Rosemary Odinga on her struggles with blindness

ODM leader Raila Odinga leads his daughter Rosemary to her seat at St.Stephens ACK Parish in Kisumu on February 17, 2019. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

ODM leader Raila Odinga is currently in India amid conflicting reports about an ailing family member.

Various social media reports indicate that the African Union Special Envoy for Infrastructure allegedly accompanied his daughter Rosemary for eye treatment.

In a video posted by the Indian online news channel, Koothattukulam News, Raila and his two daughters are seen landing in a helicopter.

According to the website, Raila had taken Rosemary for an eye check-up.

“Former Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga and family helicopter landing on Koothattukulam High School ground. Arrived at Koothattukulam Sreedhareyam Eye Hospital for the treatment of Raila's daughter Rosemary,” read the video's caption.

On reaching one of the family members for confirmation, she dismissed the reports saying, “He is in India for an official visit. Kindly seek clarification from our Kenyan high commission. The daughters are accompanying him on this visit."

In 2019, Rosemary shared with The Standard a story on her struggles with blindness.

In an emotional revelation after she regained her sight after two years of seeking treatment, Rosemary said she had sought treatment in Nairobi, Germany, South Africa, Israel and India

Rosemary spoke as she recounted the joy of seeing her children again after two years of blindness.

Rosemary, Raila’s firstborn daughter, said she could see and would no longer need the white cane that had become her partner in mobility since 2017 when doctors first declared her blind.

In a brief but emotional address to a congregation at St Peter’s ACK Church in Nyamira, Rosemary said her happiest moment was when she saw her children for the first time after two years in total darkness.

Rosemary did not, however, specify when she exactly regained her eyesight but said it was after undergoing several surgeries in Nairobi, Germany, South Africa, Israel and India. She was being treated for a brain tumour that rendered her blind for almost two years.

“When I came back from India, it was very emotional to see my children for the first time after two years. I thank all of you for your prayers.”

She was accompanied by her father who also told the congregation how Rosemary’s sickness devastated the family.

“It was painful to see my daughter go into a coma for more than one week and the many trips we made in and out of hospitals,” said Raila.

The Odinga family had gathered for Christmas church service when Raila revealed how the news of his daughter’s sickness hit him like a thunderbolt.

Rosemary fell ill in 2017 and after undergoing surgery at a Nairobi hospital, she was taken to South Africa for further treatment.

“She was flown to Johannesburg, South Africa, by an air ambulance, accompanied by Ida,” Raila said.

In Johannesburg, Ida had to rent an apartment where they spent three months as doctors diagnosed the ailment.

Raila said they also sought treatment for their daughter in Israel and Germany.

But it was in China where a professor of medicine finally discovered what Rosemary was suffering from.

A scan that was earlier sent from South Africa alarmed the Chinese doctor who ordered that she be flown there immediately.

“She was diagnosed with a tumour in the brain and the doctors declared it an emergency. She underwent a three-in-one operation that took 10 hours,” he said.

Rosemary walked on her own as she entered the church for the service with Raila by her side. She did not have the white cane that has been her partner in mobility for two years.

As she stood to address the congregation, Rosemary recounted how her independence was affected by the loss of eyesight but credited her family and friends for supporting her.

“It was very challenging. I am used to living a certain lifestyle where I am very independent. Suddenly, I couldn’t see my children and my parents,” she said.

Rosemary who spoke in fluent Luo, said that even though her eyes were “wide open”, she could only hear people.

Her recovery

Recalling the journey to her recovery, she moved the congregation as she narrated how emotional it was to see her children after two years.

“I would sit alone and recognised people through their behaviours. It wasn’t easy but I thank God for the miracle,” she said.

She added: “When I heard tap! tap! on the door, I knew that was my dad. When I said how are you dad, he would think that I was seeing him.”

For about two years, her health condition triggered a feeling of confusion, anger, depression and a sense of loss to the Odinga family.