In the blink of an eye, life can change drastically. Besides death and karma, nothing else is guaranteed. We sail through life by faith in God. We go to sleep and thank God for good health, food and shelter, then pray that he allows us to see another day. So, when we find ourselves alive and of good health the following morning, we should not take it for granted. We thank him, and we seize the day.
I see many people with great potential settling for mediocrity and it saddens me. How does one just get content with merely existing and not care to realize their full potential? I think most times it boils down to laziness, in the sense that we refuse to get out of our comfort zone. Then there is self-doubt, distrusting that we can achieve much more than we currently are. And then there’s down right selfishness where we know we can live off others so why bother?
I came across this little girl’s story on Facebook on a random evening at about 6.00pm. I had just gotten home from work. As I was shutting my bedroom windows, I noticed the suddenly overcast clouds which had been non-existent a few minutes prior to that when I was driving home. The unpredictability of Nairobi rain and how dramatic everything gets once it pours can only compare to Kenyan politics. Did you watch that stupid fiasco at Panafric Hotel on Thursday evening? The level of immaturity being exhibited by our politicians lately is ghastly.
While I stood by the window, I could smell the petrichor way before the rain started thrumming the roof. It smelled earthy and syrupy. I stayed there for about five minutes taking in that amazing smell and thinking to myself what a delightful scent it would be to wear. Anybody knows a scent that comes close to petrichor and where I can get it? The kids were having a bath. Dinner, as always, was set for 7.00pm. I had a quick shower, threw on my sweat pants and hoodie and lay on my bed with my phone in my hand for a brief social media catch up.
The first thing that I came across on Facebook was a distressing post by a former colleague. It took me from my idyllic petrichor smelling place to a cold world filled with uncertainties and fear and helplessness. It was an urgent financial appeal to her friends to help this 10-year-old girl on a wheelchair walk again. Her name was Ruhi, and she was her niece. What disturbed me the most was how the delicately beautiful girl found herself confined to a wheelchair. She was hit by a swing at the back of her neck while in school. A swing, at the school’s playground. She was not involved in a grisly road accident, neither did she fall off the back of a galloping horse (Xena wants to take up horse racing and it’s freaking me out). It was just a normal day in school, and as she hung around the playground probably waiting for her turn to hop on the swing, it came for her with fury and vengeance and hit her smack on the back of her neck.
Does this disturb you as much as it does me? That we might do everything we can to keep our kids safe but at the end of the day, only God can protect them.
I stared at the photo of the girl with cloudy eyes, mine not hers. She was gorgeous with a beautiful smile that she wore effortlessly, even when on the wheel chair. When she lay on the hospital bed with all this gadgets and cables strapped around her head, she looked at peace. She had this look that seemed to say that she was certain that all will be well. That this was just a small test of time. I admired her faith and zeal for life, something I just picked from the picture.
So, I reached out to Beth, her aunty, my former colleague. I asked her if I could run Ruhi’s story to get more people to contribute towards her medical fund. I wanted to know more about her journey. How it has been for the family, and most importantly for Ruhi. As a ten-year-old who went about life cheerfully and moved around with ease, how did life continue to make sense when suddenly she couldn’t walk?
Beth informed me that the accident happened slightly over three years ago, on 25th July 2014. I checked my calendar and found out that it was a Friday. She had left the house for school in good spirits as usual but when she came back in the evening, she complained of a headache. She told the mum about being hit by a swing in school and that she had felt a sharp pain. A swelling had developed by that time. She was given a pain reliever and they decided to wait it out till morning when they took her to see a doctor. The doctor, a general practitioner, deduced that she had an infection and prescribed an antibiotic. The folks decided to seek a second opinion and consulted a pediatrician who immediately referred her to a Neuro Surgeon at Aga Khan. By the time they got there, Ruhi was in excruciating pain. She was frail and could not even lift her hand.
Various tests were conductedto establish the source of the pain. The doctors found her condition strange and could not decipher it. She was admitted as they studied her results. The doctors said her symptoms pointed towards Meningitis and so she was immediately put on Meningitis treatment for fifteen days as they monitored her closely. During that time, they did this procedure where they extracted some fluid from her spine and tested it. The test revealed that she was not suffering from Meningitis but Transverse Myletis, a virus similar to Meningitis. She remained admitted at Aga Khan hospital for a month since she had difficulties moving her limbs. The nerve that co-ordinates human movement was affected and therefore needed to be stimulated through physiotherapy sessions.
Three years and three months down the line, Ruhi has made some progress, slow progress nonetheless. She is now able to sit without support and uses a special wheelchair. Her handwriting is also improving. However, her recovery process could be faster if she got specialized treatment. You see, her muscles have not wasted away yet given that she is still young but unfortunately that window is not too wide. The family therefore plan on taking her to India in mid-November for Ayurvedic treatment which God willing, will speed up her recovery. Given the costly nature of the procedure, they are appealing to well-wishers to support them. They seek a total of KES 3.5M. A fundraiser has been set for the 4th of November.
I spoke to Ruhi’s mum, Makena, for the first time this morning. Beth had briefed her about our conversation and my intention to run the story, so she recognized my name immediately I introduced myself. She sounded harassed, like I normally feel at the end of the day when all the kids are screaming my name, and I wonder if suddenly daddy has become invisible. I told her that the call would last no more than two minutes and she breathed a sigh of relief.
“Throughout this period, has Ruhi ever felt so frustrated and asked you why God would let that happen to her? Has she ever asked, “why me?”” I asked her.
“Never.” She said to me with a firm voice. “Not even once.”
She went ahead to tell me how positive minded and cheerful Ruhi is, and that her relentless spirit is what has kept the family going. She misses swimming and playing with her seven-year-old brother and cousins, but she doesn’t complain neither does she let it get to her. She’s only ten years old, in case you didn’t pick that up earlier on.
“Besides that, the one thing that she yearns for the most though is spending time in the kitchen with me, cooking. So, I have had to improvise.” She added with a heavy heart.
“How’s that?” I asked.
“I now use a Jiko since its low and she can reach it with ease. We have this walker that we put her in which helps her move around the kitchen and she’s able to be my little helper once again, tossing this in the pot, stirring that, you know, that kind of thing.”
My heart sunk.
When you whimper about your lackluster job and annoying colleagues and you don’t do anything to fix it, or when you wallow in self-pity because your friends are more successful and you feel like God has been unfair to you, ask yourself if you have done everything in your capacity to live a fulfilling life. Have you tapped into all your potential? Maybe all you need to do is open your eyes to the suffering in the world and you will realize that despite your setbacks, you have received more grace than you deserve.
Ruhi has gone through the mill but thankfully, there’s light at the end of the tunnel. If not for anything, I think she deserves our help for her fighting spirit. Your support, no matter how small, will go a long way.
LIPA NA MPESA
PAYBILL NUMBER: 996903
ACCOUNT NAME: RUHI Medical
*Ruhi, before the accident in 2014.