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Lucky to be alive: How the man I loved nearly killed me

Through sheer determination and willpower, Ms Rhoda Wairimu, a mother of two and a survivor of gender-based violence, is gradually reclaiming her life after her “dear husband” — now serving a life imprisonment —  chopped off her hands 12 years ago.

She says she is lucky to be alive to tell the tale, but the horrible scars will remain a lifetime, a bitter reminder of how the man she loved most almost ended her life.

Ms Wairimu from Kiamabara Village in Mathira East, Nyeri County vividly remembers that fateful day in 2008, when the man she had trusted to spend the rest of her life with descended on her with a machete, slashed her several times; severing both her hands and inflicting injuries on the head, leaving her for dead.

She says she suspects that her only ‘crime’, which could have enraged her husband to the point of attempting to kill her, was asking him where he had spent the previous night since he never came back from work as usual.

“I remember it was around 2pm when he stormed into the house where I was sitting with my two children. Without any warning, he descended on me and started hacking me with a panga — he first cut me on the head and as I screamed for help, he chopped off both my arms. I remember my children fleeing while calling for help before I passed out,” Ms Wairimu narrates as she holds back tears.

Condition deteriorated

She would later spend more than six months at Nyeri Provincial General Hospital and Nairobi Women’s Hospital after she was transferred from Karatina District Hospital when her condition deteriorated.

“I never thought the man I had trusted so much would turn into a killer. Perhaps one of the worst parts of this whole story is that he almost killed me, I spent several weeks in a coma, but thankfully God and doctors were able to revive me,” she says.

After being discharged from hospital, Ms Wairimu, who has since joined an organisation of people living with disabilities in Mathira, says she initially lost the meaning of life owing to her condition and almost thought of committing suicide.

She, however, changed her mind when she remembered she had been left with the responsibility of raising her two children after their father was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Her former husband was sentenced by a Karatina court after he was found guilty of causing grievous harm and attempting to kill Ms Wairimu.

Awful situation

“When you lose both hands it’s an awful situation, I had initially lost the meaning of life and had at times thought of committing suicide. I have never undergone any psychological counselling but my children have motivated me to hold on to life, I love them and I would not want them to suffer in my absence,” she says.

Despite losing her arms, Ms Wairimu, through her meagre resources and without support from any quarter, has taken to second-hand clothes hawking as she struggles with the challenge of not having hands to single-handedly support her children, who are now both in high school.

She has some advice for couples: “At the beginning of most relationships, couples are bound to be too infatuated to spot the obvious red flags of violence. ‘Oh, but he didn’t mean to do it,’ you always find yourself defending him even when everyone around you is trying to open your eyes. Stuck in the honeymoon phase, to you everything seems perfect.”

“By the time things get severe, victims are often in a dilemma of either staying or walking away from their abusive partners. Owing to this attachment and other factors such as financial dependency and children, many end up staying, only to aggravate the situation,” she says.

Ms Wairimu says although she has with time accepted her situation, she would not turn down any assistance coming her way as she struggles to put food on the table for her children.