Written by Carol Meja, CFK Africa Communications Manager
With poignancy, humor and wit, 33-year-old Nicholas Okumu, CFK Africa’s Paramedic Operator invites us into his world. He has evacuated over 200 people in Kibera and over 1,000 in his career. Recently, he was lauded by the community of Kibera on social media for evacuating a young man who had been stabbed in the chest from Kisumu Ndogo area in Kibera on the evening of 15th August 2022. He was allegedly stabbed after the election results were announced. Despite Nicholas’ efforts, the patient did not make it. We asked him a few questions about his dedicated service to humanity.
Why did you choose Paramedicine as a career?
I started off as an ambulance driver because I wanted to help save lives; I wanted to be the driver that transported a patient and helped them get immediate help. With time, I realized that, as a driver, I wasn’t allowed by law to assist the medic in the ambulance in case of a serious emergency that needed more than one person’s help. This is when I decided to enroll in a Paramedicine course at the Kenya Red Cross in 2018. Later, I got a job with CFK Africa as a Paramedic Operator.
What has the experience been like for you?
I take it as a calling; This is humanitarian work, and I am honored to be associated with CFK Africa for the work that we do for the people of Kibera. The fact that our ambulance is always available to provide immediate medical evacuation in the settlement is amazing, and it gives me a new lease of life each time I assist. There are times I have assisted the nurse with a difficult delivery enroute to a referral hospital. I am proud to be a driver and at the same time have the skills that a nurse needs; it is very empowering. Words cannot explain what helping human beings in distress is like, and no amount of money can be equated to the sense of purpose I feel each time I am at work. Other times, it’s sad, very sad when a patient dies, but I feel honored to have been the person that tried to help them. Either way, I love my job.
What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered?
I have to debrief every time I lose a patient because I am a human being with feelings and a deep love for all people. Just like I celebrate and wear a smile everywhere I go when I have helped save a life, in the same way, I feel downcast each time I lose a patient; it’s the same feeling for all medics as we wish for the best outcomes.
Other times, I have had to play the role of a counsellor to reassure or stabilize family members who become shocked at how a situation in the ambulance is unfolding. Working on two patients at the same time requires a lot of skill and inner strength that I have developed over the years.
The job requires me to be on call at all times, meaning I have to unceremoniously leave my wife and kids to respond to an emergency. At first, it was very difficult for them, especially during family celebrations, but they are used to it now; they know what my swift action means for a patient in desperate need.
Tell us about your experience working during the election period.
CFK Africa has been around for four election periods in Kenya, serving the community in all of them. I was on shift during the election period, and I was called to respond to a case of a young man who had been stabbed. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t fear going to Kisumu Ndogo, as I had heard there were pockets of unrest in the area, but I told myself that the person who had been stabbed needed me, and I was the only person who could help him; this is what always gives me the courage to respond no matter the situation.