Solai heroine who saved 30 children from death

Mary Waruguru, who was honoured for saving more than 30 lives in the Solai dam tragedy. [Mercy Kahenda, Standard]
It was the end of another typical day for Mary Waruguru, a community health worker in Solai, Nakuru County.

But for some reason, Waruguru chose to stay a bit longer at the Lecheila Clinic to help the doctors attending to patients.

That decision would turn out to be one that made a difference between life and death for at least 30 children that Waruguru helped save after the Patel dam burst last Wednesday, killing more than 45 people.

With no medical training, save for first aid skills she had acquired during a training conducted by the Kenya Red Cross many years ago, Waruguru got down to work, saving the lives of dozens of children who could have died.

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For her efforts, the 32-year-old was yesterday acknowledged by President Uhuru Kenyatta and Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui during a memorial service to honour victims of the tragedy.

When The Standard caught up with the community health and development officer, Waruguru said she was happy to have helped the victims.

She spoke of her pain after encountering distraught mothers who had lost their children as they fled the raging waters.

“I was in shock, I did not want to see any mother lose a child in the tragedy. I had to recall my first aid skills that I acquired years back, in 2000, and it helped me save lives of at least 30 children," said Waruguru.

She said the children were rushed to Lecheila clinic, a privately-owned clinic by police officers and volunteer rescuers.

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Lecheila clinic, where Waruguru works as an administrator, is located about 200 metres from Nyakinyua village that was swept by raging waters after the dam burst.

She is the founder of Lecheila Africa, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) that runs the clinic.

Waruguru recalls how at around 7.30pm she heard a bang, and thought it was floods, but there was no rain within the area.

The sound was followed by cries from residents. Two doctors who were at the clinic ran for safety, leaving Waruguru alone at the private facility.

She recalled how she picked a one-month-old baby boy who was unconscious as the mother was swept by waters as they fled to safety.

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"The baby was brought by a police officer in a vehicle. Inside the vehicle was the baby's mother who had lost consciousness after being swept away by waters. I was touched, and decided to put my best skills to save the boy," she recalled.

After cleaning the baby, she wrapped him in a blanket, and to her relief the infant burped.

"I cleaned the baby whose body was cold, and placed it on my chest. I was the happiest woman when he breathed again," said Waruguru, who attended the service. 

She told The Standard that she stayed at the facility the whole night and served at least 20 children and more than 10 adults.

She cleaned

She recounted how she cleaned the children who were having difficulty breathing and whose bodies were covered in mud.

"The night was a struggle, I did not sleep, I received tens of casualties whom I served singlehandedly, but later, locals and doctors joined in," she said.

Ms Waruguru said though the disaster had left many of her neighbours devastated, she was happy to have helped during rescue efforts through the clinic, which was set up four weeks ago.

President Kenyatta later spoke to Waruguru in person after the service. "My special tribute goes to Mary Waruguru, an administrator without medical training, who helped save lives," said Kinyanjui.

Nakuru Governor Lee Kinyanjui said he was touched by Waruguru for saving the life of the one-month-old baby whose mother died with him strapped on her back.

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