for the future?
This incident hasn’t stopped me from doing what I like doing. It has made me more strong and more focused in life. At least I have understood my purpose. I do a lot of mentoring, motivational speaking and then the other thing that I do is trying to reach out to other people who have given up on life. Especially those people living with disability who feel that life has come to an end, just to make them understand that as long as you’re still living on earth, as long as you are still breathing, there is something you can do. I make them understand that even though they have a disability, they have abilities in other different ways. They can do a lot of things and I usually tell them not to pity themselves. They should not wait for people to have pity on them and help them. I tell them to do things they are able to do.
The other thing that pushes me a lot is the desire to try and help people who are going through issues because many have tried and reached out to me. I feel like that’s a ministry for me, trying to help these people to change their perception. Many of them have ill thoughts. They think about bad things. They think about doing bad things. So what I do is to try to make them reconcile themselves and have a positive mindset. Life changes and it’s up to you to decide the kind of life you want.
Shieshie is trying to raise funds to go to the US to get surgery. He needs to raise Ksh. 600K to get specialized treatment in the US. You can contribute to this Mpesa PayBill: 331757 Account Number: Your Name #TembeaNaDan
Today I’m appealing to you #KOT
I’m an Acid Burn survivor & Visually Impaired
Help Me raise Ksh 600K to get specialized treatment in USA 🇺🇸 on 25th Aug
— Dan Shieshie (@dan_shieshie) August 19, 2019
Speaking of disability, follow our writer Brian’s journey from the time he had a trailer accident that left him paralysed – From Stairs To Ramps: The Beginning & The Accident That Changed My Life