Linda Chebet Kirui, 26, was looking forward to graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in Education [English] Literature from Moi University in December 2019 when she fell ill on the eve of her graduation. The following day, she suffered a stroke that left the left side of her body paralysed.
Linda tells her story.
“Living with a disability has been my biggest challenge. Accepting the fact that I couldn’t do most things by myself was the hardest part. My self-esteem was affected so much because I had lots of questions with no answers.
I had to start accepting and managing the condition like other people with incurable illnesses which was not an easy thing to wake up to.
I at first had this kind of unanswered questions like ‘why me’ which ate into my morale. I have also had to deal with a lot of stress which compounded my situation. But when a situation can’t be changed, we have to accept to live with it and I just accepted the fact that I’m sick.
I remember the fateful day as if it was yesterday. It was the eve of my graduation, on December 19, 2019, to be precise, and I was in the hostel. After the rehearsals, I retired early to bed. Then in the middle of the night, I began vomiting and had a headache. I couldn’t feel the left part of my body, and it felt like there was a weight of something or someone else was sitting on that side. My friends rushed me to the University Dispensary, where medication was prescribed. The vomiting and headaches ceased and I was released. But on waking up the next morning to attend my graduation, I couldn’t walk, and my family, who by then had arrived for the graduation rushed me to Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret while I was placed in a wheelchair.
Doctors diagnosed that I had suffered a mild stroke. I was admitted for three weeks and released, but I had to attend weekly physiotherapy treatments.
What was confounding was that after a series of tests, doctors could not find the cause of the stroke, and though concerned they advised that I remain upbeat and pray that it doesn’t recur.
I am now fully recovered, though I still go for physiotherapy treatments at Moi Airbase Hospital in Nairobi as my father is a military official. My journey to full recovery is still ongoing and I’m still paralysed on my left body side.
Thank God, my family and relatives have been my greatest pillars and support. My friends, especially my social media friends, have made it their business to make sure that I heal. They have all helped me further my charity activities.
It’s been two years, and eight months since I had the stroke, and I believe the worst is behind me. I have had to tap into my strong spirit to find the courage to face daily challenges as a differently-abled person now.
Still, I wouldn’t say I’m that courageous because there are a lot of times I feel overwhelmed and unable to do some tasks. It is only when you put yourself in the shoes of a person with a disability that you’ll know what the condition means.
I would say, my condition has taught me some vital lessons. One is what people living with disability go through on a daily basis and what their needs are. A key discovery is that they do not need sympathy or to be given handouts as they can fit in the ‘normal’ society and do well like the rest of the people.
As an example, the stroke and my subsequent paralysis didn’t dampen my entrepreneurship spirit. I started a business in online marketing where I mainly sell shoes.
This was after my treatment and I began hawking shoes both online and physically as I wanted to be busy and to be financially self-sufficient. A year later, I opened a nail parlor but I had to close it down as it was underperforming. I continued with my first business which was bringing good returns.
Like any businessperson, I have experienced my share of challenges. One of the issues that hit my venture hard was the Covid-19 pandemic, as my sales were non-existent.
Despite this, I am enjoying my life and hope to inspire others to do so despite the odds. To fulfill this desire, I host a Vlog on YouTube known as Chelyn 254 where I speak on a host of different issues.
I also run a charitable organisation by the same name which focuses on people with disability and chronic illnesses, among other topics.
I had started it back while on campus and had plans to launch it after my graduation but we launched it while I was in a hospital bed.
Since 2019, the organisation has been involved in activities like anti-jigger, anti-depression, and end-period-poverty campaigns with the latter focusing on distributing sanitary towels to poor girls for their menstrual hygiene.”