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Kenya: Rosemary Odinga opens up on her health, politics

Rosemary Odinga, the daughter of one of Kenya’s most formidable politician Raila, has spoken out for the first time since battling illness that left her partially blind.

Rosemary, who was eyeing the Kibra parliamentary seat in last year’s General Election, had to shelve her political ambitions to seek treatment for two aneurysms, brain tumour and stroke.

Unbowed and unbent, Rosemary revealed her ordeal in an exclusive interview with Citizen TV on Sunday night.

She said her troubles started last year at a workshop for women political aspirants in Naivasha where she was with her two daughters.

“My head was just aching. I just had headaches, headaches” said Rosemary.

After collapsing in her room, she was airlifted to Nairobi where the doctors upon seeing her said she was lucky for had she been transported in an ambulance she may not have made it.

“To me it was something new. I had a tumour but I also had two aneurysms. They were able to clip the two aneurysms here in Kenya but they were unable to get to the tumour. Eventually, some friends of mine said there was a place I could get it treated.

So we went to China where they were able to get to tumour to cut it off. We were lucky it was benign,” said Rosemary.

Her sickness, she said, brought uncertainties she hitherto dealt and worse, she knew no one who gone through similar troubles to draw strength from.

“Sometimes I would find myself crying wondering what I should do. I just realised that suddenly I can’t drive my car, I cannot cook the food I want to. I felt helpless that I cannot do things by myself,” she said.

“The biggest misconception, people don’t realise we are human beings only that we are more in the public limelight.”

To end speculation on her health condition, Rosemary revealed that she cannot see from her left eye.

“I see mostly from my right eye, but it is half the vision. But is foggy. It is like looking like through water in it. It is hazy. I see things that are very close to me,” she said.

However, her family is exploring treatment options that can restore her eyesight.

“The [transition] was very challenging. I am used to living a certain lifestyle where I am very independent. Suddenly, I can’t even choose my own clothes or cook the food I want to eat. I can’t drive to the store,” Rosemary revealed.

However, Rosemary credits her family and close friends for the support they have given her.

She revealed the effect her ordeal had on her daughters following her long treatment period and the adjustments the family has had to make since she returned.

“They would cry especially when I was away on treatment. The younger one when I eventually came back, she could not remember me. She was too young when I fell ill. But the older one was able to understand and she was counselled” said Rosemary.

Speaking on the death of her brother Fidel, she said it was him who taught her a lot about life, including how to cook.

“Up until we lost Fidel, the only other people we had lost are our grandparents. It was so difficult. He was our protector. I felt it was a big challenge to be the older sibling,” she said.

Asked whether she would get back to politics, she said: “If God gives me an opportunity, I will not shy away from leadership.”

“There are so many examples of disabled people in the world who are able to provide leadership to the community. If God gives me an opportunity and people are willing to support me then I will not shy away from a leadership position,” said Rosemary.

Faced with her father’s leadership legacy, Rosemary said she does not feel pressured to live to the same achievements.

By Daily Nation

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