We are all familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan in the Bible. Written eons ago, the scene seemed to replay in Nairobi’s Industrial Area early last month. Only this time round, the Good Samaritan was one of our own – Dennis Oduor Ratenga. He is living proof that humanity still exists and there are people willing to go out of their way to help others without asking for anything in return. He takes MWAURA MUIGANA through his heroic deeds.
A picture of Dennis Oduor Ratenga has been doing rounds on social media asking Kenyans to visit his garage and support his business. And why would anyone want to support Dennis’ business? You ask. The picture was supposedly circulated by a city hospital that was touched by Dennis’ kind deed and they wanted to celebrate him the best way they knew – by marketing his garage.
Going by the sentiments in the comments and the number of shares and likes the picture got, it was clear that acts of selflessness are a rarity. So, what is this that Dennis did that got the attention of Kenya’s social media?
The events of August 4, 2015 will forever be etched in Dennis’ mind. At around 6pm, Dennis, whose nickname is Evans Wambua, stood at the roadside after serving his last customer. He hoped a late customer would pop in.
He has been working as mechanic along Baricho Road in Nairobi’s Industrial Area for the past seven years. Those that are familiar with the road will attest that it is quite a busy one since it plays host to a significant number of roadside garages and it also serves as a link road between the city centre and surrounding estates.
Dennis aimlessly watched as the evening motorists and commuters competed for space on the road, oblivious of the inherent danger. There was a flurry of activities as some commuters hurried to catch their matatus home while others were heading to the nearby Nakumatt supermarket, perhaps to grab some provisions for their families.
His trail of thought was cut short by a Toyota double cabin pick-up that was speeding dangerously along the road. The driver seemed to have lost control of the vehicle as it swerved from one side of the road to the other. It missed hitting other unsuspecting motorists by a whisker several times. In their hurry to go home, commuters were unaware of the looming danger.
Dennis went on alert, trying to figure out how he could help. He assumed the brakes of the car had failed. He hoped and prayed the car would gradually slow down to a level where he could jump in and help the driver to stop it. Unfortunately, the vehicle was speeding all the more, ultimately putting the lives of innocent commuters at risk.
He did what appeared to be the most prudent thing: shout to warn commuters and motorists to watch out. Others took up the alert and one would be forgiven for assuming that a shouting match was on. Pedestrians were quick to act and jumped out of the way.
However, a man who was hurrying towards Nakumatt Supermarket was not so lucky – he was hit from behind, tossed up in the air and somersaulted before landing on his head.
The drunk driver attempted to speed off but Dennis, his colleagues and pedestrians blocked his way. He was too drunk to comprehend or communicate. Dennis and his colleagues switched off the engine and took the car keys. Everyone started baying for the driver’s blood and ignored the injured man lying unconscious on the ground. Dennis ran to the man’s rescue. He had head, arms, legs and back injuries.
“I attempted to shake him up but in vain. I thought he had sustained serious internal injuries as he was swollen all over. It was imperative to rush him to hospital instead of waiting for the police to arrive at the accident scene and time was not in our hands,” he recalls.
Dennis didn’t have first aid skills. He pleaded with anyone with the knowledge to help resuscitate the unconscious man. No one responded as they were jostling and crying for the driver’s blood. Some had already started beating him up. Those who went near the injured man looked terrified. No one dared come near him.
“I frantically pleaded for help to carry him to the car so that we could take him to hospital. It was the typical Nairobi crowd. Nobody wanted to get involved lest they got entangled in a court case as witnesses in case the driver was charged. One person intimated that the man could already be dead. They focused on beating the drunk driver and I wondered what their priority was. The driver was too drunk to run away and here was a helpless man on the ground whose life was hanging by a thread. He needed urgent medical attention,” Dennis, a father of two, recalls.
He was incensed but here was a man whose life depended on swift action from him and others willing to help. He felt for the victim’s pulse and, thankfully, he was still alive. That gave Dennis the inspiration he needed. He pleaded with the crowd to help him put the man in the car that had hit him to take him to hospital. Those near him started pulling back as if to say, “Not me!”
At that moment, a policeman on patrol arrived and started controlling the unruly crowd that was threatening to lynch the drunk driver. He asked Dennis to drive the injured man to hospital while he arrested the driver to save him from mob injustice. He further instructed Dennis to surrender the accident vehicle at the Industrial Area Police Station after taking the man to hospital.
Dennis persuaded one mechanic at the scene to assist him place the injured man on the backseat of the accident vehicle. A Good Samaritan from the crowd also offered to take care of the man while Dennis drove. He still had his oily mechanic overall on but there was no time to change, or even clean his dirty hands.
Time was of the essence. He drove to the nearby Nairobi West Hospital. But just after a short distance, the man who was watching over the injured man took advantage of the traffic jam and jumped out of the vehicle.
“I didn’t panic. I had to do what needed to be done – save the man’s life. I sped off to the hospital praying that the man would not die on me. I hooted from a distance to alert the security guard to open the gate quickly since it was an emergency. Thankfully, the medical staff responded very quickly,” he explains.
Dennis informed the doctor about the circumstances of the accident and that police were aware. They performed first aid and asked for the man’s details. Dennis didn’t even know the man’s name, leave alone any other details. He paid a fee to open up a file for the victim as per the hospital policy. They then asked for a deposit of Ksh 27,000 to facilitate commencement of treatment and admission.
He offered the only money he had – Ksh 7,000, as they waited for the man’s relatives to present themselves and foot the bill. He had already established that the man had Ksh 47,140 in his wallet but decided not touch it until his relatives arrived. He handed the money to the doctor for safekeeping.
Luckily, the victim’s wife arrived at the hospital while Dennis was still there. One of the mechanics at the scene of the accident had picked the injured man’s phone, scrolled through and called the last dialed number and the person who answered happened to be his wife.
He explained that her husband had been involved in an accident and had been rushed to the nearby Mater Hospital. She rushed to Mater Hospital and was told no accident victim had been received in their casualty department. The hospital helped her to contact Nairobi West Hospital, which was the closest to them and they were told the patient was there and being attended to.
In a great panic she rushed there and was later joined by her children. Dennis was at hand to receive them and fill them up on the incident. After receiving first aid, the family decided to transfer him to Nairobi Hospital as his insurance was not tenable at Nairobi West Hospital.
“The wife was in shock and couldn’t talk much. She thanked me and I wished them a quick recovery. I advised her to report to the Industrial Area Police Station where the suspect had been locked up. I drove to the police station and surrendered the vehicle as instructed,” he says.
This was not the first time Dennis had saved someone’s life. He takes us back to three years ago. He recounts that one day while he was working, a welder and a good friend of his in a neighbouring welding workshop was working on the body of a client’s car without realising that a jerry can full of petrol had been stored in the boot of the car. As he worked with an electric welding machine, the petrol ignited and exploded into a fireball. The welder was engulfed in fire.
Everyone was in panic mode since it was dangerous to pull the man from under the vehicle where he had been working. Dennis couldn’t watch his friend die. He gathered courage and grabbed the fire extinguisher can on the wall.
Unfortunately, when he tried pressing the handle, nothing came out. He realised it had expired and ineffective. He frantically ran to the next garage across the road and picked their fire extinguisher, went back and helped to put out the fire on the burning man. The victim had severe burns that put him in hospital for two months but he survived.
Dennis concludes by saying it’s important to assist a needy person because tomorrow it might be your turn.
Published in September 2015.