In Summary
  • Doctors say that with physiotherapy, the cells can slowly reactivate themselves, and he can recover. But that will take time.
  • Eric’s illness brought back memories of my childhood.
  • Looking back, I have never seen my father walk. He was always in a wheelchair.
  • Do you have feedback on this story? E-mail: [email protected]

‘Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage’ were words uttered by Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu who may have had me in mind.

My love story is incomplete without the story of my husband’s illness and how it changed me.

In early 2016, my husband Eric Odhiambo Ouma was diagnosed with encephalitis.

It’s an inflammation of the brain tissue which resulted in weakness of the limbs and he developed convulsive disorder which has left him paralysed.

Eric’s condition has changed my life. I live a day at a time. I don’t know what tomorrow holds since there is no proper diagnosis.

I also do not expect a sudden change.

Those who know me say that I do not look like I am taking care of a sick person. But I have to be strong for him, myself and the children.

When friends visit and tell me that I am strong, I ask myself, “How else must I be when a situation like this comes our way?” I have to be strong. Such is life.

BUBBLY MOTHER

My name is Mercy Jerop Cherutich. My 13-year-old son, who is in boarding school, has to come home to a mother who is lively, and my two daughters aged six and five years have to play with a bubbly mother.

It has been difficult watching as Eric gets confined to a wheelchair.

Eric, a great outdoors guy, woke up very fit one morning in February 2016 and after visiting the bathroom he came back mumbling like a dumb person.

He could not talk.

Two days before, he had a sore throat that refused to go away.

We rushed to see a doctor and as soon as we got there, he regained his speech.

The doctor could not understand what had happened.

A few weeks later, he caught a very bad fever and his urine was dark brown. The doctor did some liver tests but could not identify anything.

He was given antibiotics and admitted in hospital for five days. Without much improvement, we went back home.

At this time, we had been talking about formalising our marriage in a civil wedding ceremony and the time had already come.

On the morning on April, 9, 2016, Eric became very sick, he seemed tired and limp.

My best friend, who is a doctor, had travelled to be my witness at the ceremony examined him and confirmed that he was not well.

We prayed and left to get the flowers for the ceremony.

The ceremony was scheduled at 2:30pm. On coming back, Eric was already up and preparing. He said he was feeling better.

We left for the ceremony and later had a great evening party at a restaurant in Kisumu town.

DAMAGED LEFT SIDE OF HIS BRAIN

A month later, he suffered a high fever, developed weakness on his right leg and hand, started to walk with a walking stick and could not even drive.

We went to see a doctor and he recommended that we have an MRI scan done and other blood tests and the reports showed the inflammation of the brain and he was diagnosed with a brain infection.

The infection damaged part his left side of the brain, affecting the motor sensory cells that communicate to the limbs to control muscle function.

Doctors say that with physiotherapy, the cells can slowly reactivate themselves, and he can recover. But that will take time.

Eric’s illness brought back memories of my childhood.

Looking back, I have never seen my father walk. He was always in a wheelchair. He had suffered an accident when I was three years old.

This has helped me to cope with Eric’s transformation psychologically because of how I saw my mother take care of my father.

EXTRA-MARITAL AFFAIR

There was this other lady he had been involved with and even bore a child.

Since I had known her after Eric confessed to me, he felt that it was okay for this woman to visit him at home and I realised that this relationship was still going on, yet he was sick and dependent.

This is a lady with a strong personality. She once said to my face: “I am in love with your husband.”

Eric, having grown up in a polygamous home, could not understand my dissatisfaction with the affair.

When I got to find out about this affair in the year 2014, I had asked Eric to make a decision about this lady and his life, and he told me that he has chosen to stay with his family.

He acted as though it was over. He smartly covered up everything.

Last year, as the sickness crept in, pastors would visit Eric and me at home, to pray for Eric and encourage us and he would make confessions of his struggle with this affair and seek for guidance, direction and prayer.

He eventually decided to leave the lady for good. This was after a long and a difficult process, but I choose to forgive him.

I COULD HAVE LEFT

I could have left, but I analysed the situation and concluded that if I left him at his most dependent time in his life, everyone would blame me, especially that I had “hidden this secret from my family and friends”.

His life is on the line. I have a daily routine that I have to carry out for him from the time he wakes up till his bed time. I bathe him, brush his teeth, feed him all his meals, help with toilet issues, and move him from one place to another. Eric is on homecare 100 per cent.

In May 2017, we went to India after we felt that we were not getting the right diagnosis of the disease.

Our family and friends assisted in financing of the medical trip and when we got there, he was not responding well to medication.

He was getting frequent seizures, at some point his oxygen levels dropped and he had to be taken to the ICU.

When he got better, we had to come back as the bills were swelling and doctors were unable to establish the cause of his paralysis.

Mercy Jerop Cherutich and her husband Eric Odhiambo Ouma who suffers from encephalitis. PHOTO| COURTESY

Page 1 of 2