In December 2016, Administration Police Officer Stephen Muturi had just come back from a two-week operation in Marsabit County when he started having severe headaches, which he thought were prompted by the change of environment.
When the headaches persisted, he went to a hospital, was treated and given medication.
On the morning of December 27, 2016, while he was working at a police camp’s motor vehicle workshop, Mr Muturi suddenly lost his eyesight.
“I reported to work that day but unfortunately I did not complete what had been assigned to do,” he said.
“I really panicked and raised a distress call to my fellow officers, telling them that I had lost my eyesight. They actually thought it was a joke. I never knew that was the day I was to begin the journey of darkness.”
Mr Muturi took time off to start treatment but doctors were on strike and he was not attended to on time. He was later referred to Kikuyu Hospital for a CT scan. The scan showed that he had a brain tumor.
The report marked the beginning of a life full of anxiety, tribulation, and hopelessness.
Mr Muturi was enrolled in rehabilitation and training at the Kenya Society for the Blind by the Kenya Police Service. He learnt to use a computer and computer applications for one year.
This, he said, helped him overcome the denial stage and accept his new situation. He said his family was his greatest support but admitted that adjusting to the new reality was difficult.
Mr Muturi could no longer do regular police work, including pursuing cattle thieves as an Anti-Stock Theft Unit (ASTU) officer.
“Life was hard at first, but I thank the deputy inspector-general of police for giving me another chance at the service,” he said.
“I was taken through rehabilitation, which helped me accept my situation, and the commandant at the ASTU held my hand and gave me fatherly advice that this was not the end of my life.”
The father of three said his new condition opened a new chapter in his life – that of attending to the community, especially people living with disabilities. He initiated the Bahati Walemavu Pamoja Community Based Organisation.
He said he purchased a computer fitted with JAWS (job access with speech) that is user friendly. It cost Sh150,000.
The visually impaired can read the screen with a text-to-speech output.
He said that with half of his salary he can run the projects for people living with disabilities, adding that the centre has helped more than 20 visually impaired persons to learn simple computer skills.
The group also acquired a 120-capacity incubator from the Nakuru County government for chick hatching. They also create awareness on disability and urge parents with disabled children not to hide them at home.
He also empowers girls through the organisation’s adolescent initiative, saying they have reached more than 1,500 since 2019. They donate sanitary towels and sensitise girls on the dangers of early marriage, teen pregnancies, HIV and drug and substance abuse.
Mr Muturi said the organisation has 31 registered members living with disabilities and meet once in a month
“When I came back to society as a blind person I went through a lot of tribulations. It is tough when one acquires a disability when he or she is already grown,” he said.
“I lost friends as nobody wanted to talk to me, and this is how the idea of helping the disabled came to my mind.”
He said his disability initially plunged him into depression, which he had to deal with for a whole year, but now he is happier because he has a new purpose in life.
When he is not at the Nakuru campus of Mount Kenya University, where he is studying community development, he is at work as head of the gender desk at the ASTU headquarters.
His wife of 14 years, Fridah Muturi, says despite his challenges, he can support the family and makes sure they never lack anything.
“Life has not been easy since he went blind but we thank God that he is able to do things on his own,” she said.
“The extended family has been very supportive of us, which keeps us pushing and also where he works as an officer they are normally.