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Dreams are valid: Dr Riro Mwita

Health & Science
 Dr Riro Mwita. [File, Standard]

Dr Riro Mwita was born a normal child, but one year later, polio struck, and his legs were affected, leaving him with a disability that has not made him unable to carry out his daily chores, working as a consultant physician at Kiambu Level 5 hospital.

He was born in the 70s and was not lucky to be immunized against Poliomyelitis which left him physically challenged.

“We did not have many hospitals in Kuria back then, and in the whole country, we did not have polio campaigns on the importance of the oral vaccine like we have today.

Also working as a lecturer at the school of medicine at Kenyatta University, he qualified to be a doctor in 2002 from the University of Nairobi where he had gone through many stages to get there.

His journey began in Makarangwe Primary school in Kuria, a kilometre from the Kenya-Tanzania border.

His father who was a teacher would escort him to school after having one of his shoes modified to help him walk, but because he was not walking too much, his leg got a contracture (a fixed tightening of muscle, tendon ligaments or skin that prevents normal movement of the associated part) which meant he had to drop out of school for a few months to get medical attention.

He was admitted to a Nyabondo Rehab Centre in Nyakach, Kisumu where he had an operation and was put on callipers (devices made of metal rods that are held together by straps which are used to support a person’s legs when they cannot walk properly) to help him move.

The correction of the tendons on his legs was a defining moment for him because it meant he had a chance to go on with his life and be at par with his agemates in terms of education after his surgery, he was moved to Nyabondo School in Kisumu

A Ugandan doctor that attended to him at that time inspired him to become a doctor although it wasn’t as clear at that time as it is right now, saying his choice to become a doctor was the best decision he has ever made in his life.

 Dr Riro Mwita. [File, Standard]

“My life just changed, I moved out of Kuria and met other people from other communities and that was how I got the idea of being a doctor. At Nyabondo I had friends who helped me get my way around, we depended on water from a well so they would fetch the water for me, help me sit down and wash my clothes, and then they would hang them on the lines and I believe those classmates became my life-long friends.”

He then proceeded to Lenana School where he also faced challenges such as slippery floors and falling severally but the school administration helped him by ensuring the floors were always cleaned and dried to avoid such accidents.

“Again, my friends were there for me, helped me get up whenever I fell, ensured they cleaned the floors well, and I am grateful that wherever I went, there were adjustments made to accommodate me.”

Off to campus, he went. Nairobi University it was.

He was lucky to have been posted in Hall 1 which was designed for people with disability and had a bathtub which made his life easier, in addition to a vehicle that had been set aside to ferry people with disabilities to the Chiromo campus for their classes.

“Sometimes the vehicle would delay yet we had classes in the morning, so some of my friends and I would walk to Chiromo because I had stopped wearing the callipers in 1995 so movement became easier because my muscles were getting stronger.”

He also did not struggle during his attachment at Kenyatta National Hospital as he was assigned to block A which was near the mess and the exit, which was very convenient for him.

He would easily find his way to the wards using the lifts apart from the rush hours where all the lifts would be fully occupied, “but people would see me wearing a white coat and would know probably this is a doctor and he is going to see pour patients, so they always made space for me, it is something in our society, I believe.”

During his study period and practice, he never doubted the choice he had made to become a doctor, his confidence won everyone around him over because he knew nothing was going to stop him from pursuing his dream, not even his physical challenge.

 Dr Riro Mwita. [File, Standard]

“I don’t think anybody would discourage me by telling me you will do surgery or other complex procedures because even in theatres in Kenyatta I would assist doing some of those procedures such as caesarian sections.”

He then proceeded to Nakuru General Hospital for his internship which was a busy hospital, but the hospital designed a tall stool they named, ‘Sina Makosa’ to make his work comfortable, where he would be assisted and go on with his work.

Although the stool was comfortable, he found that he could not sit all day as he did his surgeries but would be assisted to stand and move around by his colleagues who kept on pushing him to be the best that he could be.

“They would joke and say, ‘hey man on four legs, you have to do these things’ and that was how I got so good at my trade because they always pushed me and encouraged me. “

He believes anyone with a disability of any kind can achieve their dreams by showing the confidence that they can do what they ought to do, without showing any form of weakness, and always understanding that their challenge should not stop them from pursuing it.

“I was smooth with ladies, so it wasn’t hard to get a wife,” he jokes, adding that after marrying her, he had to take up extra duties to earn an extra coin to fend for his growing family.

He is part of the Old Boys Association at Lenana School where he has helped the administration modify the sick bay to suit students with disabilities, urging the other institutions to make such modifications to accommodate people with disabilities who may visit or work in such institutions, as well as modifying the public transport to accommodate people on wheelchairs.

He urges parents not to give up on their children with a disability where most of them have been hidden away from society in the past, explaining that any child can become successful in life with or without the challenges they have.

One of the challenges he has faced during his adult life is getting a house built to accommodate people with disability, adding that most are storey apartments where one is required to use stairs which will be a huge challenge to people with a physical disability.

“I hope that the affordable housing projects by the government have houses that are suited for people with physical challenges because I have seen most of the houses have a bedroom upstairs, it is like nobody expects that a person with a disability can afford a mortgage in ten or twenty years to come, but that needs to change.”

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