It takes you around forty-five minutes to drive from Kabarak area in Nakuru to the Egerton campus in Njoro. I tell people that I live around Kabarak because it’s the closest and most notable landmark around. I actually live in a little-known village next to the Kabarak complex called Man’gu. Only two famous things have happened in our village’s history. First is that our police station has always won the award for the cleanest police station in the nation. Next is that being next to Kabarak, a lot of publicity was put on us during the death of former president Daniel Arap Moi. All our main roads were re-carpeted in record time in the preparations for his funeral. Man’gu is always beautiful this time of the year, the lush greens and that small town feel are pleasing to the soul and mind as you make the short connection to the Nakuru – Eldoret highway which is the route we use to connect to Njoro.
I have a love/hate relationship with this road, I love it because it’s such a wonderful piece of engineering that serves thousands of people a day and sustains the livelihoods of just as many. I hate it simply because eight years ago, it was on that road that I got an accident and became paralyzed.
I reflected on the radical changes brought about by severe accidents or illnesses. The fact that a moment not exceeding mere seconds is enough to alter the complete trajectory of your life. I stared out the window as we drove past the massive Egerton Campus gate. I thought to myself how that must have cost the university millions.
David’s shop is just meters from the road which connects Njoro town to Mau Narok. A small signpost that reads “Best Lady Salon” confirms that you have arrived at your destination. David Wachira runs the shop with his wife of over 20 years. He sells secondhand clothes outside while his wife attends to customers in her salon. The couple has been running the shop for over two years now.
As I was exiting the car, David drove up in his wheelchair to meet me, a wide smile occupied his face exposing his interestingly small teeth. After exchanging pleasantries, I asked David if we could get away from the sun because I tend to overheat easily when exposed to direct sunlight. On both sides of David’s shop were butcheries, all busy serving customers and taking orders. They had obviously gotten used to seeing David in a wheelchair, but my presence attracted some attention. Two wheelchair using men will always turn heads.
I had been planning my meeting with David for two weeks and had been forced to reschedule because of the unpredictable weather in Nakuru. Inside the shop was Felix, David’s oldest child and only son. He beamed with pride as he told me that Felix was now in high school and was home for his mid-term break. Felix was courteous and as talkative as any teenager. He was very keen on regularly checking on his father to find out if he needed any assistance. As Felix walked outside to make a delivery on behalf of his father, David said to me, “I am a blessed man to have such wonderful children.”
David and I use power wheelchairs but he stands out the most between us. His legs don’t fold at the knees and as such, he sits in his wheelchair with his legs stretched out straight. His wheelchair is specially made to accommodate him. The footrests are placed in a horizontal position and a soft pillow is positioned under his legs to offer him as much comfort as possible. His legs have been this way for nine years. A chain of events is responsible for his condition starting with a growth in his spine that led to the shattering of his Thoracic vertebrae. “After treatment, my body started getting stiff as a result of soft bones forming around my hips and knees,” David explains.
David’s childhood dream was to become a priest in the Catholic Church which he has always been faithful to. He says that life turned out differently and his interests might have changed along the way. “Having a family and being a good member of the community has also been fulfilling in many ways and has strengthened my faith in every step of the way.”
With his dreams of serving in the Church now in the past, David had to find a way to make a living and provide for his young family. The first job he got was the one he took, he was a posho-mill operator for the next eight years of his life.
“It was hard work for little pay, especially during peak season. I would be exhausted mentally and physically by the end of the day, but I had to report to work the following morning because that was how I got my livelihood. It was at the posho-mill where I created meaningful relationships that would bring great things into my life till today.”
David was used to the fatigue at work but at the end of 2013, he started sweating profusely and experiencing abnormal weakness all over his body. He was initially diagnosed with Typhoid but after the symptoms persisted, he sought treatment elsewhere and it was established that he had two fractured discs on his spine.
“The cracks had been caused by a growth forming around my spine and I was asked to wear a special belt first to see if my spine would be stabilized. After a short while, I began experiencing extreme numbness in my legs and the doctor broke the news that I was starting to get paralyzed and that an emergency operation that would cost me half a million shillings needed to be done. I didn’t have even a shilling in my name.”
