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Tales from Kisumu: Kevin Rombosia – not your ‘kawaida’ doctor.

In 2019 he won the Kenya Excellence in Healthcare Leadership Award. PHOTO: Courtesy

How does one begin writing an article about Kevin Rombosia or ‘Doctor Badman’ as his friends like to call him, do you start with his flourishing medical career with the numerous awards in health systems management, or do you focus on something fun like his exploits on two wheels – of course with the multiple Concours D’Elegance wins?

This is a question I have been struggling with since my interview with him on August 4th, 2020 at 9.00 PM. This interview was supposed to last not more than 30 minutes but ended up taking almost two hours. In fact, it was only stopped by a network problem on my end as we were having it over Zoom. I was initially to cut it into a 20-minute podcast about his new book, Dreams on a motorcycle, but here we are today.

This book that’s now not so new was originally to be published in Swahili, but along the way the argument for doing it in English won – perhaps and indication that the author is also quite fluent in Swahili.

In the 177 pages of this book he talks about his family life, the complicated relationship he had with his father who would later sink into alcoholism, lose his teaching job and just become a nuisance to his family. In fact he says he was so confused about his feelings when the old man died. In the interview I asked him if he hated his father for what he put them through.

“Man to be honest, I don’t know. I think I was more of disappointed. Here is a man I loved. I remember how he would carry me on his laps and let me listen to his funny heartbeat,” he explains. His father had a heart defect and had an implant that helped regularize his heartbeat. “There is a part of me that adored him, but that part was also greatly disappointed when he would be the cause of my ridicule by peers because of his drunkenness and the constant fights he had with my mum.” he says.

Rombosia also expresses a lot of admiration for his mother Violet Shitanda, who worked at Mumias Sugar Company as a clerk, but did several side-hustles like selling soda to co-workers, selling second-hand clothes on the weekends, leasing farms to grow sugarcane – all to put him, his brother and five sisters through school.

Interestingly, despite having broken up, Rombosia has very kind words for his ex-wife and mother of their two children. What caught my attention most was how honest he was when writing about their relationship and the reasons why it ended.

Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

J. K. Rowling

Each chapter in his book begins with a quote. The above is from Chapter 9 where he bares it all. It’s very rare to find people say that they were the problem or the reason a relationship broke, but Rombosia does not strive to hide that fact. She left because he could not stop seeing a nurse at work.

“Has your ex-wife read the book?” I asked during my interview with him. Curious to know what she thought about it – especially this chapter which I felt sounded like an apology to her.

“She was the first person to buy a copy,” he responded. But as at the time of our interview, she had not told him what she thought about the book. But as Kevin has always surmounted every challenge that came his way or learnt how to live with it, this challenge on the home front though hard-hitting at first provided him with a sober reflection of his life and personal choices that have today in his own words made him “a better father and more present” in his children’s life.

What’s really remarkable is how he has risen above these personal challenges to excel, first in school and now in his career as a doctor and healthcare manager, and on the track with his motorcycles.

At Booker Academy in Mumias where he did his KCPE, Rombosia graduated top of his class despite the challenges at home and the constant humiliation thanks to his father’s drinking. At Mang’u High School, he had to contend with the fact that every other kid in the school were the best from where they came, meaning he even had to work extra hard. When his father died, he contemplated quitting school to help his mother take care of the family, in fact, he at one time escaped from school by cutting through the fence. He would later not only excel in academics but was also an excellent member of the basketball team.

While he almost quit medicine when he lost a patient after successful delivery, he was able to bounce back and achieve great things in Kisumu. Went around the bureaucracies in public healthcare and inspired the team at Kombewa Sub-County Hospital in Kisumu to deliver unmatched services to their clients when he worked there as the Medical Superintendent. Today he is also a budding geospatial epidemiologist. In 2019 he won the Kenya Excellence in Healthcare Leadership Award.

Chapter 7 of his book is dedicated to his exploits on the back of a motorcycle. Interestingly he learnt riding from stealing his mother’s 50cc Suzuki motorcycle that she often used to carry crates of soda with. Several times he got a good whopping for this. His love for motorbikes took him across the border to Uganda where he built good relationships with motorcycle clubs there. He would, later on, come back to start the pioneer motorcycle club of western Kenya – Lakeside Outriders. Other than sharing their enthusiasm for bikes, the club also focused on training members on road safety. In 2019 for instance, 1,100 lives were lost to motorcycle accidents according to the NTSA.

In 2017, he entered his 1995 400cc Honda Steed to compete at the Concours D’Elegance for the first time. He entered the same in 2018 and won his first award. In 2019 he entered a bigger bike, a 1991 Honda Goldwing GL 1500 which finished in third place in the Street Motorcycles over 1,200 cc category.

Rombosia’s successes on the tracks, motorshows, and as a healthcare manager, defying the challenges in his personal life is not just inspiring but proof that we can all do great things despite our position in life.

The book is available on Amazon for USD 5.99.

 

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