TALES OF COURAGE: I survived an electrocution

Wednesday March 18 2020

Jacan Ndathi survived an electrocution. He lost the ability to use his hands for a while but recovered through physiotherapy. PHOTO| MAGGIE NJUKI


Jacan Ndathi gestures many times during the interview. It’s disconcerting at first, but not after he reveals that barely four months ago, he could barely lift a spoon to his mouth, let alone gesture.

He was up and about his construction work when it happened. On the fateful day in June, he was building a perimeter wall at Kamulu Primary School in Ruai with his colleagues.

Jacan was high up on a ladder layering the bricks for the perimeter wall when the unimaginable happened. So engrossed was he in his work was he that he hardly noticed a live electricity wire that was badly exposed close by. As he started to climb down, the wire touched his shoulder, thrusting him instantly to the ground where he landed on his head.


He was immediately rushed to a nearby health centre in Ruai by his colleagues where he stayed for two days before being transferred to Mama Lucy Hospital in Kayole.

By this time, his condition had deteriorated. He could barely walk and his sense of sight was fast disappearing. His whole body was also swollen.

The electrocution had seen him suffer burns to his torso and back where the currents established an outlet to leave his body. In addition, he suffered a major skull injury to his head following the fall from the perimeter wall.

“The doctors told me I was lucky to be alive,” he says.


When his family came to see him at Kenyatta National Hospital where he had been referred, he asked them to leave.

“I was still unaware of my surroundings and extent of my burns. I didn’t see it as a cause for alarm to necessitate my family to visit. But I could read shock written all over their faces.”

At Kenyatta Hospital, they checked if his vital organs which included the heart and kidneys had been affected. Luckily, they were not. He went in for his first operation to repair his skull which had been raptured after the fall. He was later discharged and scheduled to be attending clinics.

Even as he went home, his nerves were completely dead and he couldn’t do anything for himself as the electrocution damaged his nerves. He would fumble most times unable to hold anything or use his hands. With physiotherapy, he was able to regain most nerve movement. He has since been re-admitted to hospital.  He is scheduled for another operation for his head because when he fell, he raptured his skull. The treatment has been delicate and the series of operations he has undergone are to try and close it up. His burn scars to the front and back are almost completely healed.

The 35-year-old has however found encouragement in his predicament.

“When I was brought to this ward, I found others who were in far much situations than I was. And I’ve seen them recover. That really encouraged me. I also now know the value of health and I’d like to encourage others to always be prepared. For instance, my NHIF (National Hospital Insurance Fund) card has come in a great deal to settle my bills. I can’t imagine how life would be without the card” he says.

In the period that he has been admitted, Jacan misses his children most as they are restricted by age for hospital visits.


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