I met Anne Ngugi while undertaking my internship at Citizen TV in 2001. We used to call her Njambi.
Do you remember your first days of internship? Well, I remember mine vividly. There I was, fresh from Daystar, small girl, scared. Terrified. I had studied broadcast journalism, but I was a very shy girl and I knew that the camera was not for me. Me I like being behind the scenes, not out there. Despite all the encouragement I got from my parents, I knew that I would never appear on screen –either as a reporter or anchor or onlooker or anything. Me, I’m a writer. I like hiding over here behind. Suffice it to say that after my three-month stint at Citizen TV, followed by another three month stint at KBC, I knew without a doubt that TV was not for me. Nope. Not at all. I was done with broadcast. Print was it. Writing was for me. It is my calling. That is why I’m here today. On this blog. But my dad, even though he is very proud of me today, still hopes that one day I will be on TV reading news. Woiyee daddy. It’s not gonna happen. Sob.
Anyway, back to Njambi. I was a very green reporter, but Njambi would always be willing to help a naïve girl out. Newsrooms are not a joke by the way. There is always a rush, people are busy, no one really has time. But Njambi would find time, and sometimes she’d accompany me to the field and guide me on how to conduct interviews (I remember one time I had to interview the powerful cabinet minister Nicholas Biwott, nie reke ngwire I was sweating profusely in my new second-hand chiffon blouse I’d bought at Mutindwa, till I thought I would drown in my sweat. I was so nervous, dizzy and I was hearing ambulance sirens ringing in my head waaah).
Njambi went on to grace our screens for years reading the Swahili news bulletins on KTN and later K24. She became a mom in 2004, but her first motherhood experience turned out to be not quite what she had expected. Her daughter Angel was born with a birth defect called congenital hydrocephalus. Congenital hydrocephalus is the buildup of excess cerebrospinal fluid in the brain at birth. The extra fluid increases pressure in the baby’s brain, often leading to brain damage and other mental and physical challenges. The clearest symptom of hydrocephalus is a head that is larger than normal.
In a 2009 interview in The Standard, Njambi said of her experience with her daughter:
“When I held Angel in my arms (when she was a newborn), I refused to acknowledge that she had a problem and kept hoping that the swelling would subside and that she would be normal like any other baby within the shortest time. In the days following, I would massage her head with Vaseline for two hours daily, but her head kept swelling and the veins were protruding. It was then that I realized I needed to seek medical help. Angel had her first operation when she was only three weeks old. Doctors fitted plastic medical gadgets called shunts in her head that went right through to the stomach so that they would direct the flow of fluids. However, four months after the operation, Angel began to experience hot spells, her head was still big and she could not smile as yet. I could see she was very uncomfortable but not knowing what else to do, I only watched her helplessly. It was heartbreaking.”
Njambi has never shied away from speaking about her daughter, and her experience has often been of such encouragement to other parents undergoing the same. So last Sunday, she shared a message on Angel’s 12th birthday, which I’d like to share with you today:
“Today is a very special day for me. It is Angel’s birthday. 12 years ago, on 6 March 2004, she was born. All interpretations about her condition were made but today, all those interpretations mean nothing because she has stood the test of time. Angel has defied neurosurgeons who attended to her wrong. It is just through God’s grace and healing power in her life. It is a testament that by His blood (JESUS) we are healed. It is because of this reason I remember all those who are caring for children with special needs. This is my word: If my Angel has made it, yours can make it too no matter how bad the situation is. Accept your special child and let God be…. look for support and don’t shy away from walking with your child. Be proud because in this life there women who are pleading and crying to God to even bless their womb with a child, regardless of whatever extent of disability they will have. Happy Birthday Angel. You are truly a star!”
That was her message. If you know of any parent raising a special needs child, then encourage them with Njambi’s message. Share it with them.
Anne is today a mom of four: Angel, John Mark (7 years), and twins Precious and Princess (2 years) Aside from taking care of her family, Anne is in the process of producing her own show -one that will be full of inspiration based on her own experiences as well as those of other people she has met. She also trains and mentors young people with interests in the media. She is also setting up ‘Angel’s Foundation’. Her daughter Angel sings quite well, she tells me! Anne can be reached on: firstname.lastname@example.org
Mummy Tales is a blog dedicated to empowering its readers on different aspects of maternal and newborn health, as well as various issues surrounding motherhood and women. Read more motherhood experiences of Kenyan moms here.