Jacob Returns HomeAugust 7, 2015 by Diana Coombs
The white van drove slowly down the rocky dirt road leading to the Kipkaren Children’s Home. Kids in matching orange t-shirts were gathered, brimming with excitement.
While it is always a joy to have visitors from the Ilula site, the crowd was anxiously waiting for the other white van — the one carrying Jacob and his house father, Peter Matekwa, after their lengthy absence.
Last week, Jacob and Peter returned home to Kenya from India and were warmly welcomed with songs, dancing, testimonies and a feast. They were surrounded by ELI Kenya staff, kids from the Children’s Home, members of the community, some of Jacob’s classmates and even few of his teachers. It was a colorful celebration and emotional reunion as the crowd of almost 200 gave thanks to God for Jacob’s health.
In early 2012, Jacob started to develop severe anemia and was admitted to a local hospital in Eldoret. Peter still remembers taking Jacob to the hospital for a check-up and going out to lunch afterward when Jacob’s nose started to bleed uncontrollably. He had to be readmitted. Then began a string of hospital visits, tests and blood transfusions that continued for the next few years.
Jacob was diagnosed with aplastic anemia, a condition in which the bone marrow does not make enough new blood cells. Continuing with blood transfusions was not a permanent option and put him at risk of bleeding and infection. His chances at long-term survival without a bone marrow transplant were not good.
Through a joint effort between Empowering Lives International and Living Room International, it was determined that Jacob needed to go to India for a bone marrow transplant. Yet, they still needed to find a donor. Jacob’s siblings were contacted, and his older brother, Calvince, was a match. After not seeing his younger brother for several years and being a 100 percent match, Calvince is considered to be the first miracle God worked in this journey.
Fundraising efforts in the U.S. and Kenya were launched in February to raise the $55,000 needed for the trip and medical treatment. In March, a large fundraiser was held in Kipkaren. It was a day that showed the community coming together and uniting around Jacob, Peter and his wife, Zipporrah. The goal of raising $10,000 through the event was surpassed.
A&K Global Health, an international patient advocacy and medical travel company, coordinated and navigated through the logistics of getting the two brothers and Peter to and from India for the procedure. The trio left Kipkaren on April 11. Calvince remained in India for about a month, while Peter and Jacob came home on July 31.
While in India, Peter remained vigilant in staying on top of caring for Calvince and Jacob, especially with Jacob’s weakened immune system. Peter said that he kept busy each day as he prepared proper meals, made sure everything was clean, saw that Jacob took his medications on time and took him to exercise at the guesthouse’s gym as he grew stronger in recovery. Peter also had to keep a close eye on Jacob after the surgery to look out for anything unusual that needed medical attention. It was a lot of work day in and day out, but Peter kept the faith.
“To me, I feel praise to God,” Peter said. “If God had given me this mission to do, to accomplish, then I am happy, because what God had proposed to me to do, I have done it. That is my joy.”
At the welcome celebration, it was clear that God worked a number of miracles as the group reflected on all of the details that needed to be taken care of: organizing logistics across continents, picking the right hospital, raising all of the funds, finding a complete donor match, checking on Calvince’s health to make sure he was eligible to donate his marrow. Miracle after miracle.
Jacob is now a much healthier boy, gaining more strength with each passing day. He said that he does feel the difference between last year and today.
“I feel more courageous because of the health I’ve been given,” Jacob said. “I feel good, and I want to thank God for all the organizations that have helped, like Living Room, Empowering Lives, all the churches, schools and all the well-wishers. I want to thank God because of them. Let God bless all of them and their families and everything they do.”
To see more photos of Jacob and Peter’s welcome celebration, click here.
You can still partner with us in giving a gift of love for Jacob to help cover emergency costs during his stay in India as well as ongoing care (proper nutrition, labs, transport to and from the hospital, medications) while back in Kenya. For more information on how to give, click here.