Edward Ligondo Konzolo is a stroke survivor from Ikobero Village, Vihiga Sub Country, Kenya. The former high school teacher first learnt about his condition when he suffered stroke on Sunday June 10, 2012, by then just 46 years old. And the subsequent ordeal he went through within the health system and community stigma, drove him to mobilize others to do something.
Edward was living happily and without any serious health problem. Even on this life-changing June weekend, he had been to church and had his usual nice Sunday service with his family. But on his was back he collapsed. Although he regained consciousness and went home normally after, him and his family and friends kept wondering what the problem was. Again, later at home, he suffered more worrying and inexplicable incidences of paralysis: he was unable to unzip his trouser while in the bathroom where he also dropped his phone in the toilet. Moments later he spilled tea over himself as his hand could not support the cup.
After recovering from this bout of paralysis, Edward was rushed to Nairobi Women’s Hospital at 11am. He recalls that the hospital the doctor and nurses didn’t know what to do. Even after explaining what had happened and that he felt paralyzed on one side, the doctor insisted that he was okay and admitted him for monitoring overnight. At 8pm he suffered the second stroke and was found lying helpless by a night duty nurse doing ward round.
This is when he was given the shattering news that he could have suffered stroke, and sent for confirmatory tests after which he was admitted for treatment for the next thirty days. At this point Edward counted himself a very lucky man – not only because he survived two stroke attacks in less than 24 hours but – because he was insured from his teaching job. He notes that access to treatment and care is the biggest challenging to people like him. He says he has no idea how other people, especially the unemployed, manage to cover the staggering cost of treatment.
Yet, Edward’s ordeal was not over when he was discharged to go and recover from his village. Here the medicines were a $10 round trip away in the regional town of Kisumu. Moreover, availability of medicines was not guaranteed even when he had money to buy. At the same time, he lost his job and within the community, he was stigmatized and deserted by people who thought his condition was a result of being bewitched.
But with the help of family, Edward pulled through this. He later traveled to Nairobi where he met other stoke survivors with whom he decided to form the Stroke Association of Kenya to give voice and advocate for the people who are suffering with the condition.