June 1994 spelt a change in fortunes for the family of Oduya Oprong, the former Teso North MP.
Gunmen bent on killing Mr Oprong, then an MP and assistant minister for Economic Planning, fired two bullets into his head one evening as he entered his car at his home in Nairobi’s Mariakani Estate.
One bullet was later removed, but medics said extracting the other would be fatal.
Twenty-three years later, Mr Oprong, 80, is heavily dependent on medication that has come at a heavy price to his family of five wives and 27 children.
Ms Grace Oduya, one of the three wives still alive, spoke to Elvis Ondieki on the arduous task she faces taking care of Mr Oprong.
“My body is complaining but I have to push it. I have been applying a lot of effort in turning him in bed every night.
Time and again, he is asking to be turned from one position to another, and I can’t sleep because I keep turning him till daybreak. I only get to sleep at daytime.
It is a laborious task and I don’t feel okay but I push on because I feel ashamed to leave the children with their father.
I better struggle on my own till the last minute.
He is battling diabetes, high blood pressure and chest complications.
The chest problem is the reason he lacks sleep because sometimes he has difficulty breathing.
When the breathing difficulty occurs, I have to act fast, following steps a doctor gave.
A mild stroke he suffered two years ago also had dire consequences on his body.
Sometimes he feels pain and asks that someone stretches his hand or leg.
I keep stretching them for the whole night and sometimes calms him.
At times he keeps calling people. It could be his brother or former president Moi or Raila Odinga.
Sometimes I tell him ‘he is coming’ because I want him to relax.
For the last few years, my location has been either our rural home in Busia County or in Nairobi where he comes for medication every two or so months.
Not many relatives can stomach the burden of having mzee in their house — being moved around in a wheelchair, needing special attention like being dressed in diapers, taking a special diet … the list is long. That is why some relatives don’t want to see us.
I can’t be grateful enough to Catherine Epai, a daughter of mzee’s sister, for being kind enough to offer him accommodation whenever he is in Nairobi.
Our grandson Carlton has also taken it upon himself to attend to his grandfather when he is around, moving him between his wheelchair and his bed.
Because he is paralysed, he needs specialised attention around the clock.
Where he sits and sleeps must be extraordinarily clean to the required medical standards.
And he can’t go a day without his medicine. If he skips a dose, he becomes restless and sometimes starts crying, saying he is falling yet he is in bed.
The drugs, food and other items needed for his upkeep don’t come cheap and that has stretched family resources.
He was a man of means. There was a time he owned cars and property.
But with the misfortune that befell us, all the vehicles were sold. Some property was also disposed of.
Sale of the properties couldn’t do much because some children’s fees had to be paid and the family’s upkeep had to be catered for.
Some politicians, among them William Ruto, Raila Odinga, Daniel arap Moi, Sospeter Ojaamong, Mary Emase have given their contributions in the past but their alms pushed us only for a while.
Our family has now resorted to monthly fundraisings to see if we can raise even Sh20,000 of the Sh70,000 he needs per month to live comfortably.
Each member has a target of Sh500 and bearing in mind that 26 of mzee’s 27 children are unemployed, that is a tall order.
So needy has the family become we even can’t think of renovating our dilapidated house in Busia.
Whatever amount is raised is spent in paying a worker who assists in nursing him in the village, food and medicine.
Mzee has been receiving Sh9,000 as pension since 2006; but that lasts just about a day.
If we can estimate the money spent on him since 1994, it has to be in the region of Sh30 million.
I’m asking that the government helps us with money to treat Mzee.
We also need a house, and house expenses.
We also ask the government, if it can, to pay the old man because he encountered the accident while at work.
It is like mzee has been abandoned for 23 years.”