What ensued after that and in the days to follow was the greatest show of love and concern that David has ever witnessed. The community and church did multiple fundraisings for David to get the medical attention that he needed. He was first operated on at the Mediheal Hospital in Eldoret in January of 2014. David never walked again after that.
“After getting discharged from the hospital I was bedridden, and my wife became my caregiver and breadwinner. Having been the provider for my family for many years, it was very difficult for me to see what had become of me. My boy was joining a school that year and my daughter Angela was only nine months old. Tears would roll down my cheeks seeing how heavy the burden was on my wife. Those were the most difficult years in my life.”
David noticed with great concern that his legs were getting stiffer by the day. It had gotten so bad that he couldn’t even sit up because soft bones had formed around his hip joints restricting any kind of movement. This had brought a lot of inconvenience to his life since he couldn’t sit properly on a chair or move his legs at the knees. Doctors suggested that he should consider going to India to receive treatment. The best deal was 6 million shillings.
“The church, family and business community in Egerton did its best to raise the funds. We did two fundraisers at my church St. Augustine’s, raising around half a million each time. My area MP at the time madam Kathambi connected me with the Deputy President William Ruto while he was in town and the DP gave me a cool million. I now had two million for my treatment and decided to head on to India as more fundraisers were going on back home.”
In India, David and his wife stayed for three months waiting for his recuperation. The children had been left in the care of his sister-in-law. He recalls how friendly and professional the people in India were. Initially, he was to receive six operations. One to rectify the cracks on his spine, one on each hip, one on each knee and one on his heels to reconstruct all the flesh he had lost due to pressure sores.
“My doctor explained that he could only guarantee a 1% recovery and that the operation would be quite dangerous because of the expected bleeding. After hours under the knife inside the operation room. I was taken to the wards and the doctors signed off that it had been a successful operation. After two days I was turning in bed by myself. Puzzled by my speedy recovery, the doctors coined the nickname “Miracle man” for me.”
According to David, the hardest part about being in India for those three months was the food. Indian people enjoy spicy food, and this wasn’t something that David and his wife were used to. Before leaving India, a good friend offered to buy David a power wheelchair. The wheelchair he still uses today.
“At the airport, there were some people who were quite disappointed because they expected me to come back walking. A section of people even claimed that I had duped the public to donate money. This was expected and I explained in detail what procedures had been done.”
After the first operation, David had experienced too much bleeding and the doctors decided that they would only operate on his hips and leave the knees for the next time because his body wasn’t strong enough yet. David could now finally sit upright on a chair, but he couldn’t bend his legs.
“Life had to move on after India, so I started selling bags and clothes at the roadside. It was good to help out with bills and get out of the house. The wheelchair really came in handy. Without permanent shelter, I was exposed to the elements, and I would constantly get rained on. A friend and businessman saw it best to give me a shop that I didn’t have to pay for and a starting capital of Ksh. 20,000. I was lost for words.”
David and his wife Teresia go to work every day and each handles their respective businesses. David got emotional every time I brought up his wife who was out representing him in a meeting for a disabled group David started recently. He talks highly of her, how her love, support and friendship have never faltered even when things were at their thickest. She was ever present by his side.
“I am a product of the love of many people. There is no way to explain why people go out of their way to support me, I would simply say it’s God’s favour. My friends and community are currently building me a two-bedroom stone house on a piece of land that was also given to me as a gift. The business community all came out and pledged building materials and after one year, the house is roofed and we are waiting to install the doors and windows. It is all God’s doing. No other way to describe it.”
I was genuinely moved by the richness of David’s story and all that he has overcome over the years. He is a man loved dearly by those around him. They acknowledge his strength and resilience but still recognize that he needs some help from time to time.
As we got to the end of our conversation, I asked David if he was happy and content with his life as a disabled man.
“I am a blessed man. Despite the many hardships I have faced, God and my people have always stood by side and urged me forward. I am happy with where I am right now. I have made peace with the fact that I might never walk again and that is okay. I want to focus on living an honourable life and exhaust all the gifts that life presents to me.”
You can find David on F
You can find David on Facebook at David Wachira.
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