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For better, for worse: 27 years beside bedridden husband

 Diana Cheboi and her husband Fanuel Koima at their Esageri home in Mogotio Baringo County on October 4, 2023. [Julius Chepkwony, Standard]

When Fanuel Koima and his wife Diana Cheboi said their marriage vows, "for better, for worse... in sickness and in health", they hoped mostly for better. However, just a year later they would find their resolve tested in a way no one imagined.

When we meet him, Koima lies on his bed relaxed with a TV remote control in his hand as he scans for channels. Inside the room, an oscillating fan creates a cool breeze.

Fanuel couldn’t hide his joy at seeing us. He smiled - all was calm in his world. Beside him was his devoted wife Diana Cheboi.

Diana, a teacher at Kamelilo Day Secondary School in Eldama Ravine, had just arrived from school. She sits beside her husband, she wants to know how his day was.

Her words are sweet and warm; she wants to make sure he is alright. From his bed, Fanuel stretches his hand to greet us. Fanuel is immobile. A conversation starts and laughter fills the room.

Diana seeks to know whether her husband has eaten anything. She also wants to know what he would like to have for dinner. Fanuel, a former Telkom Kenya employee survived a tragic road accident in Kampi ya Moto on the Nakuru-Mogotio road on May 20, 1996.

The accident left him with a spinal injury that confined him to a wheelchair. His condition, however, worsened and found himself bedridden.

“It was a wonderful wedding; however, something happened after the wedding, my husband was involved in an accident,” says Diana, recalling the events of February 5, 1995, at Muserechi Full Gospel Churches of Kenya, their wedding day.

Diana was only 24 years old, but when pushed to the wall, she chose her vows. She had to live by the promise she had made in front of God; "For better, for worse, for poorer for richer, in health and sickness."

“I guard the vows jealously,” she says.

 Diana Cheboi and her husband Fanuel Koima during their wedding on February 5, 1995, at Muserechi Full Gospel Churches of Kenya. [Julius Chepkwony, Standard]

Diana says when the accident occurred, she was in a hardware shop in Nakuru when she noticed a crowd milling around the shop, conversing in low tones. She sensed something was not right and got curious.

“I was six months pregnant then, I saw people gather around the shop and I got suspicious. I gathered my courage and asked what the matter was. One told me he was sorry and broke the news that my husband was involved in a tragic accident,” she says.

The tyre of the vehicle her husband was travelling in burst. The car rolled several times. In the vehicle were two other people who sustained minor injuries.

Diana rushed to hospital and found her husband lying down. She prayed that he would survive. She was afraid the worst would happen.

“I felt a sharp pain in my stomach when I saw him and prayed to God to save him for the sake of our unborn child. That was the time I needed him the most,” she says.

Her husband though in pain gave her a big smile. He held her shaking hands and promised her all would be well. He assured her that God was in control, and the doctors too promised her all would be okay.

“I consoled myself that all would be okay. I thanked God my husband was still alive. I was glad that we could still see each other,” says Diana. Her life had suddenly changed, but she kept going. 

Diana says she used to spend the night at the hospital and would sleep in a wheelchair. Though bedridden, Fanuel was eager to meet his unborn baby.

Meanwhile, he was transferred to a hospital in Nairobi for further treatment, and his wife was unable to be with him often due to her pregnancy.

The doctors had asked her to restrict her movements and stay home longer. Months later she gave birth to a baby boy and when the news reached her husband he asked that he be named Rodgers.

Even as a new mother, Diana would visit her husband in hospital, commuting between the facility and Morop Girls, where she taught between 1998 and 1999.

But life was not easy. Diana confesses that the situation remained tough and that she experienced pressure from people to quit the marriage.

“Many believed this was a bad omen, especially because it happened in the initial stages of our marriage. Some people told me to quit but I told myself 'No, this is a vow'. I made up my mind that I would serve this man, and I give God the glory. 'I asked myself suppose it was me, what would I want.. and vowed to stay firm,'” she says.

Diana says she chose patience, adding that she was ready to walk the healing journey with her husband, who always assures her.

“My prince charming was handsome, he is still handsome. The love bond made things work for us, I have had to be more understanding and patient. I found a sense of humour in the challenges I face,” she says.

Diana has documented her journey in a book to be unveiled on October 21 at an event to be held at Kamelilo Day Secondary School.

The book titled Larger than Life talks about the scars of her life. It talks about her living the vows she took 27 years ago.

The teacher says she feels happiness each time she wakes up to find her husband awake smiling at her because that means yet another day of her and him living their marriage.

 Diana Cheboi and her husband Fanuel Koima at their Esageri home. [Julius Chepkwony, Standard]

She has to wake up each night at an interval of three hours to tend to her husband by turning him. In the morning, she will clean him and change his bedding before leaving for work.

“In the evening when I come back from work he gives me that generous smile, welcomes me back and I feel contented,” says Diana.

And Fanuel Koima does not take it for granted. Having a supportive wife has kept him going. He says his wife has never complained despite all she has to do.

For better or worse.

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