Former Somali Refugee Traces Kind Kenyan Nurse Who Treated Him in Isiolo 30 Years Ago

5 min read

  • Mohamed Jama was among the refugees who fled Somalia in 1991 due to the civil strife

  • Having suffered severe burns on most parts of his body, Jama was lucky to meet Florence Lintari in Isiolo who not only treated but also took care of him.

  • He managed to move to the US on a repatriation program and studied medicine, thanks to the nurse whose kindness touched him.

  • Jama also started a charity organization and came back to Kenya after 30 years to look for Florence as the manager of the Kenyan branch 

Mohamed Jama Mohamed’s life took a nosedive in February 1991 when his country Somali disintegrated into civil strife, one that has taken decades to quell.

He was still an ambitious young man who did not want to partake in the hullabaloo, but he still suffered collateral damage that changed his life completely.

Jama, who at the time worked with Somali’s Ministry of Agriculture, was putting up with a friend who sold petrol from his premises. Unknown to him, what had seemingly appeared as a safe haven became the proverbial case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time. 

Jama was assisting his friend to pour gallons of petrol into buckets when someone unknowingly walked into the room with a lit lamp. The next thing the young man saw was a cloud of fire as the house was consumed by the angry blaze, which saw him sustain severe burns on the face, back, hands and stomach. “I incurred almost 35% burns, and the pain I was going through is indescribable,” narrated Jama. As if that was not enough, he needed to access medication which could only be found a whole 70 kilometres away in Kismayu.

Getting there was a challenge as the political climate had grounded all essential services, among them transport.

Jama was lucky to hitch a ride on a pickup truck belonging to some fighters who were moving to Kismayu, and his treacherous journey to Kismayu in the dead of the night started. “It was very cold and I could feel my body freeze in deep pain as the cold breeze hit me. I cried hard, I was in pain,” he remembered painfully. Hopes Dashed His hopes for medical attention crumbled when he arrived at the hospital in Kismayu and found that the facility was packed with other escapees but there were no medics. “I did not know anyone in Kismayu and the hospital had been converted into a refugee camp. There was no doctor, no nurses and no form of treatment going on,” says Jama. 

With no medication nor hope in sight, Jama eased his pain with a skin pain reliever a veterinary escapee offered him at the camp. 

Finally, Jama and his fellow countrymen got the news that they had been waiting for; there was a ship at Kismayu that would transport them to Mombasa, Kenya. Eight hundred refugees packed onto the vessel on the voyage to Mombasa, with Jama sitting close to the wall where his body could be splashed with water from the ocean currents. It took seven days for them to reach the Kenyan coast, but then they had to wait for another ten days to receiving clearance for the ship to dock.

Florence Lintar

Jama, who still needed treatment, bumped into a well-wisher who helped him travel to Nairobi from where he was taken to Isiolo by a friend. “I found a young nurse who looked shocked at the severity of my burns but promised to support me until I got well. Her name was Florence Lintari,” said Jama. Despite the two not having a common language to communicate, the nurse took care of Jama by not only medicating him but also ensuring he ate fruits to aid his recovery process. 

After three painstaking months, Jama was informed that he had recovered fully and could be discharged. 

“I did not have any relatives, so she took me to her house, fed me, then escorted me to the bus station where I paid bus fare from the money I had been given,” he continued. Jama, awed by Florence Lintari’s kindness, inquired why she had chosen to be that kind to him despite the fact that he was not Kenyan and not related to her. He remembers that the kind nurse told him she was doing good because when one does so, good returns to them. Repatriated Lady luck smiled on Jama again as he was among those who were repatriated to the United States of America through the United Nations programme for refugees.

He settled in, went back to college to study for three years as a surgical technician, and eventually for four years as a nurse. 

“I embarked on studying courses related to medicare because of the inspiration I had received in Kenya, especially from Florence Lintari who had treated me in Isiolo,” Jama revealed. Jama, who is currently a nurse at the University of Minnesota Medical Centre, is married and with four children. Jama poses with colleagues at the hospital he currently works.

The married father of two is currently a nurse at the University of Minnesota Medical Centre.
Jama poses with colleagues at the hospital he currently works. Photo: Boni Manyala.

Came Back To Find Florence 

It has been three decades since Jama interacted with Florence, but her heart of gold remained embedded in his heart, so this month he visited Kenya to look for her. He finally found Florence who currently lives in Machakos town and retired from her nursing profession in 2020, with her final workstation having been at Machakos Level 5 Hospital. “I am so happy to meet her again after 30 years. She didn’t even know where I went after I left Isiolo, so I came back to look for her and thank her for saving my life,” said a happy Jama.

Apart from treating and taking care of him, Florence also inspired him to take up a course as a nurse so that he too could help other people.

Charity Organization 

ama also established a medical charity organization to help take care of sick people through the provision of medical equipment and personnel. Called Health Extension, Promotion and Training Organization (HEPTO), the institution has a head office in Minnesota, USA and branches in both Ethiopia and Somalia. It is expanding to Kenya and Jama already decided that the newest branch will be run by Florence, a lady who demonstrated her love and care for people who are suffering.

1 thought on “Former Somali Refugee Traces Kind Kenyan Nurse Who Treated Him in Isiolo 30 Years Ago

  1. This is kind of human being we need to be. Both persons are real good human and kindness that should be role model

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