Dr Daniel Ogutu is the Germany-based founder of 'Doki's Advice', a service that is helping transform medical consultation in rural Kenya.
By Atieno Odera, bird story agency
In June 2022, the Lwak Mission Hospital in Siaya, Western Kenya played host to an event that is becoming increasingly common in Kenya - a large "medical camp".
During the camp, a total of 41 adults and children were treated, over 20 ultrasound scans were performed, several blood sugar and urine tests were performed, over 10 hours of staff training was spent on ECG, X-ray, ultrasound and intra-articular injections, and several surgeries were conducted.
Another camp in October saw four neurosurgeons along with nurses from the Kisumu Neuroscience initiative provide patients with free head and spine surgeries, which would have been unaffordable otherwise. Within five days, 37 patients were operated on, including eight craniotomies, 16 spinal surgeries, eight injections, and four cervical spine and BWS surgeries. This camp was held at JOOTRH, a maximum care facility in Kisumu.
"The entire operation was 100 per cent free of charge and all doctors and nurses who travelled catered for their own costs. Dr Ogutu and his team took care of intensive care patients, emergencies, and pre- and post-hospital preparation of neurosurgical patients by evaluating blood tests, EKGs, cardiac ultrasounds and physical examination," shared Conny Iddie, a resident nurse at Lwak Mission Hospital, said of the Siaya camp.
The camps were the manifestation of a dream that Germany-based Dr Daniel Ogutu has had ever since he was a young boy. But it was a life or death event that pushed him to start "paying it forward" with the camp in his home town.
A year before the first camp, Ogutu received a distress call from Lwak; his father had experienced a heart attack around midnight and needed urgent medical care. The emergency response had been underwhelming and there was no hospital within the area that could treat him.
"There was not much time, and he had to be flown to Nairobi for urgent treatment. On getting to the hospital, we were required to deposit 400,000 admission fees before anything could be done.
I would have lost my father if we did not have the money. The operation was successful, but during this time, it hit me: with the condition that they gave us to deposit this money before my father could get treatment, what about the ordinary people who only earn 500 shillings a day? This couldn't be the solution. I just told myself I needed to do something as a qualified doctor," said Ogutu.
In fact, the desire to be a change-maker had started a long time before.
From when Ogutu was nine, he had always dreamed of becoming a medical doctor and helping his community. This desire was sparked during the peak of the HIV pandemic in Kenya around 1999 when Ogutu witnessed the death of people in his community and felt powerless to help.
"These were people I knew. Aunties and uncles and others just growing thin and disappearing. It was really devastating. At that, my dream became to invent a drug that would cure HIV," shared the 34-year-old father of two.
Born and raised in Nairobi's Eastleigh area, Ogutu was the last born in a family of seven siblings. He attended City Primary School and later joined the Agha Khan School for his secondary school education. The siblings' father, Charles Ogutu, a credit collector, was a stern believer in education as the key to success and made sure his children got the best he could offer them.
"It is not that we always had everything we needed, there are days when we would go hungry. Our father would advise us to 'drink some water, and you will not feel hungry anymore'. Despite all these challenges, he made sure, even with the small salary, we had all gone to school to the end," he shared.
Ogutu's father lost his job while he was still in high school, and things started to look bleak. His elder brother was already studying medicine in the United Kingdom at the time, and it was very costly. An agreement had to be reached. His brother would pursue the same course in Germany at a lower cost, allowing Ogutu to finish high school. Once done, Ogutu was to join him in Germany to begin his medical career - which he did, in 2007.
After seven years of study at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, Germany, Ogutu took up employment in a community hospital in Groß Gerau.
"This is where I got thoroughly trained. Later, I went to a bigger hospital in Darmstadt to intensify my knowledge of intensive care. I afterwards specialised in internal and emergency medicine."
After the medical emergency with his father, Ogutu started a service to Kenyans called 'Doki's Advice', offering free consultation services to patients from poor backgrounds in rural areas.
In 2022 alone, up to 400 consultations were performed over Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger. His initiative also sponsored six families with basic medical cover for a year.
Nerea Achieng Odek and Syprose Otonde both benefitted from the service.
"I have had hypertension since 2010, I only found out that I had the condition when I went to deliver my baby and since then the situation just got worse. On top of that, I wasn't able to cater for my treatment because I did not have the money. Since I received the medical cover sponsorship, I get free treatment and also the medicines are catered for. And I am really grateful," Odek shared.
Otonde explained that her situation would have been way worse without the medical support she received.
"I have had high blood pressure since 2016. It was hard to manage because I could barely facilitate my movements to and from the hospital, so the sponsorship helped me. I come to the clinic every two months to receive treatment, which is all paid for. It's lifted the burden off my shoulders," she said.
Ogutu also started travelling to medical camps in Kenya, offering treatment to patients and training medical experts on the ground. Soon he was offering his own camps, initially with seven medical experts based in Germany. The initiative has since grown, with more medics joining the campaign.
The campaign has been assisted by the prevalence of high-speed internet, which, when married with medical technology and on-the-ground campaigns, is bringing about a rapid transformation in community health.
"Doki's Advice envisions a future where a state-of-the-art diagnostics clinic in Kenya, alongside European-level training for medical staff, becomes a reality. This is a powerful platform to rally the community's support, raising awareness about the healthcare challenges faced in East Africa while celebrating the rich tapestry of African culture.
This program aims to foster knowledge exchange, cultural understanding, and long-term collaborations between medical professionals worldwide," Ogutu concluded.
In June, Doki's Advice hosted a huge Africa Festival in Niedernhausen, Germany. The event was used to help set up a state-of-the-art medical diagnostics clinic in Kenya, providing essential healthcare services to underserved communities.
The clinic will offer advanced medical facilities and provide world-class training for local medical professionals, ensuring sustainable regional healthcare development.
bird story agency