When patients succumbed to Covid-19 and everyone, including their relatives, refused to handle or bury them, villagers in Bomet County often turned to one man.
In the past 15 months, Stanley Mutai, a senior disaster management officer in Bomet, has helped transport and bury 46 victims in Bomet, Kericho and Narok counties. Bomet has lost 56 people to Covid-19.
“Initially, relatives did not want to handle the bodies and the departments of medical services, health and that of disaster management stepped in,” Mr Mutai said in an interview on Tuesday.
Even with the myths surrounding the respiratory disease now debunked, relatives of Covid-19 victims still turn to the Ministry of Health and disaster management departments for help in burying them, with police and administrators on standby to ensure that protocols are followed.
The MoH has directed that such bodies be interred within 72 hours, with no viewing allowed.
Taking patients to quarantine
Mr Mutai, a father of two, has been actively involved in taking patients to quarantine and isolation centres in Bomet, using a vehicle that the county government has left at his disposal.
“I get tested for Covid-19 often, even though my colleagues and I adhere strictly to the protocols set by the Ministry of Health on handling bodies and patients in relation to the coronavirus,” he said.
But he added that he was once placed in isolation at a hotel in Bomet town that was used before officials set up a treatment and isolation centre at Koiwa Sub-County Hospital.
By the nature of his work, Mr Mutai can usually be found at road accident scenes in Bomet County, coordinating rescues and evacuations, or picking up the sick from remote areas, offering first aid and transporting them to hospital.
He has helped save thousands of lives, seen life snapped out of the sick as he races with time to health facilities. He has also taken hundreds of bodies to morgues.
Before devolution, Mr Mutai was a volunteer with the Kenya Red Cross Society, worked with the Tenwek Hospital emergency unit and in the outreach unit of Central Hospital in Kericho.
He has undergone rigorous training on first aid and disaster management with the Kenya Red Cross.
After resigning in 1997, he bought a Peugeot 504 and turned it into an ambulance, mounting strop lights on its roof and setting himself on a collision course with law enforcers.
“I was arrested, prosecuted and fined Sh1,500 after I explained to the magistrate at the Bomet Law Courts that the only reason I mounted a siren on the car was to get overtaking rights on the road as I raced to save lives,” he said.
Due to high demand for his services, he rarely has private time with his family. He is inundated with calls to respond to emergencies including accidents and taking expectant mothers to hospital.
“My family has come to understand and appreciate the nature of my duties and give me the prerequisite support,” he said.
“I can get a call in the middle of the night, as I prepare go to bed, and I have to leave immediately as the difference between life and death depends on response to calls.”.
Unlike other heads of disaster units who must get clearance from their seniors, he activates security arms and members of the county disaster unit on the go whenever an incident occurs.
When swamped with emergency calls, he places them on a priority list according to severity, with the collection of corpses at the bottom.
Calls to his phone
The county has a hotline, but residents prefer calling his personal number for emergencies and he is hardly able to respond to all requests.
One incident that remains etched in his memory happened in August 2015 at Chebole, on the Bomet-Kaplong highway. A Kilgoris-bound matatu had crashed with a lorry.
“It was one of the most horrific accidents I have witnessed, with bodies all over the road. A majority of the victims were women, with two of them having their pregnancies brought to an abrupt end,” he says
To unwind, he grabs his occasional drink, listens to secular and religious music, undergoes counseling when the need arises and spends time with his family, whom he describes as his pillar.
“We have had undeserving cases, including slay queens and bloggers getting presidential recognition and awards, yet this one very deserving case of a man who has rendered service to humanity has been bypassed,” said Sally Kirui the Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Organisation Bomet County chairperson.