Erastus Ofula sits in his bedroom next to a hospital bed that has replaced the matrimonial bed he shared with his wife for over ten years.
Roseline Mumo snores quietly, lying in absolute stillness until Ofula leans in and claps his hands sharply, causing Mumo’s body to shake as if startled before settling back into sleep.
“Previously, she would not respond to that,” says Ofula.
It has been a grueling 10-months for this doting husband and father of two boys aged 12 and 3 after illness snatched away his spouse and plunged her into a coma.
How Roseline, whom he describes as tough, ended up helpless is still a puzzle to Ofula.
“This is someone who has never been sick,” he says.
He only remembers her complain of chest pains due to a heavy cough. She went to a doctor and was prescribed drugs that did not work. After a week she went to another doctor and was prescribed an inhaler, which brought her some relief.
Then came August 23 and Roseline could not wake up.
The previous night, Ofula says, they had retired to bed at 10pm. They chatted until midnight then Roseline suddenly went quiet.
Ofula helped her take three puffs of Ventolin that appeared to offer relief.
“I thought she was just relaxing,” he says.
But when she did not wake up at 4am, as is the routine, he panicked. “I tried sitting her up, but she kept falling from the side.”
Adrenaline kicked in and he woke up a neighbour. By 4:30am, they were at the nearby Nairobi Women’s Hospital in Ongata Rongai where doctors started fighting to bring Roseline back to life.
Tests were run and the diagnosis was devastating – pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis.
“She had suffered a massive stroke on her right side. There was a blood clot in her chest and another in her leg,” Ofula says.
It was advised that she needed specialised treatment so Ofula arranged for her to be moved to Nairobi Hospital.
“I figured that we are both insured so they will just treat her and my wife will soon be back on her feet.”
But he was in for a rude shock. Doctors told him part of his wife’s brain was dying due to lack of oxygen. The brain was also swelling so emergency surgery was done to remove a small section of the skull to relieve pressure.
For nearly six months Roseline lay in hospital and underwent a second surgery to re-attach the piece of skull that had been removed.
One month later she was discharged. By this time the hospital bill stood at Sh7.2 million, nearly double the couple’s insurance limit of Sh4 million.
“When we came from hospital, we used to have a 24-hour nurse, but the hospital would charge us Sh130,000 a month. I had to terminate that arrangement and talk to my house-help to assist me, of course with a raise,” Ofula says.
Then the unthinkable happened and Ofula was retrenched. “It was May 23. I had walked to work when I was summoned to the human resources office. I was told they were laying me off as a result of redundancy.”
He shrugs his shoulders and forces a smile on his face. “I just said ‘it is okay’ as this would give me more time with my wife.”
With medical bills beckoning, the only relief is that Roseline’s employer, Sankara Hotel, has maintained her on payroll.
Employees at his former employer, Nairobi Serena Hotel, also raised nearly Sh250,000 for his wife’s care.
“Do not burn bridges. You never know where your help will come from,” he says.
Roseline has to fed, cleaned and helped to change her sleeping position every three hours, which Ofula gladly does. He says he is optimistic because he sees gradual signs of progress. “I gave an assurance to her parents that she will be safe with me. It is good to stand by your spouse no matter the situation. This is just a tide; it will pass,” he says.