Updated: Jul 6
| This is the 206th story of Our Life Logs |
Nothing is as exhilarating as feeling the wind against your face on a speeding motorbike. It’s a power only the rider controls. I thought my life would remain under my control just like my biking prowess, but instead, I saw it from the fence as it got woven into a spin of itself.
When that happens, there are two real options. Walk away, or get back on the bike and change routes. All I can say is that I’ve found that the detour can lead to a better journey.
My story begins in the sleepy village of Bungoma County, Western Kenya in early 1987. Raised as the first born in a family of four siblings, my responsibility towards my siblings was crystal clear. I had to be someone they could look up to. My parents were born-again teachers whose lessons were etched deep into my very fiber. They guided and disciplined us, allowing us to be children, but also setting a foundation of faith and the love of God. They are the reason I remain firm when faced with challenges.
Growing up, I was obsessed with motorbikes. I spent hours scanning magazines and newspapers for pictures of the sleek vehicles, searching diligently for a nice Hayabusa or CBR1000. I would make clean cut-outs and paste the pictures in my room. The urge to be behind wheels was like that of a baby ready to be born. It refused to be suppressed. Not that I tried to suppress it anyway!
Alongside my two-wheeled daydreams, I grew up with a strong desire to be a journalist. In fact, when I was about 19 years old, I joined Kenya Institute of Mass Communication (KIMC) to learn the trade and graduated two years later in 2008. Like most youth, I hit the road running in search of a job afterwards. I got a chance to present with K24, a first rising local television network in Kenya. I felt contented with the direction of my life. Perhaps one day I would own my media outlet. Who knows!
And if I may, there was one more blessing in my young life that I embraced. I had matured to a nice height and was given a handsome face—things I didn’t know mattered until a friend who ran a modeling agency marveled at how well I could make it big in the industry. He asked me to help him with a motoring event that he intended to host. It was a dream I didn’t know I had. So, of course I went! It was during this event in 2012 that I got to learn more about commercial modeling. This gave bigger life to my dreams and the plans I had made.
The future was never brighter. How I wished the good tidings would last indefinitely. Unfortunately, life is not so easily controlled.
I had just finished the sports bulletin on one Saturday evening in February 2013 at a local television station, and then joined my friends at a party in town. When a few bottles were emptied and our good time was over, we decided it was time to go rest, as my friend and I had to get to work the following morning. After piling into a friend’s sedan, we dropped all our friends home safely. Then, my turn came and I took the wheels. I had barely driven for a mile when everything went black! We honestly don’t know what happened. Those who recorded the account said, they just heard a loud bang…
When I woke up, my mind still played the sweet rush of wind while driving on the super highway. But when I finally came back to reality, I found myself tied on the hospital bed with a team of medics examining me. My head hurt so much, it felt like the memories were jabbing into my skull. When the doctors explained what had happened and how I had been wheeled to the hospital, I panicked.
“We were two—where is my friend?” I mumbled, barely audible.
To my surprise he had been transferred to another facility with only a cracked rib while I had a crack on the skull! Talk about nature balancing its fairness.
Nothing had prepared me for the desperate stretch that lay before me. I was hospitalized throughout the month of February then became an outpatient for the most part till August 2013. I could barely do basic things for myself. I had to be wheeled to the washroom, fed and cleaned—things that used to be second nature. But there I laid, almost like a vegetable. My wife was heavily pregnant with our first child and could only handle so much. My parents and relatives had to come in and help take care of me.
Everyone was affected. People lost weight. Ulcers shot up! But they kept going down on their knees interceding for me. Still, the days passed slowly for me. It seemed that no matter what anyone did, the dark tunnel kept going.
Just when I thought it could not get any worse, I got laid off in August the same year! Within a matter of days my insurance had depleted and my savings had been cleared clean. My back was right on the wall and something was still pushing! My wife lost her job right before my daughter-to-be had just announced that she was not waiting a day longer. I was going to be a father! What chaos!
