Marriage: When it’s beyond love…in sickness and in health
The environment is serene. The compound and building in the background is spotlessly clean as sunrays filter through tree branches lending this place some warmth. Rosaline Wawira sits on a wheelchair basking in the sun, enjoying the calm scenery. Her caregiver plaits her hair.
This hospital in Karen contrasts her home in Ruiru where she has been bedridden for the past 12 months. She and her family live in a bedsitter. The room, which serves as a sitting room, kitchen, and bedroom, was also transformed to be her hospital bed.
This time, her caregivers are nurses, unlike before when her husband, Gideon Weru played that role. With their professionalism they are making sure she gets all the help she can to restore the proper functioning of her body, rendered immovable by spinal cord injury she sustained from a fall at a construction site.
She is grateful for the act of kindness from well-wishers who took her to the hospital. They also donated a wheelchair.
Weru recalls the good times— when his wife was healthy. Theirs was love brewed in Embu, where they met, before they moved to Ruiru about five years ago.
“We were doing well, doing casual work at construction sites and brought home food on the table at the end of day. Our close-knit family of four was a happy one,” he remembers. They have been together for the last 10 years.
However, in March last year, Wawira went to work as usual. But Weru was called to the construction site where she had been stationed some minutes past 11amfor an emergency. By the time he got there he was told his wife had been rushed to Thika Level 5 Hospital.
When he arrived at the hospital, he didn’t believe what he saw; he didn’t want to imagine what might have happened to his darling wife.
“She was in so much pain, she couldn’t talk. This crushed me, I couldn’t imagine how she felt, I was later on told that she fell from the building at the construction site while carrying sand. She sustained spinal injuries,” Weru says.
Weru then moved his wife to Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH). “I just wanted the best for her and that’s why I opted to take her to a better hospital for her to recover fast,” he says.
She was treated for four months and was discharged. Having injured her C5 vertebra of the spine, Wawira became paralysed. She couldn’t do anything for herself. She henceforth needed a caregiver, and this meant that Weru’s life and their relationship was about to change.
At first, he thought he could manage; he would attend to house chores and his wife, then rush to construction sites for his hustle. But with time, it became impossible to do this.
“My wife wasn’t able to do anything for herself — she couldn’t turn or feed herself. She also had to use a catheter to pass urine. I had to step in to make her life comfortable. From feeding her, to changing her diaper, and taking her out to bask in the sun in order to prevent bed sores, it was just tough, and this required me to stay home to take care of her,” he says.
But taking care of his wife at home had presented another challenge. He needed to work to provide for their basic needs, so he resorted to washing clothes for his neighbours to make ends meet.
“I made sure I created a good rapport with my neighbours for them to trust me and give me work. I also strive to do a thorough job to get more referrals,” Weru says.
Weru gets about Sh200 to Sh300, a day. Besides buying food for the family, he makes sure he saves some for rent and school fees for his two children.
Other than washing clothes, the 36-year-old does menial jobs such as fetching water for his neighbours. On dry days, he would ask his 14-year-old firstborn daughter, who is in Class Eight, to stay home and take care of her mother as he goes to search for casual jobs at construction sites.
“I knew it was not right, but I didn’t have any option. I usually talked to teachers for them to compensate on the days that she missed school. When she stayed home, she also takes care of her eight-year-old brother,” he says.
Although his friends, especially male pals still question him on why he would opt to wash clothes for a living instead of looking for another job, he knows what has to be done, has to be done. If this is the only job available that would allow him to feed his family and also be there for his wife, then he doesn’t care what people say.
Even as she tries to adjust to the new facility where a well-wisher took her for physiotherapy, Weru has a more difficult role to play. He has to shuttle between Ruiru and Karen to check on his wife’s progress while caring for his children at home.
In a week, Weru says he spends an average of Sh3,000 on both diapers and medicine.
“Wawira uses about two packets of diapers in a week, which amounts to Sh1,000. She is taking vitamin D tablets, which cost Sh72 per tablet and she requires two of them daily. Also she takes Diclofenac two times a day at a cost of Sh40 per tablet. She further takes Prejavalent, which costs Sh60 per tablet,” he explains.
Wawira will undergo physiotherapy in the hospital for the next six months. However, the hospital administration has decided to cater for all the bills for the first month. Thereafter, Weru will have to part with Sh3,500 per day for therapy and medication.
“I just want the best for her and that is why I will go through the trouble of sacrificing everything just to make sure she receives the best treatment as promised by the doctors. Initially, Wawira wasn’t getting any physiotherapy treatment, but with the new developments, my only hope is to have her walk again,” he says.
His only hope is that one day his wife would walk again— that things would go back to the way they were before the accident. But until then, he promises to uphold the vows and pray for strength to overcome any form of temptation that may arise.
Alvin Oduor, an orthopaedic, with physical therapy, says many patients recover some levels of motor and sensory control. “Many patients get back into good shape, although it might take time,” he says.
He adds that when a spinal injury occurs, it disrupts the brain-body connection and this means you need to teach your body how to walk again. Through several repetition process, then one is able to familiarise with the body movements.