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Grieving the death of my husband

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March 3, this year began as any other normal Tuesday for Maria Muinde, a 29-year-old research assistant.

She was home with her late husband, Tony Onyango, who had woken up in high spirits and began his normal morning routine with his son, Shane Owala. He prepared Shane’s breakfast, bathed and dressed him before walking him to the school van.

A rugby player with Kenya Simbas, Kenya Sevens and Kenya Commercial Bank, Tony’s schedule was to go coaching, but he changed his mind and decided to join his team for training.

“Halfway through the training session, however, he left the pitch sighting dizziness and * heart palpitations. He went against his coach’s advice of going to hospital and insisted on coming home to Shane and I,” narrates Maria.

He took his favourite snack; tea and chapati while catching up with his coach and teammates. Little did they know that this would be the final conversation and moments they would have with him.

“The night Tony didn’t get to tuck Shane in bed. He was on his way to plug his phone in the charger when he got a cardiac arrest. I was changing Shane ~ in preparation for his bedtime on the ‘ seat next to his dad. When Tony died in ‘ my hands, Shane was fast asleep next to him. And just like that, I became a single mother,” Maria recalls.

Maria Muinde with her late husband, Tony Onyango, a rugby player with Kenya Simbas, Kenya Sevens and Kenya Commercial Bank, who died early last month after a cardiac arrest

How they met

READ ALSO:   KCB rugby player Tony Onyango collapses and dies

She remembers how they met at a Strathmore University back in 2010. 4 Both of them had just enrolled for undergraduate degrees. Maria was pursuing her Bachelor of Business and Information Technology while Tony, Bachelor of Informatics.

“It first started with friendship and as a friend, he was an amazing person,” she recalls .

They started dating in 2011 and in 2016, they had their family introduction, Ntheo ceremony and the same year they had their son.

The young lovers began their life from the bottom supporting each other on their way up. “Given how young he died, we can say he was at the prime of his international rugby career. When we started dating, many senior rugby players used to keep their partners away from the limelight. Tony was different. If you wanted to find him, you’d have to find where I was and vice versa,” Maria narrates.

As a father, Tony gave his all taking care of his son who has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder [ADHD]. The young boy thrived on routine and due to the high cost of therapy, the couple invested in sensory play toys and became actively involved in home therapy sessions replicating the exercises he had in hospital and learnt online.

“Tony made the burden of raising a special needs child bearable. He loved Shane unconditionally and joined me in our journey of raising awareness about autism, understanding and acceptance as well as advocating for inclusion,” she says.

But now, he was no more. “Before Tony was buried, I went to view his body several times. It took two and a half weeks before he was buried. Where I come from, a burial is conducted in just a few days. I came to appreciate the value of mourning someone for a fortnight before they are buried. It gives you ample time to process your emotions,” she explains.

Maria views her husband’s body

Maria recalls the tough nights after Tony’s death. She would wait with her son at the door for him to show up or sneak out and wait for him at the balcony. Watching his son broken, not knowing what had befallen his father was the hardest bit.

READ ALSO:   KCB rugby player Tony Onyango collapses and dies

“It was overwhelming for him whenever his team mates visited to condole with us and my son would stare at their faces hoping to spot his dad. Watching him staring at his dad’s portrait, embracing it and kissing it before bedtime also broke my heart,” she says.

She also faced accusations from relatives who couldn’t understand why their son, who was healthy and fit could die so young.

“For someone as fit as he was to die suddenly, especially at his home, prompted people to blame me for his death. Also, people process death differently. How I handled mourning disturbed some people. I chose to cry in my son’s absence the few times that I did. His father’s absence and the house constantly being filled with mourners was already hard enough for him. Seeing me in tears would have broken him. When I battled my tears and made a choice to keep a strong front, some criticised me. Whenever I laughed, it rubbed some people the wrong way with some saying I was celebrating his death. When I chose to dress up nicely one last time for Tony, some got angry about my choice of dressing saying they were expensive clothes. Whatever I did, was under scrutiny. I couldn’t even engage in banter without getting criticised. Someone even had the audacity to tell me how she thinks I should mourn and constantly kept throwing in the phrase

READ ALSO:   KCB rugby player Tony Onyango collapses and dies

“You’re now a widow” when she didn’t even know what it meant, let alone how it felt like to be one.

Writing the viral Facebook post

On March 8, Maria opted to write her tribute to her late husband on her Facebook wall.

