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He was standing at a bus terminus next to Nakumatt Galleria one morning. It was around 9 am, October 10th 2014. He was waiting to board a matatu then head to Multimedia University to make some inquiries about joining the school. He’s passionate about cinematography. Unknown to him, his life would take a different turn all together. This would happen – two cars collided. Boom! One skidded off the road and came straight at him. It banged him down! Crashed his legs from his toes all the way to the waist. The wheel stopped on his stomach as it halted grinding on his body. His rib-cage was destroyed in the process forcing his rib to tear through his skin and allowing his inside parts to come out of the opening. The pain knocked him unconscious but he remembers the screams and blood oozing freely off his body as he slowly faded away, eyes closing. He was dying.
But luckily, he survived.
Meet Kiragu Michael Mwangi (Mike).
I bet, much of your life you’ve spent it walking. Learning your first walking steps as a child, walking out of bed,walking to school, walking to work, walking around the house. Trying out new shoes and eagerly waiting to spend a day walking in them. Heck, probably even walking down the aisle. Have you ever asked yourself what would happen if you woke up one day and you couldn’t walk again?
Most of us may never know that.
After the accident, Mike was first attended to at Nakumatt Galleria that morning. He was given first aid response then rushed to Kenyatta National Hospital. The emergency section was fully packed and they had to wait. He was admitted at around twelve noon as soon as a bed was confirmed available. He’d spend the next two months in the hospital. His birthday was ten days after the incidence. October 20th, Mashujaa Day. He mentioned to me it was the first birthday he spent admitted in a hospital. And definitely he was a Shujaa for fighting to stay alive. A fight he’s fought to this very day.
Mike was in deep pain over this period. He couldn’t talk as talking only brought more pain. When his family and well-wishers visited him, all he did was respond in very few words and retain his silence all through the visit. This kept him from feeling more pain than he was already enduring. After two months at Kenyatta Hospital, the doctors confirmed that he couldn’t walk. They also said he couldn’t be operated on as the rib cage was still in the healing process and the injury had connected to his spine. Mike was later admitted at National Spinal Injury Hospital in Hurlingham for another eight months.
During his stay there, him and other patients were counseled on how to accept they wouldn’t walk again. Mike had to start internalizing this harsh reality. He was trained on how to get off and into bed, how to clean, eat, move around and everything else he needed to do without using his legs. Mike also underwent physiotherapy and mostly it was aimed at regaining his right hand’s activeness as it had gone numb from the time of the accident. The physio worked and his hand was back again but still, he couldn’t walk. In one of those counseling sessions, Mike was asked what kind of support he needed from the foundation that was taking care of him. He requested them to enroll him to join a university so that he could study more on communication and improve his cinematography career. January this year, he joined St. Paul’s University – Limuru campus. He’s done and cleared his Certificate in Communication, now he is currently doing a Diploma on the same. He hopes to advance it to a Degree once he’s through.
Out of his love for photography, Mike started a photography business called 3 Million Photography and has been shooting pictures on his wheel chair ever since.
I indulged Mike during the interview to get to know a bit about him, his schooling and situation.
Other than walking, what else did you lose after the accident?
I lost friends. So many of them including my girlfriend who we’d dated for five years. I couldn’t hold them and so I had to live with it. I also lost my normal social life. I can’t hang out like I used to anymore.
What have you gained from going through this tough experience?
I have grown emotionally strong having endured all I went through. I’ve also grown in my self-esteem as well. Facing death made me become more courageous in life. I can handle a lot now. I am thankful too that I have built more friendships with real friends that genuinely care for me.
Are you religious?
I was raised Catholic. I can also say that I have grown close in my relationship with God. I realized that life can change any minute. He has surely helped me pull through all this. I know that my future is in his hands.
Tell me a bit more about your photography business, 3 Million Photography.
I started it after the accident. I take photos and share them on my online platforms. It’s overwhelming to see the reaction and good feedback I get, though the business isn’t profit making yet. How hard is it running this business? It’s definitely hard since I cannot achieve certain shots due to my condition. I am limited in mobility which is a big thing but I do my best at every instance. I am seeking to grow my business more through the education and experience I am currently gaining by the day.
How has your family responded to your situation?
My family has been very supportive of me. Getting such an accident and not walking requires a lot of attention and is quite expensive. They call quite often to check up on me. My siblings pray and believe that one day I’ll walk. It gives me hope. People see me in a private university and think I’m from Westlands or something but that’s not the case. My family was part of the IDPs that were displaced from Eldoret during the 2007 elections aftermath. We came to Kibera and have shifted homes often. So where I am, is home. The people I am with become my family.
Suffice it to say, Mike is a people’s person. During the hour-long interview. Most of his student colleagues kept interrupting us to say hi to him or briefly check up on him. He is a lively guy, bold and has not allowed his situation to put him down. He confessed that most of the time he is in deep pain but still manages to have a smile on his face.
It has been a journey of pain for Mike. He was never operated on as his rib cage had not properly healed. And as such, he needs to undergo an operation in India on his spine and rib. Hopefully through this operation, he can get better, get back on his feet and walk again.
That’s where you come in.
This is not about that artificial philanthropy that crops up around this time of the year. The season of giving. This is about helping Mike raise a figure of 3 Million shillings to aid him undergo an operation in India set for March 2017. If the money is raised faster, he can go for the operation as soon as possible.
There has been a team of students driving a door to door initiative talking to people to give money towards catering for the operation. When I asked how much they had raised so far, Mike told me he is not aware, the team has not told him yet. He prefers it that way as it helps him avoid being anxious of the outcome. I honestly thought they are keeping the truth from him and maybe they haven’t raised much money yet. It’s been less than two months now. But you and I can change all that by doing these few things;
First, contribute any sum of money through the following channels; MPESA your contribution to Mike on his personal line 0719652876 or write a cheque in his name to the following; Kiragu Michael Mwangi – Ecobank – 0040045018581501
Secondly, share this story with your friends on social media platforms – Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and any other network. Let’s spread the word, Mike’s progress is dependent on it.
Thirdly, when you pray, remember to pray for Mike.
Make a difference today!
cover photo: courtesy