A Kenyan family whose daughter has been in a coma for seven years in Saudi Arabia is appealing for help to bring her back home.
38-year-old Martha Nyaguthii left Kenya for the Middle East country in 2014 in search of greener pastures to offer her six-year-old son and her family a better life.
But a year after her arrival there, she was admitted to Aster Sanad Hospital in the Saudi capital of Riyadh with a skull injury that has left her in a coma for the past seven years, according to The Standard.
Her son, who was in Class One when she left, will be sitting for his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination at a school in Nyeri County this year.
Peninnah Favour, who has been Nyaguthii’s guardian in Saudi Arabia, told The Standard that she was admitted to the hospital in early August 2015.
“To date, no one knows what happened to her. Doctors replaced her broken skull with a plastic one,” Favour said in a recent interview via a video call.
Favor, a mother of four, says she did not know Nyaguthii prior to her admission but she learned about her state during a church service where Kenyans in Saudi spoke about her.
“They wanted someone to take care of her in the hospital. I volunteered and since September 2015, I have been with her in the hospital,” she added.
She says Nyaguthii has been unconscious since her admission and is fed using tubes. She is said to have responded well to treatment.
“I consider her my sister. I speak to her even though she cannot answer. I also wash and clothe her, and change her diapers five times a day,” Favor said, adding that she is able to take care of Nyaguthii since she has a background in nursing care.
A Saudi-based recruitment agency that facilitated her travel to the Gulf state takes care of Nyaguthii’s hospital bills.
Nyaguthii’s sister Zipporah Maina said her sister had no known medical condition when she left the country in 2014.
“All she wanted was to change our lives and in doing so, she has lost hers for over seven years. Something happened to her. Something bad but we don't know what,” said Zipporah.
“She was a trained caregiver and went there to take care of the elderly. The first year things went on well and she used to send money back home every month without fail.”
Zipporah says Nyaguthii talked to her three siblings the last time she called and promised to call her mother the following day but did not.
“Days turned to weeks, weeks to months, but we did not hear from her. We could not reach out to any other person, because we didn’t know anyone there,” she adds.
They then filed a missing person report to the authorities with no positive response since they did not have her agency’s contacts.
It was not until a friend phoned Zipporah and informed her that there was a post on Facebook on a woman who was in a coma in Saudi Arabia. The Facebook post dated August 8th, 2015, had Nyaguthii’s Identity Card and her photo adjacent to each other.
“The lady in the hospital bed is Martha Nyaguthii, she is admitted to one of the hospitals in Saudi Arabia. Her friends are trying to get in touch with the family. She hails from Mathome, Ruguruti in Othaya. Please pass the message to her family if you know her,” read the Facebook post.
Zipporah says Nyaguthii's situation has taken a toll on her helpless parents and her son.
“The report traumatized him [the son] to date. The story was also aired on television so we couldn't hide it from him for long,” Zipporah said.
Despite several promises from local politicians that they will push for Nyaguthii to be brought back home, nothing has been done to date.
“They had also promised to process documents for two family members to travel there to visit her but this also has never materialized. We only rely on Favour who sends frequent updates and her photos in hospital, We had planned to travel in 2020. However, the pandemic hit,” she says.
Her parents Jane Njeri and Maina Muthangiri have pleaded with the government and well-swishers to help bring their daughter home.
“All we are asking for is to see our daughter again, hold her in our arms. Nothing more,” said Njeri.
When contacted for comment on the matter, Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary Macharia Kamau said the Ministry of Labor is in charge of workers in the Middle East. Calls and texts to Labor Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui went unanswered.