“When I sat down to write his tribute, I purposed to focus on the great memories we made over the years. It was like taking a trip down memory lane. Writing his tribute gave me the opportunity to mourn,” she says.

Though the post gave her peace of heart and closure, she didn’t anticipate the kind of positive reaction she received afterwards.

People showed their love, praying for her and sending words of comfort. Widows too came forth and resonated with her pain. Women who’ve constantly encouraged me and checked up on me,” she narrates.

TONY

• Tony Onyango reportedly collapsed on March 3 at his home in Ngong, Kajiado county after returning from training.

• He was laid to rest at his rural home in Nyarago Village, Awendo District in Migori county on March 20.

• He won the National Sevens Circuit with his former club Homeboyz in 2016 and Kenya Cup title with his current club KCB and was part of the golden Strathmore Leossquad that reached the Kenya Cup final in 2013.

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Courts

How a rogue motorist ruined a waitress’ life

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Mary Muinde, a waitress, left her workplace at a restaurant on Mombasa Road for a routine ride home that, however, turned horrific and ruined her life.

The harrowing ordeal cost the 28-year-old single mother of two her job, nearly had her leg cut off and the ugly scars have killed the prospects of a new job.

At around 10.30pm on December 16, 2017, Ms Muinde had ended her shift at the restaurant, exhausted from long hours of standing and shuttling while taking orders from diners.

She had flagged down a motorcycle for the ride to her home at Mawasco area in Athi River.

As the motorcycle sped away with the cold wind blasting her face, she clutched tightly on the rider and, momentarily, her thoughts drifted away.

Loud bang

They were riding along Tuskys Road at Mang’eli Junction on the final stretch to her home when a loud bang shattered the calm of the night and the two were violently tossed into the air.

She crashed hard on the tarmac and her world went blank.

Since Ms Muinde was known to those who rushed to help, they had called her sister, Ms Jane Syombua.

The waitress was unconscious as she was rushed to the nearby Shalom Hospital, just off Mombasa Road, at the Kitengela interchange.

Her condition was considered serious and she was transferred to the Machakos Level 5 Hospital where she regained consciousness hours later.

She would later learn that the motorcycle she was riding had been hit by a maroon Toyota Surf, which then sped away.

Flesh on her left thigh and the back of the knee to the calf was torn off. Her upper lip had a deep cut and her face was swollen. But the boda-boda rider seemed to only have had minor bruises.

Witness

Mr Musembi would become a crucial prosecution witness in the subsequent traffic case because the owner of the maroon vehicle that was traced to a garage the following day had denied involvement in the hit-and-run incident.

Scans on the right leg showed Ms Muinde had no fractures and she was discharged from hospital — a decision that would prove costly.

“Her condition was very bad, she should have been admitted and given the medical attention she needed,” said her brother, Mr Daniel Muinde.

The following morning as Mr Muinde and Mr Musembi went to report the accident at Athi River Police Station, they spotted the maroon vehicle parked at a garage next to a popular restaurant.

They inquired about the owner of the vehicle which had dents that were being fixed.

The group was led to the first floor of the building where they found Mr Dan Warinda.

“He refused to go with us. He was with a man who I was later told was a plainclothes officer,” recalled Mr Muinde.

Suspect questioned

The case was recorded as OB/09/17/12 at the Athi River Police Station on December 17, 2017. The police brought in Mr Warinda for questioning. He denied being involved.

On December 18, while writhing in pain in bed at her sister’s house, Ms Muinde got a surprise visitor.

It was Mr Warinda, who was accompanied by a friend.

“My sister (Syombua) did not know him and she led him to the bedroom, thinking he was one of my friends who had come to visit me. He shook my hand,” Ms Muinde recalled.

“He demanded that I go with him to the station and tell the police that I had confused his vehicle and that the identified car was not the one that had hit me. I refused,” said Ms Muinde.

The two only left when the sisters alerted their brother.

Threats

The family went back to the police station and recorded the threats.

Mr Warinda was later charged with three counts at the Mavoko Law Courts. He was accused of careless driving, driving a defective vehicle and failing to stop after an accident.

Back at home, Ms Muinde’s injury worsened as her wound was slowly turning septic. She was rushed back to the Machakos Level 5 Hospital on December 25, 2017 where she was hospitalised for 35 days.

“My leg was to be amputated. The doctors told me that the wound was rotting away and would infect my entire system. I was so scared. Luckily, they decided to work on it and it was a very painful experience. But I thank God, they did not cut it off,” she narrated.

