MORE THAN A PHYSICIAN

Doctor recalls gracious Moi, glasses of dawa ya wazee

David Silverstein was Moi's personal physician for 42 years — and his friend

In Summary
  • Silverstein said he and Moi always prayed together before a check-up, then discussed world affairs, how the Old Testament affected life today.
  • Moi was an exemplary patient in all ways, except working too much. The two enjoyed a glass of sacramental wine from Israel and dawa ya wazee.
Dr David Silverstein recalling former president Daniel Moi at Kabarak University grounds on Wednesday, February 12.
Dr David Silverstein recalling former president Daniel Moi at Kabarak University grounds on Wednesday, February 12.
Image: ANDREW KASUKU

Former President Daniel Moi's personal physician Dr David Silverstein said on Wednesday every time he and Moi met, they first prayed together.

And after a check-up, they would discuss the latest developments in medicine, the Old Testament and its application to today's world, international politics and occasionally the state of Israel.

They were friends for 42 years, cardiologist Silverstein told mourners at Moi's homestead in Kabarak where they gathered for his burial.

He first treated Moi in 1977 at Kenyatta National Hospital when he was vice president and remained his physician and friend until his death on February 4. Silverstein now practices at Nairobi Hospital.

“He trusted me and we had mutual respect and a friendship that was always growing. During his presidency, I checked on him every week. He never wanted me to take too much time with him because he wanted me to have time for other patients,” the physician told the crowd of mourners.

He called Mzee was an exemplary patient, following his advice on diet and lifestyle and taking his medicine.

“And for the record: As his son Gideon said on Tuesday, yes, Mzee loved his meat.

"He also enjoyed sharing a small glass of sacramental wine from Israel and a small dawa ya wazee."

Silverstein accompanied Moi abroad and made sure they “did not eat exotic animals such as cats, snakes, dogs or drink buffalo milk when in China". 

After Moi's retirement, they shared many small diners together with their friends.

Silverstein said for Moi, as a devout God-fearing Christian, and himself as head of the Jewish community in Kenya, their trips to Israel were poignant for both of them.

The physician's good relations with Israel, in turn, helped Kenya in education, infrastructure and security areas, the physician said.

Moi was always appreciative and gracious in his last days in the hospital.

“We grieve our patriarch but grief comes from love and over the years the pain of grief will fade and will be replaced by love, which is its origin,” Silverstein said.

He said during his last four months in hospital, Moi had a positive response every time he said a Hebrew prayer.

He later recited the Hebrew prayer for the soul of the deceased.

After graduating from The University of Chicago Medical School at the age of 22, Silverstein completed his residency in Seattle and served in the US military at an Air Force base in Taiwan.

He was first admitted as a doctor in 1979 in the United States before moving to Kenya shortly afterwards. 

During his free time, he gives medical lectures for students at the University of Nairobi, Chiromo.

(Edited by V. Graham)