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Deeper story behind my father’s ailment – Ex-Mt. Elgon MP John Serut’s daughter, Michelle

NATIONAL
By Brian Okoth | October 16th 2021

Former Mt. Elgon MP John Serut is recuperating from bone marrow cancer treatment. His daughter, Michelle, has launched a financial aid appeal. [Mbugua Kibera, Standard]

 

For 23-year-old Michelle Serut, her major prayer now is her father, John Serut, gets back on his feet.

 

John, a former three-time Member of Parliament (MP) for Mt. Elgon Constituency, is battling myeloma, a type of bone marrow cancer.

In myeloma, cancerous plasma cells accumulate in the bone marrow and crowd out healthy blood cells.

Rather than produce helpful antibodies, the cancer cells produce abnormal proteins that can cause complications.

Cancer cells don't mature and then die as normal cells do, they accumulate, eventually overwhelming the production of healthy cells. This, doctors say, leads to fatigue and an inability to fight infections.

The problems myeloma can cause include damage to the kidneys and bones. This increases the risk of broken bones.

There is no clear cause of myeloma.

John Serut’s ailment journey

John Serut’s daughter, Michelle, who is the last born in a family of five siblings, says her father’s ailment started in 2017, when he was still serving as MP for Mt. Elgon.

“He would fall down and then, shortly thereafter, regain consciousness,” Michelle told The Standard on Saturday, October 16.

That happened repeatedly for a while, prompting the then-lawmaker to seek treatment.

“Doctors who diagnosed him at the time, said he was ailing from anaemia, which caused his recurrent fall,” said Michelle.

Anaemia is a deficiency in the number or quality of red blood cells in your body. Red blood cells carry oxygen around your body.

“Dad was treated for the disease. His condition improved, but only for a short period. In 2018, his health deteriorated, leading to his hospitalisation. At the hospital, he was still being treated for anaemia,” said Michelle.

In mid-2019, when BBI campaigns had been launched countrywide, Serut’s condition worsened, prompting his family to seek alternative diagnosis.

“One of dad’s friends recommended he consults a doctor at the Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH). It was this particular doctor who advised dad to take bone marrow cancer tests. Upon examination, the results returned positive for myeloma.”

John Serut was, consequently, admitted to the KNH starting December 27, 2019.

In April 2020, he was discharged, and travelled to his Mt. Elgon home.

“While at home, his condition deteriorated again, forcing us to take him to the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret. There, he underwent a session of chemotherapy after doctors discovered that the cancerous cells in him had increased significantly,” said the ex-MP’s daughter.

Michelle said the chemotherapy session triggered a bleeding episode in her father, forcing the family to transfer him to the Eldoret Hospital, a private facility.

“While at the Eldoret Hospital, he was admitted to the ICU, then HDU before being transferred to the normal ward.”

In early June 2020, Serut was discharged from the Eldoret Hospital. He was, however, under chemotherapy treatment until October that year.

Later 2020, the former MP fell down, fracturing his hip. That wasn’t noticed until tests were conducted. It was then that doctors discovered that the impact of the fall had badly affected Serut’s hip bone.

“In January 2021, dad underwent a complete hip replacement procedure at the Nairobi Hospital.”

According to Michelle, Serut, 67, has been in hospital at least four times in 2021 – February, April, June and August. In all these visits, he has been admitted to the three different wards: ICU, HDU and normal ward.

“Since his ailment was first diagnosed in 2017, a total of Sh20 million has been spent on his treatment. Insurance companies and my mum, Pamela, are the ones who have footed the medical bills so far.

“I don’t have the respective bill breakdowns, but I remember mum spent Sh2 million on dad’s treatment at the KNH,” said Michelle Serut.

According to the Economics and Statistics graduate, who currently works as a Mathematician in Nairobi, the family’s finances are exhausted, leaving them with no other choice but to turn to well-wishers for assistance.

“I grew up knowing my parents are rich. I never imagined we’d one day be in a situation where we are seeking financial aid. I heard people saying many families in Kenya are one disease away from poverty. I’m not saying we, the Seruts, are poor, but I’ve come to understand what that phrase exactly means,” said Michelle.

The 23-year-old says the family is looking at raising Sh6 million for her father’s subsequent medical care.

“Dad is currently recuperating at his Nairobi home. The Sh6 million we are hoping to raise won’t go to his already accrued medical bills, no. Those bills were footed by mum and insurance companies. The Sh6 million we are hoping to raise would be used on his subsequent medical care and insurance cover,” said Michelle.

“We are hoping to use the money to fly him to Israel to a medical facility that has specialised in treating people suffering from myeloma.”

According to the lastborn child, her father’s cancer “has been managed”, though there are still traces of the cancerous cells in his body.

“There was a time the cancer treatment had adverse effects on him, including making him lose his memory. He, he is, however, much better now.”

On her conversations with her father, Michelle says: “He is optimistic that he would recover. He is currently undergoing physiotherapy at home.”

Michelle says she has been the closest child to her father among all her four siblings.

“Since he fell ill in 2017, I’m the one who has been there with him in hospital, most times. That explains why I’m at the forefront in pushing for this fundraising drive.”

The vicenarian has urged Kenyans mocking her – for “begging” yet her father was wealthy when serving as an MP – to be sensitive and understanding of people’s situations.

“We are all human. People make mistakes. Before you hurl a stone at someone, take your time to understand the context the person you are intending to attack is in. Always try to listen and understand first before acting or reacting,” she said.

According to Michelle, the medical bill kitty for her father has so far raised Sh283,000 against the Sh6 million target in five days.

“Kenyans are kind. Some are sending Sh10, others Sh250, and you can clearly see that that’s the much they had in their mobile money wallets. That is selflessness, which has left me speechless.”

Michelle says her father’s typical day entails watching news bulletins, listening to country music and inquiring about his children’s welfare.

“I don’t usually inform him about some of the hatred targeted at him on social media. That’s the last thing one would tell an ailing person. And, I’d like to say without God, I don’t think my father would be alive today,” stated Michelle, adding that her mother, Pamela Serut, has also been instrumental in her father’s healing journey.

On micro-blogging site Twitter, Michelle who goes by the name Chemoss and Twitter handle @MishSerut, made a passionate appeal to Kenyans on October 12 to help raise funds for the treatment of her ailing father.

“Hey guys, so a lot of you don’t know me but I’m here requesting your help today. My father’s name is John Serut and he’s been unwell for a while now. He was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in January of 2020. Since then, we’ve had medical bills totaling to about 20 million [shillings],” said Michelle, adding that the M-Changa appeal – called John Serut Medical Fund – was available on secure.changa.co.ke.

John Serut served as the MP for Mt. Elgon Constituency for two straight terms; between 1998 and 2007. He lost to Fred Kapondi in the 2007 General Election, but would reclaim the seat – for a third term – in the 2013 General Election.

In 2017, he lost the parliamentary seat, again, to Fred Kapondi.

Both Serut and Kapondi have been adversely mentioned in the Mt. Elgon violence witnessed between 2006 and 2008.

None has, however, been convicted of the wrongdoings, with both vehemently denying any involvement in the skirmishes that resulted in the deaths of hundreds and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people.

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