She was discharged on February 2, 2018, having incurred a Sh77,000 medical bill. The family would spend a further Sh135,000 to hire a car for almost two months of hospital visits after her discharge.

Ms Muinde had to be taken for therapy and her elderly mother came over to look after her.

Lost her job

She lost her job. In the past three years, she has been employed for a total of two months.

“I have a background in the hospitality sector. I am a waitress. Since my accident, I cannot stand for more than 10 minutes. Yet my work involves a lot of standing and moving around. The dress code, for us ladies, is mainly skirts, but I fear wearing skirts because my scar is too big; it traumatises me,” said Ms Muinde.

She narrated how she lost her job because customers kept staring at her scar after the wound was surgically grafted.

She is still looking for a job because she has two children, aged 10 and seven.

Ms Muinde and her children have been relying on her sisters and brother for upkeep.

While the case was going on in court in early 2018, Mr Muinde contacted Directline, the insurance firm that covered the motorist.

But because Mr Warinda had denied causing the accident, the insurance firm, in a letter dated August 22, 2018, said it was awaiting the outcome of investigations and the court case.

“We refer to your notice dated 16/08/2018 and received in our offices on 17/08/2018. We shall be grateful if you would kindly, therefore, withhold precipitate action against our insured pending completion of investigations into the alleged accident herein,” the letter read.

The victim was further directed to present a list of items to the insurer including a P3 form, a police abstract, copy of national identity card, a medical report, treatment notes and a discharge summary and receipts in support of claims for special damages.

“When we were told to wait for the investigations, I relaxed. I knew we would win the case because the entire truth could not be hidden. I told them about the court proceedings and they told me they would wait for the court ruling. Should we win, they would compensate us, and gave us claim reference number 98851/1 which they would use to compensate us,” Mr Muinde said.

Court ruling

The court ruling was eventually delivered on October 12, 2020. Chief Magistrate C.C. Oluoch found Mr Warinda guilty on two counts of reckless driving and failing to stop after causing an accident.

“I, therefore, conclude that the accused was properly identified as the person who had charge of the motor vehicle registration number KAL 402A, hit motorcycle registration number KMDS 016V causing injuries to Ms Muinde,” the magistrate ruled.

BY nation.africa


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Lifestyle

My cruel marriage to politician’s son

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Like any other woman about to get married, Esther Kisaghu was eager to tie the knot with her soulmate. When she finally settled down with the son of a prominent politician, who retired in 1988, it was all bliss. In her mind, the Cinderella life was a reality.

But she was wrong. She soon realised that marriage life wasn’t the bed of roses she had envisioned.

“I started like any other girl who is happy to get married. But soon, things changed. I started experiencing domestic violence,” reveals Ms Kisaghu, who studied at Alliance Girls’ High School, before going abroad for further studies.

She joined Boston University in the United States for a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.

“When I was in the middle of my studies, my fiancé requested me to come back for us to get married…

“I didn’t complete my studies. Two years after we got married, however, he changed. He started strangling me, but I kept quiet,” she says.

Ms Kisaghu, who got married at 27, later completed her Bachelor’s at African Nazarene University in Kenya.

“It does not matter what the victim does, as long as the perpetrator wants to beat his victim, it will happen. Nothing the victim does, will stop the violence — only if the abuser changes. He chose to beat me, emotionally and psychological tortured me — it was his choice. At the heart of abuse is power and control — the twisted behaviour to control and abuse the victim,” says Ms Kisaghu, who has since founded The Rose Foundation, which assists women undergoing abuse in marriage.

“His family was powerful when he was abusing me. He also abused substance. However, as an expert in domestic violence, I later realised that drunkenness does not cause violence. It merely exacerbates it. There is no causal link between being a drunk and violence. Violence is a choice,” she says.

When the mother of one realised she was going through suffering with her son, she thought of means to get out of the marriage after nine years of painful experience.

Wanted to stab me

However, it was hard to escape and she had to devise ways out.

“I was married to a powerful politician’s son. So, escaping to the US via the studies route was not easy at all, especially because I left with my son — a no, no, in African culture,” narrates Ms Kisaghu, who was born in Taita-Taveta County.

Nevertheless, she joined Boston University, again, to study Public Health – International Health at Master’s degree level. Her going for further studies in 2004, she says, was just an escape.

“My life was in danger. I used the opportunity… to keep safe in another country with my son.”

It was at the university that it dawned on her that domestic violence is preventable.

