John Obiko (L) in his room.

It was a typical day on a Friday, 14th of February 2019, I was on my way to work – as a graphic designer, for Triple Edge Media, situated in Upper Hill. On my way to work, I felt very tired and decided to return home and take a nap. I woke up at 4:30 pm, still feeling tired and exhausted! I decided to visit Meridian hospital where I undertook some tests. These were negative.Furthermore, I decided to go to Nairobi West hospital, where the tests were in the negative. I was informed that it was a neurological problem—requiring the urgent services of an optician or perhaps a neurologist.

My world was about to turn for the worst since I couldn’t eat, kept throwing up and I was fatigued. I had no appetite and worst of all when I drank any water it came through my nose. Even… breathing now became a problem—clearly something was certainly going wrong and my life would never be the same again. Realizing that my health wasn’t good, my cousin made arrangements for me to be rushed to The Aga Khan University Hospital, where at least these doctors likened my symptoms to a disease known as GBS. I was informed that had I not arrived sooner, we might be discussing a very different story than this! Immediately, I was put on an incubator for approximately 3 months. For those who came to see me, they were seeing a dead man existing in the land of the living—for I was in a semi-coma.

What is Guillain-Barré syndrome?

Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is a rare neurological disorder in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks part of its peripheral nervous system—the network of nerves located outside of the brain and spinal cord. … Fortunately, most people eventually recover from even the most severe cases of GBS. It can cause muscle weakness, reflex loss, and numbness or tingling in parts of your body. It can lead to paralysis, which is usually temporary. In fact, 85% of people with GBS make a full recovery within 6 to 12 months. Once you get better, the chance of it returning is very small. In Kenya, only two hospitals can be able to correctly diagnose and treat GBS, we have Nairobi Hospital and The Aga Khan University Hospital. The rest of the hospitals lack the facilities and know-how. It is even dire for patients in the rural areas—who in most cases end up dying due to the lack of capacity.

The cost of treatment for GBS in Kenya is very expensive. It requires a comprehensive medical cover or adequate financial support from either family and well wishers. According to John’s knowledge, he is aware of a friend’s cousin who was diagnosed with GBS and is now fully recovered—though with less severe symptoms at the time.

 The Journey of Home Care

I was finally discharged on 24th of June 2019, under strict and meticulous home nursing care around the clock. My condition has required physiotherapy and critical nursing care. In the beginning of this battle for my life, I had a tube that had been inserted from my trachea to my lungs to help with breathing. I also had a peg for feeding. The trachea was removed 2 months ago and the peg was removed 3 weeks ago. I am a living miracle—because I can now breathe and swallow solid foods on my own! I still have a long way to go; since I can’t fully use my hands or my feet. I am still dependent on others for feeding, and physiotherapy. I am very hopeful that I will be able to fully gain use of my hands and feet; to do something as simple as walking!

My family: My Sure Rock

My parents have provided the greatest support for me. It takes a lot of work and sacrifice to take care of me. My parents have borne all this burden on their own—when they should be enjoying their retirement. We are only 2 children in our home, my younger sister and I. My sister was supposed to have started college this year—this was postponed to enable her to also support my parents. I had the opportunity to speak with John’s father candidly about his experience as a parent to a GBS patient. These are his own words: “Andrew, there is so much of uncertainty all around us… this has been a very difficult year for my family. I am with my son here in this apartment all day, every day. Outside when you see me, you see a strong and worry free grown man; but inside I am really hurting. This is part of life. I’ve been retired for over 10 years now.

My Future Plans

I am still a very young man of 24 years and I have so much more ahead of me! I want to go back to school and study graphic design at a Master’s level; in fact, I want to some day open up my own graphic design business. “Andrew, I am a religious person. This experience has deepened my faith towards Christ. I got to rock-bottom stage; when this happens you need to depend on God 100 percent instead of 70 percent. I’ve gotten to that tipping point—that point of no return.”

Now that I am on a path to full recovery, I am cognizant of the fact that I have a lot of time under my belt. Some of my favourite past times includes: reading a lot about graphic design, listening to pop, county and Rn B music, playing board games with my parents and care giver as well as doing what comes most naturally to most patients—sleeping!

Let’s Support John Obiko

John Obiko’s story is a story of hope and the audacity of hope. My prayer is to urge us to support him emotionally, spiritually and financially in any way possible. The family owe The Aga Khan Hospital a sum of 23 Million Kenyan Shillings and physiotherapy is done every 4 weeks—at a cost. Remember, that his dear parents are retirees and he’s the firstborn child. Your kind support can be channeled through the following options:

*Equity Bank*

A/C Name: *Joyce Obiko*

A/C No: *0650192478835*


M-PESA Paybill No: *781975*

A/c No: *Your Name*