Life took her eyes but with gifted hands sky is the limit Guest writer LISA MUGUND

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d her two children as she adjusted to her new life. She recounts that it was the darkest point in her life. She had studied orthopaedic, plaster and traction techniques at the Kenya Medical Training College but now the course was irrelevant, since she needed eyes to earn from the skills. Her brother enrolled her for vocational training at the Machakos Institute for the Blind.
It is here that she studied Shiatsu, a Japanese massaging method. It uses no oil and the patient is fully dressed when being attended to. It is a deep-tissue method of massaging to help heal common ailments and to correct imbalances in the body.
It is through this that Ms Tumaini found her niche. After graduating, she got an internship at a spa, where she mastered work with real clients and finally secured a job. She now gets all types of clients with various ailments. Some have back problems, others have muscle and joint pains. The ailments show in the form of headaches, stress, anxiety, constipation, fatigue, digestive disorders and joint pains.
HOUSE CALLS
“People think massage is a luxury, but it is a very important therapy that has transformed people’s lives”, she said. “I have treated patients unable to walk upright because of aching backs, after a few sessions of therapy they walk upright and are in no pain.”
Ms Tumaini said that what she does should be classified under the medical department and not seen as a luxury because she transforms people’s lives, just like doctors do.
What she lacks in sight, she makes up in touch. Ms Tumaini said that she is able to fully focus on her sense of touch to feel a patient’s pressure point and where muscles are stiff, thereby paying more attention to the areas.
Her greatest challenge is not knowing the location of her client’s home when doing house calls.
She walks with the aid of a white cane and needs a guide at times to help her cross roads or walk on paths she’s not familiar with. Sometimes she asks for assistance from strangers on the road.
Some flatly tell her that they are in a hurry and therefore cannot guide her, others are usually willing to help. Sometimes such challenges result in her getting to her client late, and she has been sent back for not keeping time. Some strangers have taken advantage of her situation and led her to the wrong place. Someone even drugged her and attempted to rob her but she screamed her lungs out when she started feeling weak and realised his intentions. She was rescued by the public.
WHITE CANES
She has to work extra hard to get money for the upkeep of her children as well as their school fees.
Ms Tumaini would like the government to create employment for the blind because many are well educated but do not have jobs.
“People think the blind can only sell sweets or beg in the streets, but there’s so much we can offer,” she said.
She would also like to request the government to bring down the cost of white canes.
“They are very expensive and not everyone can afford them. The cheapest costs Sh3,000. These canes are our identity in society and they guide us when we are walking alone,” she said.
Does she feel sorry for herself? “Not at all”, she answered. “You know the difference between a blind person and one who sees is the perception of light. As long as your brain is functioning just right, there is nothing a blind person cannot do. We can even pass thread through a needle!”
She believes the first step for people who find themselves in similar circumstances is to accept that it is now part of their lives and find a way towards healing through counselling. Support from family is also very important. She also urges parents to children with special needs not to hide them in their homes or separate them from other people. “Their children have so much potential even in their state. Just support them and find a way to help them be independent, feel loved and confident in themselves. They will surprise you what they can do,” she says.