Dr Andrew Mulwa was almost buried alive when he was young after he fell sick and his family thought he had died.
That was on March 24, 1991, a date he will never forget.
He got so ill, maybe it was malaria, he is not sure. One of his brothers carried him home from school and he suffered a convulsion leading to deep sleep.
That led his mother to believe he was dead.
“I could hear what they were saying but I couldn’t talk or move, and my parents began planning for my burial at some point. I also thought I was dead.”
You see, there was no mortuary where he was born in Makueni and dead bodies were preserved in homes using moist sand.
He had remained in deep slumber and were it not for his eldest brother passing by from work, he would have been buried.
He was rushed to Makueni Hospital which was far and admitted after doctors confirmed he was still alive. He returned home after four days.
Dr Mulwa recalls that back then, child mortality rate was very high and his situation makes him wonder how many other children got severely ill and were buried alive.
“You would be with someone in school and come Monday, you hear they died on Friday and were buried, yet something would have been done,” says Dr Mulwa who excelled at Makueni High School where he also passed out and other students thought he was feigning sickness to avoid preps only for them to realise it was serious at around 7pm.
He was rushed to Makueni Hospital where doctors saved his life. This is what sparked his interest in medicine. In any case, he did very well in science subjects.
Despite being a bright student, the 2002 KCSE exams saw the results of 99 out of 139 students cancelled. He was among the 99 despite scoring ‘As’ in all subjects besides chemistry where he earned a Y!
It was alleged that all his classmates had similar answers to his since he was Index Number One.
Dr Mulwa says he does not understand how it happened “and I wish someone would explain to me how one could leak a practical paper.”
He recalls that there were three exam rooms where results got cancelled “not just in the same room as mine but in other rooms which did their exams after I had already left the exam room.”
He had to re-sit KCSE after joining Machakos School where he earned Grade A in all subjects.
It was a valuable lesson he has carried to date: that one ought to give their best and pray that the environmental factors will play to suit the outcome one desires.
The cancelled results humbled him, widening his outlook of life and made him not see himself as the best.
“It taught me that life will never be a straight path and there is need to always make efforts to control the environmental factors at play,” says Dr Mulwa.
After finishing his studies at the University of Nairobi, where he graduated as a General Practitioner, Dr Mulwa worked in his home area, in Mbooni Constituency where they were several challenges.
“It was very frustrating back then. I saw mothers getting post-partum bleeding, you know she needs surgery and there is no theatre, and if you have a theatre or specialists and if they are there, there is no right equipment due to several gaps in the system,” he recalls, adding that to make matters worse, there were no referral hospitals nearby and referring a patient was like a death sentence.
“I once left my family during my pre-wedding to do a surgery as I knew by the time the referral was through, it would be too late for the mother,” he says.
“I then realised doctors can be facilitated to work from where they are so that more patients can get the services they require.”
This is the reason why Dr Mulwa accepted the nomination as the Makueni CEC for Health at the onset of devolution.
Before that, he had been mobilising resources to have the right health systems by establishing theatres and maternal health facilities to ease access for locals instead of referring them to other facilities.
During this time, he took an executive course on work decentralisation at the Harvard School of Public Health. That course helped him at the county and the national level.
It was during his tenure as the CEC Health that Makueni became a model county after implementing the Makueni Universal Health Care programme using a five-point agenda: access to health, physical access, actual services, health care financing, human resources, leadership and governance.
“This is the legacy I left in Makueni as I moved to the national government, and it involves looking at the health system that comprises curative, preventive and promotive components and the Makueni Universal Healthcare programme is still working.”
His Masters degree in Strategic Management from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) opened his mind to the world of management as the Director of Medical Services, Preventive and Promotive at the Ministry of Health.
“I have been doing what I did in Makueni, helping my bosses at the Ministry of Health to transform and provide quality healthcare,” says Dr Mulwa.
In his free time, Dr Mulwa loves hanging out with friends, cooking for his family and in between engaging in social banter.