“During the four years of studies, I decided that I should come and assist people back at home.”

Indeed, when she was done, she returned to Kenya and opened a new chapter in her life by establishing The Rose Foundation in 2015.

Gender-Based Violence

Prior to that, she volunteered her services at the Gender-Based Violence Recovery Centre at Nairobi Women’s Hospital for six months.

“Many women in Kenya get killed when the husband follows them to their new life. It’s true that victims face death every day in violent marriages, but when leaving, a safety plan must be put in place.

At The Rose Foundation, we do domestic violence training, which includes safety planning,” says Ms Kisaghu, who spent 11 years trying to get a divorce because her husband kept interfering with the case.

Children are affected

Ms Kisaghu notes that many children are affected psychologically when they witness domestic violence in their homes.

She says that victims ought to realise that leaving a violent home is possible, “no matter how difficult it is.

“What is important is to do a safety plan,” says Ms Kisaghu who is also the author of The Triumph of My Life: Domestic Violence and Society’s Thundering Silence.

by nation


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Lifestyle

Peter Gwengi: ‘Accepting I had HIV saved my life’

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“Can you imagine for the many years since I signed a memorandum of understanding with my virus, I have lived a happy and peaceful life. We have been faithful to each other,” this was Peter Gwengi’s opening statement when we visited him at his home in Migori County.

It was his wife’s poor health that made him test for the virus. He learnt about his wife’s status, and eventually his own, in a cruel manner.

“She was seriously ill and admitted to hospital in Migori, but when there was no change, and her health deteriorating, I requested to move her to a better hospital. A nurse called me on the side and whispered, ‘why are you wasting your money treating her and she is going to die anyway. She is HIV positive’,” said Mr Gwengi.

He did not believe it. He called the family doctor, who confirmed that his wife was HIV positive and had been taking drugs for six years. She had kept the news away from him, perhaps due to fear of stigma and rejection. “For six years, living with someone and not knowing she is HIV positive, and many people, including some of my family members, knew her status. I was the only one who had been in the dark all along. It took a toll on me,” he said.

READ ALSO:   KCB rugby player Tony Onyango collapses and dies

Opportunistic infection

Fearing the worst, but determined to get it over with, Mr Gwengi got tested for the virus. Even though he had prepared himself for the worst, when the test came back positive, he was devastated. Nine months later, his wife died. He lived in denial for two years, not talking about the disease to anyone — not even close relatives and friends — and refusing to take medication.

The two years were not easy for him. It was one opportunistic infection after another, but he would not accept that he had the virus. He thought of committing suicide.

He could not get out of his house or face his family or friends because of the stigma that came with the disease.

“One thing that I kept on asking myself — and I did not have an answer — is, where the disease came from. But thinking deeply, I believe I contracted HIV when I worked as a field officer in the early 1990s, a job that kept me away from home for long periods,” he said .

One day in 2001, he got seriously ill and was rushed to hospital unconscious. It was after several counselling sessions and being told that he was going to die and leave his three daughters orphans that made him accept his status. He then did everything he could to prolong his life.

READ ALSO:   KCB rugby player Tony Onyango collapses and dies

 Telling his inner circle of friends about his HIV status was easier than he had expected, because he had accepted it.

He was placed on drugs, and thanks to his employer, Mr Gwengi was fully insured and would get his drugs using his medical card. Having seen how his wife suffered, he vowed to keep to the drugs regimen.

“One day, I woke up and told my virus now that we are partners and they are going to be part of me forever, they should not put me down and I will not disturb them. I would obey and follow all the requirements. And that’s how I have been living with my virus,” he narrated to the Nation.

Mr Gwengi said he maintains a well-balanced lifestyle, healthy diet, taking antiretroviral drugs on time, exercising, having adequate rest, and dropping bad habits such as taking excessive alcohol.

“HIV is a very jealous virus. If you are to take your drugs, for instance at 9pm, and you skip, it will eventually notice that something is not right and it will attack with several diseases until you adhere to the rules,” said Mr Gwengi.

Stress, he points out, is also dangerous and can undermine your health.

“This is one of the most faithful viruses. It does not want to be disturbed and it will not disturb you. All you need to do is just to accept that you have it and it will respond positively. Get yourself good friends and family members who encourage you positively.”

READ ALSO:   KCB rugby player Tony Onyango collapses and dies

Mr Gwengi founded an advocacy organisation, where he runs campaigns to promote positive living and acceptance of people with HIV.

by nation.africa


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