I reeled with all this information. It felt like bricks were literally crushing upon my head. How is a man to remain calm in such tempest? I sat on the floor in the middle of the night and asked God why he thought I needed to be tested this much. What I got was only the echo of my shattered voice. I sat in that darkness for hours until I fell asleep. That’s when I decided that my child did not deserve such brokenness.
In this clarity, I realized that my life was certainly not over. My accident brought my family together. Friends had stood by me when I was sick. They took time to visit and encourage me. Thankfully, we did not go hungry. My parents’ home became a source of our daily bread and the rest were covered by the little savings I had. All these acts of kindness were messages of hope and trust that I could do better. I detest sympathy, so when things remained bleak, I realized that I had to step it up. After all, I was the head of my family.
I woke up at 5 am the next day, grabbed a pen and paper and started writing down my road map. One was to regain my stamina, regain my financial stability and man up for my responsibility towards my family. The third one was to be realistic and move to a cheaper house.
I went out of the house and started a physical training! I ran around the estate for days until it became a routine. Short runs grew longer as I slowly regained strength. Even as I did these, I was writing one proposal after another on how I could help companies boost their social media presence, seeking ways to make money. After sending countless copies and wondering if anyone was listening, one hotel came through and I somehow got back to my feet after they paid me a $500 check. This payment became my catalyst. I had regained my health and trying to regain my life was top on my agenda.
Yet, all this was not without folly. It’s during this period that the extent of my accident became apparent to me. I developed Bell’s palsy. The trauma received by my facial muscled, causing the left side of my face to become stiff. It has left me unable to whistle or wink with my left eye. I cannot even blow a balloon for my daughter. While this was not my biggest concern intimately, I remember going in for an audition for a well-paying commercial in early 2014. The director of photography had seen my pictures before the accident, and were impressed. I guess they were a bit too late. On arrival, the director took one look at me and almost accused me of impersonation. He told me in the face to try something else but not modeling. My self-esteem drained in a flash.
What was left of my confidence was small, but it cried out to me. Yes, the silver screen was out of the picture, but I still had a powerful voice. I told myself it was time to re-ignite my dream of owning a media outlet. Despite not taking off immediately, I kept working on my idea, making mistakes and improving on different areas. Like my little girl, all it needed was nurturing—and as they say, once a journalist, always a journalist.
I threw my weight behind my new ventures, determined to get my narrative back to the blissful path. I have since founded Merlin Ride Comfort, dubbed MRC, which is a ride-sharing platform that offers Nairobi city dwellers an economical way to shuttle to work and also provides car hire services. This has been serving a small number of commuters to and from work. It has had its fair share of downhill moments! But if I’ve learned anything from my recovery, it’s that our challenges lead to growth. And I must say, I have grown.
Life is short. There is a thin thread between life and death. I was lucky enough; with such a head injury, not many resume their near normal lives. So? LIVE. I have become mentally stronger knowing nothing is assured beyond this moment. Live in this world with lots of positive energy because there is too much negative energy already!
And I must mention, if my accident meant to kill my passion for motorbikes, it failed hard! I still love the outdoors and I am a member of motoring squads focused in charity work, educating each other on road safety and discipline while sharing life challenges and having fun!
This is the story of Gaston Wabomba
Gaston lived a sheltered life until fate tested him and changed all he ever knew and was accustomed to. However, it was a near-fatal accident that led to the birth of his ventures and solidified his passion for the outdoor activities. Alongside MRC (a car ride-sharing platform), Gaston runs Kenston Outdoors, a lifestyle retail platform where outdoor lovers can easily procure gears at a click of a button, and has been able to get behind the birth of the Girl Talk Africa podcast: an initiative for women empowerment. Gaston is married with a daughter. He lives in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi and hopes to reach every corner of the country through his work.
This story first touched our hearts on November 27, 2018.
| Writer: Opondo Maureen | Editor: Colleen Walker |