As the world on Friday celebrated the International Day of Persons with Disabilities, in Murang’a, Stephen Ndichu, 46, was not distracted as he entered his 83rd day of his targeted 2,000 days of digging for money to buy himself a prosthetic leg.
His main goal is to raise Sh300,000, the amount required to buy the leg from a health facility based in Kiambu County.
“After waiting in vain for well-wishers to come to my aid, holding three harambees that raised a total of Sh23,000, I decided to take charge of my destiny,” he told the Nation at his Karigu-ini home village in Murang’a South Sub-County.
He now seeks menial jobs to do in his village at a daily pay of Sh200 of which he saves Sh150 for his prosthetic leg project.
“As others were busy celebrating the international day for those who like me live with disability, I was busy in a neighbour’s land digging. It was my 83rd day where by evening my savings would have hit Sh12,450 with 1,917 days to go for me to raise the remaining Sh287,550,” he said with a determined facial pull that hypnotises.
Passion to walk again
“It is for me, for my passion to walk again and my obsession to prove the society wrong that my disability means inability,” he added.
Mr Ndichu’s story of self-determination, faith and hope in life started in 2000 when his right leg developed a pimple just on the inner side of the ankle.
“It was a small itchy thing that I ignored. It developed into a wound that I would smear with banana stalk juice. It did not heed that traditional therapy and I started washing it with salty water,” he narrated.
The wound became bigger and it was in 2005 that his relatives got concerned after it had become apparent that there was more than met the eye with his leg.
“The wound had started oozing smelly puss. It was apparent that the flesh around it was rotting and the wound was spreading, becoming bigger. My wife, with whom we had two children, by then deserted me, saying the smell from my wound was too much to bear,” he said.
His life changed to that of stress since as a nonskilled man, his only hope of earning was in seeking casual labour.
“My leg was now a crisis by 2007 and it was causing me some stigma. Its discharge of smelly matter could not be stemmed and all I could now do was to stay at home to nurse my problem alone. I nearly got depression but my siblings were very supportive and they took care of my bills,” he said.
Mr Ndichu hopped from one hospital to the other and all he got were painkillers and recommendations for costly tests that he could not afford.
“I remember that in 2012, a hospital in Nairobi told me it could do some laboratory tests on my leg for Sh150,000. That is the money I imagined could buy for me land, build a permanent house, buy a car and invest in a wholesale shop. I could not imagine how one raised such a figure,” he said.
Tired of seeking medical help which was only aggravating his stress, he decided to stay at home and await fate to take its course.
“There comes a time in life when all you can rely on is the Almighty’s providence. I am his creation and he has plans for me. I decided to wait for those plans at home. I knew it was not in vain to wait on the Lord,” he said.
In 2019, Mr Ndichu got wind of a free medical camp that was being held at Maragua Level Four Hospital.
“My younger sister gave me the Sh80 needed as fare from my home village to Maragua and back. I took my burdensome leg to the camp and it is then that I saw God’s grace on me,” he said.
He says the medics there led by their team leader, Dr Stephen Ngigi, attended to him in a manner that left him appreciative that indeed God was now on his case.
“Dr Ngigi is the hospital’s medical superintendent. He just looked at the wound and he left to consult others. When he came back accompanied by three others, he asked for my next of kin. I provided the name of my sister-in-law Joyce Nyambura. I was admitted,” he narrated.
After one week of tests, it was decided that the leg had to be amputated.
“It was the most painful news I have ever received in my life so far. I thought there was a way I could be healed. I asked God why my investment in hope and faith was coming to such an anti-climax. I was counselled and eventually accepted that it was for my own good that the decision had to be effected,” he said.
With the amputation, his next challenge now was on accepting to be carried home liked a baby by Ms Nyambura, he said.
“I will never forget that feeling of shyness and with traces of shame. The 44-year-old me on the back of a woman, to the matatu terminus and another ride on her back to get to my house,” he narrated.
With no resources to buy a wheelchair, a neighbour donated to him some crutches.
“By the close of 2019, the wound on my amputated leg had healed and I had also come to accept my new condition to be the permanent. I have grown to love my stump after my leg was amputated above the knee. I convinced myself to conceptualise the promise that I am wonderfully and fearfully made.”
It is then that he started getting advice that he could walk again if he bought a prosthetic leg. He embraced that advice and asked around about the cost.
“On average, I was required to raise about Sh300,000. My heart fell. I have never imagined being in possession of such an amount. I am sure that is the pay of very many big people in this country,” he said.
He was advised to hold a harambee, and twice he did, and the highest contribution he got in the two drives was Sh1,000 from a politician. He gave up.
Work for a leg
But in January 2021, he made for himself a new year resolution that he would work for his leg.
“I started looking for menial labour in my village and my favourite work is digging. I have been digging when work is offered and by yesterday (Thursday), I was cumulatively on my 83rd day of digging,” he said.
He has to take a break when it rains.
His hope is in the immense goodwill he is receiving from his neighbours and who, despite his work of digging farms being seasonal, are trying their best to support him.
“I won’t take free money or go to the roadsides to beg. I will dig in people’s farms, which is a big challenge since I have to dig while seated and crawling to shift and change positions,” Mr Ndichu said.
Ms Nyambura now pleads with well-wishers to help him get the prosthetic leg saying it would improve his mobility. She adds g that he has proved that he is hardworking.
She also observed that the leg would help Ndichu become self-reliant and reunite with his wife.
Margaret Njoki, one of his neighbours, pleaded with Kandara MP Alice Wahome to connect Ndichu’s house to electricity and piped water so as to improve his quality of life.
Come to Ndichu’s rescue
However, things might be looking up for him after the chairman of Mt Kenya MCAs caucus Charles Mwangi Friday offered to mobilise the Murang’a County government to come to Mr Ndichu’s rescue.
“It is not right to be cast as a county that has well-endowed people but who can only look forward to read about Mr Ndichu’s plight. His struggles should have been captured long time ago and reprieve given. It is time to redeem ourselves from this shame, especially as Murang’a leaders,” he said.
According to the 2019 national census results, a total of 918,270 people aged over five years had a disability, females being 523,913, and 394,347 being males.
Of these, 394,330 had mobility disability, 333,520 had visual disability, and 9,729 had albinism.
Only 400,000 persons living with a disability are registered with the National Council of Persons with Disabilities (NCPWD) which helps them get government help.
Mr Ndichu is not registered with NCPWD.