Sad tale of Kenyan woman in a coma for seven years in Saudi Arabia

Martha Nyaguthii is in a coma at Aster Sanad Hospital in Saudi Arabia.

Eight years ago, Martha Nyaguthii packed her bags for Saudi Arabia in search of greener pastures.

Her dream was to offer her six-year-old son and her family a better life. 

Unfulfilled by what she was earning from her teaching practice and grocery businesses, Nyaguthii took the risk and promised to send back the much-needed help once she got her first pay in Saudi.

However, one year after she got there, she was admitted to Aster Sanad Hospital in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia with a skull injury. Nyaguthii, 38, has been in a coma since 2015.

Her son who was in Class One when she left is now a KCPE candidate at a school in Nyeri. 

According to Peninnah Favour, who has been Nyaguthii’s guardian in the Middle East, she was admitted to the hospital in early August 2015.

“To date, no one knows what happened to her. Doctors replaced her broken skull with a plastic one,” said Ms Favour in a recent interview with Sunday Standard via a video call.

Favour said she did not know Nyaguthii prior to her admission but one Sunday during a church service, Kenyans in Saudi spoke of Nyaguthii’s unfortunate state.

“They wanted someone to take care of her in the hospital. I volunteered and since September 2015, I have been with her in the hospital,” added Nyaguthii.

Favour says since her admission, Nyaguthii has been unconscious. She is fed using tubes and that is what has been keeping her alive.

Nyaguthii is said to have been in the Intensive Care United (ICU) for almost one year. However, she is said to have responded well to treatment.

Favour says balancing motherhood since she has four babies and taking care of Nyaguthii has not been easy.

“I consider her my sister. I speak to her even though she cannot answer. I also wash and clothe her,  and change her diapers five times a day,” she says.

However, Favour says she is able to take care of Nyaguthii since she has a background in nursing care.

Nyaguthii went to the Middle East through a Saudi-based agency. The agency takes care of her medical bills.

Martha Nyaguthii with her son two years before she went to Saudi Arabia. [File, Standard]

Favour’s prayer is that Nyaguthii regains consciousness so that she comes back to her family.

Nyaguthii’s sister Zipporah Maina says her sister had no known medical condition when she left the country in 2014.

“All she wanted was to change our lives and in doing so, she has lost hers for over seven years. Something happened to her. Something bad but we don't know what,” says Ms Maina.

Maina says when her sister left, she made a promise to keep in touch. It has been over seven years since they heard from her.

“She was a trained caregiver and went there to take care of the elderly. The first year things went on well and she used to send money back home every month without fail,” says Ms Maina.

Nyaguthii’s last call was to one of her three siblings. She promised to call her mother the following day but did not.

“Days turned to weeks, weeks to months, but we did not hear from her. We could not reach out to any other person, because we didn’t know anyone there,” she says.

They filed a missing person report to the authorities with no positive response, because they didn’t have her agency’s papers and almost gave up because no information on her whereabouts came along.

Ms Maina’s friend called her and informed her that there was a post on Facebook, on a woman who was in a coma in Saudi Arabia.

The post dated August 8, 2015, had Nyaguthii’s Identity Card and her photo adjacent to each other.

“The lady in the hospital bed is Martha Nyaguthii, she is admitted to one of the hospitals in Saudi Arabia. Her friends are trying to get in touch with the family. She hails from Mathome, Ruguruti in Othaya. Please pass the message to her family if you know her,” read the Facebook post.

Ms Maina says Nyaguthii's story has taken a toll on her helpless parents. 

Martha Nyaguthii went to the Middle East through a Saudi-based agency. 

When they could no longer hide the post from Nyaguthii’s son, they told him, “The report traumatised him to date. The story was also aired on television so we couldn't hide it from him for long.”

Despite several promises from politicians that they will push for Nyaguthii to be brought back home, nothing has been done to date.

“They had also promised to process documents for two family members to travel there to visit her but this also has never materialised. We only rely on Favour who sends frequent updates and her photos in hospital,” she says.

“We had planned to travel in 2020. However, the pandemic hit,” she says.

Her parents, Jane Njeri and Maina Muthangiri are now pleading with the government to help bring their daughter home.

“All we are asking for is to see our daughter again, hold her in our arms. Nothing more,” said Ms Njeri.

A doctor from the hospital who sought anonymity because of the hospital’s policy said  Nyaguthii’s recovery process was impressive.

“Her eyes have opened and although she cannot move her breathing is better,” said the doctor.

The doctor noted that it would be expensive for her to be transported from Saudi Arabia to Kenya in that condition.  

The Sunday Standard reached out to Macharia Kamau, the Principal Secretary of Foreign Affairs over the issue but he said the Ministry of Labour is in charge of workers in the Middle East.

Our calls and texts to Labour CS Simon Chelugui went unanswered.