Tale of disabled Nakuru man who beat odds to eke a living
Despite being skilled and ready to work, People Living With Disabilities (PLWDs) find it hard to secure formal employment and lead a normal life.
With this grim reality, a number of them resort to flood the streets to beg, with only a handful venturing into self-employment.
In Nakuru County, for instance, streets and avenues are mostly filled with the disabled seeking to secure ‘few coins’ from well-wishers.
However, for Simon Wahome, 37, the adage, ‘disability is not inability’ has never rung truer as he has beaten all odds to venture into farming and business.
He is a true definition that the group can prosper if given the right platform and adequate support.
Wahome was not born disabled; being the last-born child in a family of five, he was poised to be the saviour of the family after all his sibling plunged into drunkenness.
After completing his secondary education, he ventured into the lucrative sawmill industry in 2002 where his main job was loading logs into trucks.
With no machines to carry out the exercise, Wahome never imagined the risk that would come with his work, he says. However, he considered it an opportunity to mint cash.
“I was a casual worker, however, I managed to create my own networks and I would occasionally broker for a number of companies in the town,”said Wahome.
He says life was good as he raked in cash, until hell broke loose and his life changed forever.
The horror is still freshly etched in his mind as he vividly recalls the pain, his scream and events that followed until he landed on a wheelchair.
On that fateful day, Wahome left home aiming to make his daily income and go back to his expectant wife.
As he was going about his business loading logs, miscalculation from a colleague led to the log falling on him and, in the process, crashing his spine.
He remembers the sound of the crashing bones on his back and immediately never felt his lower limbs after the incident.
“It was September 26, 2003 when the accident happened, everyone fled after hearing the crashing sounds coupled with my screams, they thought I had died,” said Wahome.
He was later rescued by well-wishers and rushed to Nakuru Level Five Hospital.
Medics informed him that his injury could not be handled at the facility, due to its complexity.
He was referred to the National Spinal Injury Hospital in Nairobi; however, his journey to the facility was not an easy feat. Here, he was also told he will never walk again.
His problems worsened as his fled after receiving news that he will never walk again, leaving him with a-two-week-old baby.
“My family, especially my mother, who is also disabled after she was struck with an attack of polio that left her paralysed, has been of great help and support,” he said.
Wahome says movement in the house was a struggle, as he crashed down several times causing injuries on both his hips.
This later developed into sores, and to add salt to his injuries, his efforts to seek treatment was met with resistance by a number of doctors.
“I was a frequent visitor at the Nakuru Level Five Hospital and after being booked for admission, on reaching the ward, the doctor in-charge would writes me a discharge summary so I was never received any treatment,” added Wahome.
He said after several appeals to be taken to the Spinal Injury Hospital, his plight caught the eye of Bahati MP Kimani Ngunjiri and later Ms Christina Pratt.
With the help of Ms Pratt, Wahome was immediately admitted at the facility and his bills fully settled. He says Ms Pratt has also been an integral part in his treatment journey.
He was operated on 21 times and his skin grafted to seal the wounds adding that he was in and out of the hospital saying she never gave up on him.
“She would take care of me like her own child. I felt a sense of belonging after everything she had done for me,” he said.
After treatment, Wahome joined Sabibu Special College in Ruiru and studied Information Technology and later opened a Cyber Café in Dunduri, which is doing well.
He noted that the main challenges persons with disability face, especially in urban centres are lack of adequate amenities for the special group.
He also noted that in Nakuru, a number of building were old; saying some had not factored in pass ways like ramps to enable them enter the building.
“We have less than 10 buildings that are friendly to PLWDs. While seeking services , we have to either be lifted up or the servers come to you which is not fair to us,” said Wahome.
He at the same time urged PLWDs to try and make a living on their own instead of being beggars, saying it paints a negative picture to anyone on a wheelchair.
According to him, it has become obvious that anyone on a wheelchair is a beggar.
“We are being stigmatised because of a few of us who have not accepted their situations and find other things to do. It is sad but we must find avenues to reclaim our dignity,” he added.
Wahome envisions a day that all persons, including PLWDs, will be brought on board to ensure everyone has equal opportunities.