My life after the wheelchair
Posted Saturday, February 19 2011 at 13:09
A head-on collision in March 2003 involving a police vehicle and a speeding lorry changed Mary Mwangangi’s life. The irony was that Mrs Mwangangi was the top most traffic police officer in the country.
In an instance, one of the most decorated women in the police force fell victim to her nemesis: road carnage. On that afternoon, she was travelling from the Makindu Traffic Bay where she had gone to visit the officers.
As fate would have it, she had not fastened her seat belt. As a result, she spent the next five years of her life in a wheel-chair.
“There are only two things that brought me through that particular period in my life — a loving family and God,” said Mrs Mwangangi.
Broken ribs, hands and legs. On that fateful day her medical file read like an emergency room manual. Nine years later, she still retains a charm and has risen from the ashes like the proverbial Phoenix, although she could not get back to active duty.
“And just like that, my career in the disciplined forces came to a premature end,” said Mrs Mwangangi. But she still dedicates her time to public service as a member of the Public Service Commission.
A couple of things stand out when she speaks. She makes eye contact and holds her gaze whether answering or asking a question. The other is her coastal Swahili accent. Born and raised in Mombasa, lingering for too long on some consonants or abruptly cutting others comes naturally.
It was in the coastal city that she eventually fell for the police force after a love-hate relationship with the men and women in blue. Love, because she was an officer’s daughter, and hate, because of having experienced police incompetence at some point in her life.
One day, she narrates, her family woke up to an empty car park outside their house. Fearing the worst, her father quickly circulated the details of the missing car to his colleagues via radio.
Soon a search was mounted and the car was located not far from their home at the Mombasa Railway Station.“My dad was really eager to know the kind of thief that was brave enough to steal the chief’s car. So he launched his own investigations into the matter,” said Mrs Mwangangi.
So, her father ended up interrogating the guards who were on duty the night the car disappeared. The inquiry revealed shocking news.
“The officer told him that my older brother was the one who left the car at the Railways parking lot the previous night because he had run out of fuel,” she said.
All the while, her brother had said nothing. Angry, her father came home, whipped out his pistol and threatened to shoot his son as punishment for gross indiscipline.
“Fearing the worst, I ran to the nearest police station to report the matter but no one believed me. The officers manning the desk had too much respect for my father and thought he would never do such a thing,” she says, letting out a light chuckle.
Instead of giving her assistance, they threatened to lock her up for being such a nuisance. So she went back home fearing the worst. Luckily, her brother got off lightly. Instead of a bullet, he received several hard slaps and a stern warning.
“From that day on, I decided the life I would choose in adulthood would have very little to do with the police,” she said. In the middle of a well-manicured lawn with clearly demarcated footpaths sits a simple house with lime green walls, flowerpots hanging from the rafters and the branches of surrounding fruit trees.
There isn’t a stone out of place. Here is the place the Mwangangis have called home for decades. Somewhere in the house is Mr Mwangangi, making sure her wife of 38 years is as comfortable as possible while at the same time giving her as much space as possible.