Erastus Mbuno, a cancer specialist and front-line health officer in the fight against Covid-19 had to endure tough early years. Skipping meals coupled with lack of school fees saw him spent most of his days at home helping her mother, the only parent he had after his father succumbed to Thyroid cancer. He tells Mumo Munuve that his passion for medicine started after the death of his father and mother contracting TB which kept on reoccurring despite taking medication.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am a 27 year-old medical doctor at Kitui County Referral Hospital. I specialise in preparation of chemotherapy for cancer patients. I was born and raised in the rural Koi village, Kitui East sub-county. I am the last born in a family of six.
My father succumbed to thyroid cancer when I was very young, so I was raised by my mother who was battling chronic tuberculosis for years. We grew up in a very humble home, where skipping meals and constantly being sent home for school fees was the order of the day.
How was it growing up in a single-parent home?
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It was an experience that will always be in my mind. Life was really tough. We would walk for more than 10 kilometres to get water for home consumption. My early years were marked with school absenteeism. My mother was battling TB and was always coughing, which really troubled me. I always feared that we would lose her at any moment.
How did your mother manage to educate you, given the challenges?
My elder sister assisted her for some time. I was schooling at Koi Primary School were I stayed up to class five, and then my sister volunteered to pay my school fees. I transferred to Malalani Primary School together with a nephew. After one year, my sister was unable to continue funding my studies so I had to go back to my former school. After another year, I transferred to Endau Primary School where I was forced to repeat Class Six. It’s in that school where I completed my primary education.
Where did you go next?
I managed to scoop 371 marks in my KCPE exam and was the best student from the school. I was then called to join Chuka Boys High School where life was not easy either. My elder brother, who was in his final year of study at the university, deferred his studies and channeled all his HELB money to pay my school fees. In Form Two, I was granted a scholarship by Consolata Catholic Church, which paid my fees in full for the rest of my studies.
How did you feel after your brother sacrificed his studies for your education?
I was excited. It was a dream come true for me since it was the first time I left my village. I stepped into the school with one goal in mind; to work hard in order to attain grades that would take me to a medical school since I always wanted to be a doctor.
Did you achieve your goal?
Yes, after attaining an A grade in my secondary school examination, I joined Kenyatta University for a Bachelors’ degree in Pharmacy. I felt on top of the world despite reservations from some relatives who wanted me to pursue an ‘easier’ course. But I did not relent.
Why were you so passionate about pursuing medicine?
For me, medicine has always been more of saving lives than a mere career. My father’s death dealt a huge blow to me. My mother’s deteriorating health also worried me. I decided to work hard in order to become a doctor then come back and treat my ailing mother, now that my father was gone for good.
What is your experience working as a front-liner during the Covid-19 pandemic?
I take Covid-19 as a health challenge which I have to fight against and save as many patients as possible. So I always research more about it and compare notes with what different hospitals across the globe are doing in efforts to get the best treatment protocol. I don’t fear contracting the virus, but I am cautious not to.
What is your ultimate goal as a medic?
I would love to scale the ladder, especially in the field of cancer which I am very passionate about. I am currently the chairman of Champions Mentorship Alliance, an association through which we talk to and mentor school children. So far, we have traversed the region and reached more than 50 schools.