By Gardy Chacha
Having given birth to a child with cerebral palsy, Jardine Mwangeka, 54 dedicated her life to ensuring persons living with the condition lead a normal fulfilling life.
Every young woman envisions a satisfying future made complete by a loving husband and doting children. This was not any different for Jardine Mwangeka, especially after graduating from University of Nairobi in 1981, when female graduates were few and far between.
What she faced and the direction her life took though, is a stark contrast of what she had envisaged. Jardine Mwangeka’s story reads like an epic scripted for a Hollywood shoot.
“God planned my course and I have accepted it,” she contently says.
Mwangeka, 54, is the chairperson of Cerebral Palsy Society of Kenya (CPSK). She has dedicated herself to ensure persons living with cerebral palsy lead a relatively normal life that’s comfortable to the most possible extent.
“As a parent of a 21-year-old son living with the condition, I understand the challenges that parents with such children go through and that’s why I continue to dedicate my life to do the best I can for them,” she says.
Her first-born son was born with cerebral palsy (CP), a condition that annuls the functionality of body muscles as well as other body organs. She named him Harrison Isuwirio: “Isuwirio means waiting with hope in my Taita language,” she offers.
A year after Mwangeka completed her university degree, she got married to her husband who at the time worked as a tourist attaché in Sweden in 1982. She joined him abroad so they could start their lives legally, having been betrothed to him. Like any newly wedded wife, she was enthusiastic about getting her first child.
“Our first year together went by and I didn’t conceive. Then the second and the third years came and went, causing me anxiety and worry,” she remembers.
After returning back from Sweden in 1984, Mwangeka began seeking gynaecologists for evaluation and treatment. By 1989, she had made numerous visits to dozens of doctors, but none seemed to understand what had put her reproductive system on a stymie. For a while, she gave up the search for a baby, but resumed in 1990.
She sought the services of Dr Hansa Patel — an obstetric gynaecologist who had no children and didn’t feel like having any, though she helped other women get children of their own.