It is Friday morning (August 19) and a man who goes by the name Patrick Musila from Ol Donyo Sabuk, Machakos County calls this writer, briefly introduces himself and reveals the purpose of his call.
“I want to encourage couples to love each other despite challenges of childlessness posing threat to the existence of their union,” Patrick says.
Right away, the story of 27-year-old Jackline Mwende from Machakos – whose hands were allegedly chopped off by her 34-year-old husband identified as Stephen Ngila on August 3, 2016 – came to mind. I recounted how it caused global uproar.
I then thought: why not meet Mr Musila as his initiative sounded genuine. At least his testimony would go a long way in inspiring many partners whose relationships have become sour because of lack of children.
We meet at a city hotel a week later, and in him I saw an upbeat, devoted and loving man – one who has a great respect for the sanctity of marriage.
“I married my wife Gertrude Nekesa in April, 2004,” Patrick begins.
“For the 12 years we have been married, we have not been blessed with kids. But I love Gertrude to the moon and back. She is my world! What happened to true love? Why have some men become so heartless to the extent of chopping off their wives’ hands because of infertility? I can never do that,” continues Patrick.
I now see raw emotion in him as he uses hand gestures to drive home his conviction. I get curious and ask why he and Nekesa don’t have children.
With tears welling up in eyes, Patrick says: “It was in August, 2014 that my wife had her uterus removed at the Thika Level 5 Hospital. The doctors said she had fibroids. They had grown so large over the years, and they had to remove them to save her life.”
For those who are unfamiliar with fibroids, they are muscular tumors that grow in the wall of the uterus (womb). Fibroids are almost always benign (not cancerous). They can grow as a single tumor, or there can be many of them in the uterus. They can be as small as an apple seed or as big as a grapefruit.
In unusual cases, like Gertrude’s, they can become very large.
Women who have fibroids are more likely to have problems during pregnancy and delivery – and Gertrude faced problems due to fibroids in May, 2004 when she conceived, but lost the pregnancy after suffering miscarriage. Since then, the fibroids in her womb grew larger.
She was, early 2014, advised by her doctor to undergo myomectomy (surgery to remove fibroids while leaving the uterus intact in order to maintain fertility). However, her entire uterus had to be removed as fibroids had occupied nearly 70 percent of her womb.
It was a heartbreaking time for Patrick and Gertrude. However, Patrick avowed to fully support and stand with his wife during the difficult period.
“I have spent a lot of money on her treatment. I had to buy iron-fortified foods and iron supplements in large quantities as she had lost a lot of blood during the surgery. I was committed to seeing her smile, cheer up again. She needed me more. I promised to be there for her,” said Patrick as his face lit up and his lips break into half a smile.
They conquered the fight against childlessness by staying united, and their extended families offered support. Neither side pushed for a divorce.
Gertrude, speaking on phone to this writer, said: “My in-laws are the best! They have never pressured my husband to leave me for another woman.”
The two stuck it out from 2004 to 2014, when it became evident that they would never have biological children.
One and a half years later, another challenge popped – Gertrude developed tumors in the face and they had to be removed. Patrick took her to Kenyatta National Hospital where surgeries to remove the tumors were performed on Gertrude. As a result, some flesh and part of her left jaw were removed, leaving a ‘hole’ in her face.
“She does not want many people to see her due to the facial deformity. She shies away from public places and keeps to herself. But, to me, she is the most beautiful woman on earth. I would not trade her for anything, and I would keep on reminding her how beautiful she is,” said Patrick.
Gertrude says she is lucky to have such a husband in today’s world where human beings revere physical beauty – and observes, unlike her man, many men would have left her due to the facial adjustments.
“He (Patrick) tells me that I am beautiful. He makes me feel special. I have gone to places and people look at me and feel sorry for me. It makes me have a feeling of self-pity. But when I meet my husband, he raises my self esteem, and makes me feel normal. That explains why I keep away from the public quite often.”
All through my interview with Patrick, I am moved by his resolve, determination and selflessness.
“I promise to love my wife forever, and vow to do everything to see her get back to good health,” he says. I chime in: “And about children – would you adopt?”
Patrick, right away, says: “Yes. It is God that blesses couples with children. We accept our situation. We know God has many good plans for my wife and I.”
Such a positive, phenomenal person is worth giving airtime to offer advice to couples undergoing similar challenges – I ask him to go ahead and give his nuggets of wisdom. Patrick says: “Marriage is for better and for worse, in health and in sickness. There is no justification to exhibit violence against women, and infertility has no grounds – completely – for men to become beastly toward women.”