MY STORY: Loving your spouse in sickness and health

Wednesday March 18 2020

Esther Wanjiru Kiama is a wife, and a mother to four young adults. PHOTO| WILLIAM OERI


Esther ignored the naysayers, who said she had bewitched her husband after he suddenly ‘went mad’.

She took it upon herself to take care of him after he was diagnosed with schizophrenia, a condition that made him heavily dependent on her. She shares her story of hope with Soni Kanake.

"My name is Esther Wanjiru Kiama, a wife, and a mother to four young adults. I am a teacher, motivational speaker and a counsellor. I also emcee at weddings.

But life has not always been this rosy. About 15 years ago, my husband, who was a businessman, decided to move to Bungoma from our Nyeri home in search of greener pastures.

His siblings, who lived in Bungoma, welcomed him and all went well as his business thrived for the following three years until he suddenly fell sick.

"The once normal husband and responsible father seemed to have lost his mind as he would be seen roaming the streets aimlessly and scavenging for leftovers from dustbins.

When this disturbing news reached me, I decided to take care of him, and that was how he came back to our Nyeri home.

I noticed he wasn't normal when one day I came home to find he had burnt part of the ceiling, saying he was burning his friend, who had earlier annoyed him.


I called one of his friends, who helped me take him to Nyeri Provincial General Hospital. However, he ran away and I had to go looking for him.

There wasn't much change after I took him to the doctor, and I had to start exploring other options.

Sadly, the story that was doing the rounds was that I had bewitched my husband.

I could barely go about my normal business as everywhere I went, there were people pointing accusatory fingers at me.

I had just graduated with a Higher Diploma in psychological counselling and I found myself falling back on one of the most practical lessons I had learnt in class: In life, you have to learn to cope with that which you cannot undo.

And since I could not undo my situation, I had to learn coping mechanisms to avoid going crazy.

"Things took a different turn one day when my father-in-law came home and took his son away claiming that I had bewitched him.

My husband did not get much personalised attention as everyone was busy going about their daily business.

Together with one of my daughters, we would take food to him, do his laundry and ensure he had a change of clothes.

However, since I was not welcome in his father's homestead following their accusations, I sent my son to go and stay with his dad to ensure that he was closely monitored.

At this point he had deteriorated and would go to the streets borrowing money. He wore tattered clothes and did not take a shower unless he was forced to, and villagers branded him a 'mad man'.

This went on for about three years and at this point, together with my children, we decided to 'steal' him from his father's house so he could seek medical attention.

"I had been referred to a Dr Omondi, a psychiatrist at Kenyatta National Hospital, who we had already briefed and she together with her team was waiting for us.

The doctor agreed to treat him without her dustcoat and stethoscope around her neck so that my hubby would not figure we had lied to him.

At this point, the biggest hurdle was to convince my husband to come with us to Nairobi.

If we told him we were taking him to hospital, he would not agree to come with us.

So, I had to be creative and give him a cock and bull story about how Uhuru Kenyatta, who was then campaigning to be president, and who was my hubby's favourite candidate, had asked his supporters to go and register themselves in Nairobi.

That was the only reason my husband agreed to the two-and-a-half-hour drive to the city.

When we got to KNH, he even asked where Uhuru was and a nurse (who had earlier been briefed on the situation) told him that he was in another room.


"He was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He was admitted to Nairobi West Hospital where the doctor had arranged for six security guys to help before he was sedated as he was quite hard to pin down.

He stayed in the hospital for about a month and a half, after which we went to our home in Nyeri. We were advised on the need for regular clinic to monitor his progress.

“Today, my husband can pretty much take care of himself and can do almost everything for himself. He can recall a few incidents and people from the past.

He, however, cannot work and needs constant supervision so I have employed an elderly lady who takes care of him. Our children love him and visit him regularly.

"The reason I have stood with my husband is because I believe that God created a woman to be a helper to man. As a counsellor, I have talked women into going back to their husbands even after packing their bags and leaving.

We had to move to Nairobi from Nyeri since most of my weekend assignments and the invites I get to MC, speaking engagements or as a cake matron, are in the city.

It is also more convenient for my husband because he attends his clinics in Nairobi. He's really improved and we are happy with his progress.