Kibet, the man who linked Kenyatta Hospital to the world
You probably remember the East African medical first, the 23-hour surgery to separate conjoined twins Flavour and Blessing Mukiri at Kenyatta National Hospital in November.
What about 32-year-old Fatuma Ibrahim from Wajir, who had a knife surgically removed in January last year after she was stabbed by her husband?
These are two of the many historic stories from KNH that made the limelight because of a public officer with an “eye for news”.
Still, many others may not know that Mr Francis Kibet Mengich, 40, the senior corporate affairs and communications officer at KNH, suffered a fatal seizure last Monday.
Mr Kibet was at the forefront of arranging for journalists — local and international — to witness complicated heart operations and reconstructive surgeries at the national referral facility and linked them up with patients and doctors for stories.
He knew his beat; he was a walking resource on medical events and health-related activities.
It was during his pursuit to keep abreast with the news when the unexpected — a seizure — caught him as he bought a newspaper from a vendor at his home in Highrise Estate, Nairobi.
“He loved reading the papers every morning but that Monday, at around 8am, he convulsed and collapsed,” his wife Angela Kibet told the Nation at her home last week. “A neighbour saw him and took him back home.
“He went to sleep, and 30 minutes later, my househelp called me crying … he was not breathing.”
RUSHED TO HOSPITAL
By the time he was rushed to Mbagathi Hospital, a stone’s throw away, Mr Kibet was dead.
A panicked Mrs Kibet — who describes her husband as a kind, loving father and husband who loved rhumba music — dashed from her workplace on Ngong Road.
But her husband of 10 years and the father of their three children aged 9, 6 and 2, was no more.
The grief at KNH was unbearable: A seemingly strong Mr Kibet had been at work the day before.
Mr Kibet had suffered mysterious seizures since 25, his widow disclosed.
Even in death, Mr Kibet is revered as a great bridge between the media and KNH. No wonder, he was on the speed dial of journalists and doctors alike.
“Such people are rare in government institutions,” science journalist Sarah Ooko said of Mr Kibet.
Former journalist Kiundu Waweru, health media trainer at Internews, said he was pivotal in telling cancer stories and insisting that children are featured.
Nation health and science reporter Verah Okeyo recalled: “There is one thing I never doubted: He would be there when I needed him.”
Ms Nasibo Kabale, who met Mr Kibet in 2014 as a journalism intern, said he was “not just a public relations guy at KNH but an amazing friend”.
Seasoned health writer Joy Wanja Muraya described him as a “jovial young man who always found a moment to help those in need at KNH”.
Mr Kibet will be buried on Friday in Kapng’etuny, Uasin Gishu County.