What you need to know:
- As a little boy growing up in Nakuru, Josphat dreamt of becoming an international gospel preacher one day.
- Little did he know that he would have to rely on his positive attitude to get through the challenge of losing his ability to walk.
Celebrated motivational speaker and author Nick Vujicic once said that the challenges in our lives are there to strengthen our convictions. They are not there to run us over. And 23-year-old Josphat Maina is a testament to this.
When he was a little boy, Josphat enjoyed playing with his friends, like any other child.
“One of the games that I enjoyed playing is running with a paint can lid tied with a string whose number of rounds depends on your speed,” he recalls, smiling at the memory.
He dreamt of becoming an international gospel preacher when he grew up. Little did he know that he was about to start a life-long battle with disability.
He was about six years old when he began feeling pain in his legs. So severe was the pain that he could not play with his friends and would sit down and watch them in longingly.
His mother, Irene Njeri, says that Josphat had delayed milestones as a child, but she did not think much of it, confident that he would soon catch up with this peers.
“When he was done crawling, he started making a few steps and eventually walked. But at some point, he went back to crawling, and I had to force him to walk again,” she recalls.
She recalls that when he was about two years old, he started walking but with a lot of difficulty. His mother thought he was just afraid of walking.
“When he finally joined nursery school, the problem was now more visible as he strained to the point of twisting his waist while walking. The bones were protruding from the middle of his both feet, and we had to seek medical help,” she says.
According to Irene, when the bones were removed, he had to remain in plaster for some months to allow the feet to heal.
“When the plaster was finally removed, he could not wear his shoes directly, and he had to have a canvas on before putting them on,” she adds.
At the same time, his arms became very weak. Josphat recalls how some of his peers became judgmental and could not accommodate him in their games since they didn’t understand his condition.
Being the lastborn in a family of three, his parents didn’t think there was anything unusual since his siblings were all in good health.
An operation was conducted in 2006, but the problem persisted. He walked while bending and could only walk a few meters before resting as he could get overly weary during this time.
“This was when my mother started carrying me on her back every morning to school,” says Josphat.
In the evenings, when everyone was in a hurry to get home, he depended on his mother, who he says never got late to pick him.
Irene recalls how she had to make sure he attended school by carrying him on her back.
Josphat’s father worked as a teacher while she stayed at home to take care of the children.
“I always prayed for him and hoped that one day he would be healed completely,” says Irene.
His parents got him a bicycle that helped his mum take him to school by pushing it while he rode on the seat.
He eventually learnt how to ride on his own, but the challenge was that he could not climb onto it on his own.
“I would help him climb before leaving for school with the hope that he doesn’t fall off on his way since he could not get back on his own because if it happened, he would wait until he got help,” says Irene.
Several tests were later conducted to establish the cause since the condition worsened every day.
He was later diagnosed with nerve-related, which had also affected his arms that had grown very weak. He underwent a third operation on his right arm to help strengthen it.
The specialist advised that he should do more exercises and practice holding things for the hands to regain the muscles and strength.
This was followed by visits to several hospitals as his parents wanted to find a lasting solution, even though his ailment was never properly diagnosed.
“We visited different hospitals starting with the then Provincial General Hospital Nakuru. We finally ended up at The Aga Khan Hospital where I was admitted for a short period of time but then later got admitted at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) for one year,” he says.
At KNH, the specialists could not get the solution and so they later referred him to AIC Kijabe Mission Hospital where another operation was done on both feet and his right arm.
There was only a slight improvement on his feet while his doctor requested some time to think about the problem.
“One of the senior doctors at the hospital thought the problem could be in the head, and they decided to refer me to a hospital in Kampala Uganda which they did with a report that gave a go-ahead for a brain surgery,” says Josphat.
In Uganda, doctors advised that all he needed was more exercises to maintain and improve muscle growth.
The pain eased with time as he managed it with painkillers, and he started learning to do some things on his own.
All this time, he kept a positive attitude which left most people wondering why.
“I recall how easy it was for me to interact with my fellow patients in the hospital. One unforgettable interaction was with a Sudanese patient whose hospital bed was next to mine. She gave me some gifts to take home on my discharge day,” he says, smiling at the memory.
After completing his studies, he decided to take up the role of inspiring people going through life challenges by holding public talks.
He is now a motivational speaker and runs a groceries shop at St Betty’s market, where he earns his daily bread.
“My simple motivation is my desire to live a happy and the life I promised myself because life becomes better when you set your mind and energy on what is good, constructive and productive,” he says.
“My desire is to venture into the printing field to go along with the motivational speaking where I intend to be publish my motivational messages on t-shirts and other garments and be an accomplished motivational speaker,” he adds.
He holds talks in youth forums, churches, and schools to speak to candidates before sitting their national examinations.