Hadija Mohamed Alio – Lamu’s Exceptional Ambulance Operator

By Angeline Nzyoka

Tell us about yourself and what you do.

I am Hadija Mohamed Alio, a married individual blessed with five children. Professionally, I serve as an Ambulance Operator equipped with a wealth of experience and expertise. I hold certifications from Trans-aid International in Automotive Engineering and First Aid Defensive Driving Operator Skills. Throughout my career, which spans 25 years, I have consistently sought to enhance my capabilities through numerous refresher courses. My primary responsibility revolves around facilitating patients’ swift and secure transportation to healthcare facilities. My role demands exceptional driving skills and a profound comprehension of emergency response protocols, which I am well-versed in.

What do you love about your work?

As an ambulance operator, my motivation stems from the opportunity to rescue critically ill patients and ensure their safe transfer to the hospital, guaranteeing the continuity of their care. The camaraderie and teamwork that define our efforts at the Emergency Response And Referral Unit hold a special place in my heart. I am particularly pleased to note that our unit has expanded its personnel and fleet of ambulances, enhancing our capacity to respond swiftly to emergencies.

What does emergency care mean to you?

For me, emergency care encompasses immediate medical assistance that remains accessible around the clock. As an operator, it signifies the continuous service I offer, 24 hours a day, responding to severe illnesses or injuries that potentially pose a life-threatening risk. Furthermore, it involves the crucial capability to facilitate patient transfers to specialized departments, such as surgery or diagnostic tests, ensuring they receive the specific care they require.

Share with us a remarkable emergency encounter that impacted you.

This incident dates back to 2007, when I had just returned from a critical patient transfer to the Coast General Referral Hospital in Mombasa. On my way back, I had an additional task: picking up a doctor who had been conducting surgeries at Mpeketoni Hospital, accompanied by one of our colleagues.

Initially, everything was proceeding smoothly. However, our journey took an unexpected turn when we had to cross over to Lamu Island via boat amidst a light drizzle. Out of nowhere, our boat collided with another vessel that happened to be transporting fuel tanks. In the ensuing chaos, we found ourselves in the water, and while I could swim, my colleagues were not proficient swimmers. Tragically, one of my colleagues struck his head against the boat as he was thrown overboard, losing consciousness. The other colleague suffered an impact on his chest, resulting in fractured ribs and a punctured left lung.

Fortunately, they were wearing life jackets, which undoubtedly saved their lives. Some nearby divers and individuals on the seashore quickly sprang into action, swimming to their rescue. Thanks to their heroic efforts, my colleagues were pulled from the water and promptly transported to King Fahd Hospital. From there, they were airlifted to Nairobi for intensive care in the ICU.

This story is even more remarkable because the doctor involved had recently conducted a staff training session on CPR just the week before. In a twist of fate, the very topic of CPR that he had covered in the training turned out to be instrumental in his rescue. It was a humbling reminder of how emergency preparedness and knowledge can make all the difference in a life-or-death situation.

From this experience, what gap in the provision of emergency care in your setting would you like to improve upon?

  • Everyone in the Accident & Emergency (A&E) department needs to be trained on resuscitation.
  • All 4 major county facilities need an active A&E department, i.e. Witu, Mpeketoni, Faza, and King Fahd-Lamu County Referral Hospital. King Fahd-Lamu County Referral Hospital has an A&E but needs more staff to be able to handle mass casualties in case the need arises.
  • Frequent drills to monitor staff preparedness and response to emergencies.
Emergency Medicine Kenya Foundation