“There is one thing most people don’t ever think much about – the possibility of going to bed seeing the world one way and waking up the following day, having to see it in another way.
In April 2019, I lost my sight. I woke up and I just couldn’t find my way around my own house, one that I had lived in for decades. I had undergone multiple surgeries prior to that, in 2017 and 2018, and the last one had happened just a month before I went blind.
I am 50 years old and for the better part of my life, I had excellent eyesight. Then began a sharp decline in 2015. I realised that I was straining to read text messages on my phone or while working on my laptop. I would wipe the phone, increase brightness and squint hard. I once thought to myself, “This is not me. What is happening?” Yet I was never once worried. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I was about to lose my eyesight.
I went to see an ophthalmologist who prescribed reading glasses. That didn’t help. Another hospital visit later revealed that I had retinal detachment, which is an emergency situation where tissue at the back of the eye pulls away from a layer of blood vessels that provide the necessary oxygen and nourishment.. Then the surgeries began. I held on to the hope that it was just a matter of time before I regained my health.
Against this backdrop, I continued with my role as an administrator in Juja. I enjoy engaging boys, especially on the dangers of drugs abuse, and combating the sale of illicit brew in the area win partnership with the National Police Service. Surely, I would need my eyesight to do my job, or so I thought.
In 2010, while working as an administrator for a local organisation, I heard an announcement in church about a job opening. I applied to the role and in April the following year, I was confirmed. I was very excited. First, because I enjoy interacting and listening to people, and secondly, because I was eager to inspire young girls and encourage them to seize the opportunities that come their way, just like their male counterparts.
The day I got out of the bed and realised that I couldn’t see anything, I walked up to my closet and tried to pick my clothes. I desperately hoped that I was having a bad dream, and that I would soon wake up.
The next eight months were tough. I was almost always angry at myself and the world, and I questioned God a lot. I now realise that this is a struggle that almost everyone who has acquired disability or significant illness struggles with. I also fought against low self-esteem. I loved going to the manicurists, to salons and to wear nice clothes. I was worried that my blindness would affect my style. Thankfully, it did not. The greatest thing I lost during that season was some of my friends. As soon as they heard that I had lost my eyesight, they cast me off.
With the support and encouragement from my two sons – Dennis Ngotho and Braham Wambugu – together with my family, friends, and the community at large, I gradually learnt to accept the situation. I prayed and asked God to give me the courage to accept the person I had become.
The odd thing about my situation is that it helped me rediscover myself. I honestly didn’t know how strong my faith was, how determined and mentally strong I was.
Nowadays, those close to me joke that I can actually see, since I can unmistakably tell people apart, engage in my usual activities with the assistance of an aide, and my great sense of style. Some still ask, “How do you get to match your clothes so perfectly or prepare your meals?” I tell them that while I have lost my eyesight, my brain functions perfectly.
I have learnt to respond to my weakness with strength and determination. Every day, I prove to myself that I can still accomplish my goals. At the moment, I am going through rehabilitation at the Kenya Society for the Blind. I’m just a month old here, but I can comfortably use the white cane.
Next, I will learn how to use the computer. With training and technology, I can continue reading, writing, cooking, working, and much more.
In 2019, I frequently asked myself, “Why me?” At that time, the question came from a place of pain and anger. Now, if you hear me ask it aloud, it’s because I have found my answer. Losing my eyesight made me more sensitive to the struggles out there, and I believe that there is a life-changing lesson to be picked from it. “