By Salim Lone
A STORY OF RARE FORTITUDE AND COURAGE
Rosemary Odinga’s public appearance on Tuesday marked the culmination of a heroic two-year struggle, and of a profound inner strength, against seemingly impossible medical and other odds. She has somehow managed to overcome the horrors and demons of her wrenching ordeal to a point where she could do something this week that was unthinkable at many points of this long journey of hers.
I personally know of no more compelling story of prolonged fortitude and courage against impossible odds like Rosemary’s and her family’s. It is a story that should be recited to provide strength to all those who face unbearably hopeless calamities, and do not believe that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Rosemary’s recovery to even this frail condition that we saw is of course her very own doing, but it was also only possible because of the utter devotion that Raila, Mama Ida and sister Winnie somehow managed to summon, so soon after they had inconsolably lost their first-born Fidel. And of course, Rosemary’s two loving girls, who always wanted to be by her side, the younger one not totally comprehending, made a decisive difference to Rosemary’s ability to pull through to this level. I am sure all Kenyans are praying that this recovery continues to an even better conclusion that what we have already seen.
Among the most traumatizing episodes the family lived through was the fear-filled race against time on a plane carrying a very ill Rosemary to an advanced medical facility in South Africa in late February 2007, with no certainty that the urgently-needed brain surgery could be performed in time.
One can only imagine how Raila and Mama Ida coped with the excruciating dread of that flight, holding onto Rosemary as if giving her dear life. Raila had of course put off his early March engagements in the US at that time, and once Rosemary was out of the woods, he flew to New York for a few days and then returned to South Africa to be with her again.
There was also another trip to a specialized medical facility in China that Raila and Ida took to obtain further treatment for Rosemary.
Despite their unspeakable anguish over her suffering in the last two years, the family was able to muster the enormous reserves of strength and will needed – strength I am sure they were never knew they had – for the support and care that saw Rosemary through to where she is now.
But of course, it was Rosemary’s own strength and determination that was the paramount game changer. In the two months I spent in Nairobi for the 2007 election, I saw Rosemary a few times at their Karen residence as she kept on making the heroic effort to do what was needed to undertake what was going to be a long, slow recovery. There were occasional setbacks to her health on the way, but not to her desire and will to overcome her crisis.
It’s no less than a miracle that Rosemary was able this week to somehow to recover enough strength and determination to participate in a public event for something very dear to her heart – the well-being of women, especially those with whom she has grown up in Kibera. She provides an astounding example and role model to Kenyans and particularly women to emulate.