The term life is unpredictable is structurally and logically factual. It used to feature a lot in my conversation but I guess I was yet to fully understand what it exactly meant in real life. Initially, I used to think that I have worn so many ‘shoes’ to comprehend the different pinching of life. I was totally wrong because there was this tight shoe that I was forced to put on abruptly.

It all happened about two months ago. It was on a Sunday Morning when I realized that I could not take my breakfast. I tried to drink some tea only for it to dribble from my mouth. I didn’t take it seriously because I thought the reason why I could not swallow my breakfast was because my lips were swollen due to the flu I had caught the previous week. I went ahead to joke over my self-misdiagnosed condition with my kin and friends on that day. I remember one of my friends asking me over the phone to stop too many “biting escapades”. We really laughed about his tongue-in-cheek advice.  Little did I know that the disease process was mutely taking place and it was soon going to shout on the roof top that am seriously unwell.

I just can’t remember what motivated me to look myself in the mirror. I noted that there was something unusual with my face. Unfortunately, my medical background could not figure out why I was having this grimace even when I tried to smile. Anyway, I persisted with my ignorance and opted to go to sleep hoping that I was going to be ok the following morning.

Nobody knows about tomorrow because if I did I would have requested my good friend Peter Maich to do for me a cover version of Chris Brown’s  don’t wake me up song perhaps it would have suppressed my urge to wake up the following forenoon and meet this harsh reality that was determined to sabotage my efforts to promote healthy living in Kenya and beyond.

I woke with a very severe frontal headache. My left eye was equally hurting. It was now evident that all was not well. I didn’t believe whom I saw when I checked myself in the mirror. It was this young man with an ageing face which was twisted to the right and a lot of drooling. My eyes were tearing profusely you would think I was actively taking a cast role in one of the love gone sour Telemundo series.

What tore me apart was when I realized that my speech was also compromised. I had this odd idiom that sounded like that of a child. I left for the hospital immediately. Unfortunately, public hospitals were not operational then courtesy of the ineffective devolved healthcare system which had not paid healthcare workers their salaries and they opted to go on strike since it was the only language that their employer could understand.

On my way out, I met with this young intern Doctor who empathized with me and offered to examine me. Ooh, this young lady had  best intentions for me but unfortunately, her approach towards my condition worsened my psychological pain. Her face was marked with so many jeez and OMGS as if am the first person to suffer from this condition. I could hear her muttering if this was a sign of a mild stroke oblivious of the fact that I am also a medic and every single utterance was a big deal for me. Fortunately, there was this clinician who was passing by and directed me to another private facility where they did several lab tests and surprisingly they were all negative. I was again referred to a specialist in one of the leading National hospitals after consulting my insurer.

For sure life is unforeseeable because I was not prepared for this kind of situation. I realized that patience is a virtue that a patient must be ready to embrace if you want to get well because I was not able to meet with  the consultant (Neurosurgeon) that I was directed to despite the fact that I had an appointment with him. To make it worse, he was not going to be available the following day either and my insurance company had insisted that I had to be reviewed by him. I got so frustrated but I had no any other choice than to wait.

Finally, I was able to see my black Messiah. He made a diagnosis from my medical history and according to him, I had  Bells Palsy. This is a condition that involves paralysis of the facial muscles when the seventh cranial nerve which controls these particular muscles gets irritated either through trauma, viral infections or extreme pressures, especially from brain tumors. He requested that it was very important for me to do a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan in order to assess the status of my nerve system and my brain. I obliged and I went ahead to do it.

Again the scan was normal despite the fact that my face was still abnormal. This got me even more confused. I took the results back to the Doctor who attributed my condition to the flu that I had. There was a very high possibility that the flu virus was involved in irritating my facial nerve. He prescribed for me  medication and physiotherapy (exercise) and he opted to discharge me home. He told me that there was nothing much he could do and we had to wait for two to six months for my recovery.

I vowed to follow Doctors instructions religiously and through God’s grace am now able to extend my smile from 90 to 180 degrees. I can comfortably sing along R Kelly’s song storm is over. How did I recover after two months only?

I accepted my condition as a reversible setback and I chose to focus on overturning the status quo. I was ready to wait for as long as it takes for me to get better. I didn’t mind people staring at my deformed face because I knew my soul was shapely and full of optimism. I took it as an opportunity for me to understand what my patients go through when they are faced with life threatening conditions.

It was clear that quick recovery is not entirely determined by the kind of hospital or consultant that you visit for treatment. Healing in totality requires both a divine and personal will to recover. There are some instances where nothing much can be done by the Doctor and what you will do during that period of waiting for convalescence will determine your prognosis in the long run.

I want to take this opportunity and give special thanks to my family and friends who supported me all through. It was time for me to differentiate between peripheral and true friends. May God bless you all.

I also want to thank my loving girlfriend for sticking with me all through. I now believe in the “better for worse” aspect of a relationship. Your compassionate accompaniment potentiated my healing in a manner that can only be explained by my quick recovery. I owe you big, my love.

Never take life for granted. Smile and cry when you can because a time will come when you will only express your emotions through emoji. ALWAYS GIVE THANKS FOR THE GIFT OF LIFE.

AUTHOR: Eliud Kigotho : Registered Nurse; HTC Counselor