Would-be pilot ends up as mortuary attendant

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n many African cultures, death and the dead are feared and revered, and the sheer mention of a mortuary, a house where the dead are kept before their burial sends a collective shiver down the spine of many people.

Being a mortuary attendant is a job that most people abhor despite the joblessness that engulfs the country but one man has been working in a morgue for 11 years and for him, things can only get better. Mortuary attendants work in hospitals, mortuaries, funeral homes and county coroner offices.

Meet 42-year-old Leshan Lontubu; a Mortuary Superintendent (in charge) at Narok Referral Hospital mortuary and the second born in a family of six, when he was young he wanted to be a pilot or a doctor but things did not go his way. He got this job after completing his Form Four and later went on to study a certificate course in mortuary science at Chiromo campus of the University of Nairobi.

To him, the job is a calling and just not an ordinary like any other. Leshan says he loves his work of a mortuary attendant so much and could have asked for more since it was his choice.

Being a mortuary attendant, Leshan`s job entails receiving the bodies in the morgue, cleaning the bodies, labeling them properly for identification and preparing them for preservation by applying various chemicals required for the purpose and ensuring that the bodies are properly stored in the refrigerator.

Handling the dead

He also prepares the bodies for postmortem and is required to be physically present to help the pathologist bisect the body to determine the cause of death and then take back the body for preservation after postmortem.

As the mortuary Superintendent the Hospital mortuary, Leshan is also required to complete the necessary paper work to receive and release the body to the relatives or to any other person if there is a court order. “You see, in this country there are laws that govern how you handle and interact with the dead,” he says.

ALSO SEEThe worst jobs in Kenya are actually the most popular

He says working with the dead gives him satisfaction to help honour the departed and give them their last respects. He says he even sits with his family and advices them as a father to follow his footsteps, adding that it’s a job like any other.

Emotional job

But jokes that all long, his family has never been comfortable with his choice of job but later came to accept his choice and support him.

Mortuary attendants other than high school certificate or general education are required to have at least a diploma in mortuary science and can advance this to a degree or beyond. In this country, University of Nairobi is the only institution known to offer this course up to the highest level at its Chiromo Campus.

Being an emotional job, mortuary attendant is required to maintain composure in the face of extremely difficult circumstance. Physical fitness is necessary, as is attention to details. Most mortuary attendants training is learned on the job. If you plan to become a funeral director or, you will need a four-year degree in mortuary science.

Leshan says he is married and blessed with two boys and one girl who support and value his job. He says one of the challenges they face is when they get bodies that have gone very bad or unknown bodies that are difficult to identify before the postmortem is done, which could due to being disfigured in an accident or fire, for example.

“In this case, genetic tests called DNA is done on samples from the bodies and from those claiming the bodies,” says Leshan.

There are many stereotypes being propagated about people who work in a morgue. One of the myths is that a mortuary attendant must be an alcoholic or a drug addict but Leshan dismisses this saying they serve people who are not happy but sad people so one must be sober in order to help them deal with the loss.

Stigmatised

He says serving people who have lost their loved ones also affects him as a human being so most of the time he is not in a happy mood. “It’s a job that requires one to be in a sober mind in order to help detect the causes of the death of a patient and he even becomes bitter about these myths being spread about mortuary attendants,” Leshan says.

Leshan says some people claim the mortuary attendants are not human beings otherwise how can one live and work in an environment full of dead bodies but he says contrary to this belief mortuary attendants are human beings with feelings and theirs is a job just like any other.

He says as a mortuary attendants, they are stigmatised and even when walking on the streets, many people don’t want to associate with him and some are even heard saying, ‘that is the mortuary guy’.

Leshan Lontubu, a mortuary superintendent (in charge) at Narok Referral Hospital mortuary speaking to this reporter at the morgue. Credit: KNA

Leshan also says people have a myth that a person working in a morgue can communicate with the dead, adding that this is very wrong as no human being can communicate with the dead.

Another myth is that people believe people who are brought in the morgue and are not dead are killed by the mortuary attendant, an allegation that Leshau categorically denies.

He says that mortuary attendants are also human beings with feeling and besides the bodies are normally confirmed and certified dead through a number of tests carried out just to be sure that indeed they are dead.

READ: Mother who killed son for Sh20

Leshau also says when body is brought to the morgue, its refrigerated after three hours and this is just in case the person is found to be alive which has never occurred, but just in case it occurs, a doctor is required to be called in immediately and the patient is taken to a ward at the hospital for assistance but the matter is kept confidential.

He views his work with dead bodies as a calling and contrary to myth that people who work in a morgue experience nightmares, Leshau has never had any nightmare. “When I’m out of the morgue, I forgets everything that has happened that day and concentrates on his family,” Leshau says.

Leshan says members of the public should be sensitised about careers such as his because young people are shying away from these kind of careers because of misconceptions and very soon, such careers will not have the necessary manpower to run them and yet they are careers like any other and are important to the society.

“Imagine a world without mortuaries, or mortuaries without the people who work in there,” Leshan says.

Many youth engage in activities which ruin their lives after becoming desperate to get a job and make a living but Leshau advises every jobless youth not to be too selective in career choice and should consider a career in Mortuary Science which is grossly understaffed and afterwards be counseled and sensitized on the issue of death.

Just like any other job, mortuary attendants face a number of challenges; handling people who are in pain by trying to fit in their shoes is a bit difficult as Leshan has found which is a bit difficult.

Overstretched facilities

He recalls one particular incident where he was dealing with family members who were too traumatised after losing several members in an accident and he had to understand and communicate to them though a family spokesman.

Narok Referral Hospital Mortuary where Leshan works was built to serve only the hospital but it serves the whole county and as a result, the facilities are overstretched thus increasing the workload for the mortuary attendants who are there.

Related: Autopsy reveals Chris Msando’s painful death

The work load is too high as there are only two mortuaries in county, one at Kilgoris District Hospital and the one at Narok Referral hospital where Leshau works. Because of the failure of ordinary wananchi to take up such jobs Leshau and his colleagues are overworked.

Leshan, for instance, is thinking about going to further his studies but he cannot be released because there is no replacement. And the community needs him. Facilities too, are not adequate and one can easily contract a disease in the morgue, but luckily, this has never happened to him.

Leshan says in his career he has observed that people fear the dead and would like to further his studies in order to educate and sensitize the public about Mortuary Sciences and other careers which are grossly misunderstood. He advises young people to take on this job as a career as it is a job just like any other.

Latest

Angry Standard Group Employees Wrestle With Auctioneers

In what looked like a movie, Standard Group employees moved to stop the auctioneers from carrying away the seats.

Inside Details of How Equity Sealed Deal to Acquire Rwandan Bank

Equity Group Managing Director and CEO, Dr James Mwangi, said the transaction Equity-Cogebanque deal was sealed on 30th November 2023.

Lupita’s Little Brother Junior Nyong’o Charting His Own Path in Acting

Junior Nyongó, who is also a musician and a DJ and now a graduate of UC San Diego with an MFA in Acting, is crafting his own solid path in the world of acting with roles in major theatre productions.

Follow Us

Newsletter

Don't miss

Lupita’s Little Brother Junior Nyong’o Charting His Own Path in Acting

Junior Nyongó, who is also a musician and a DJ and now a graduate of UC San Diego with an MFA in Acting, is crafting his own solid path in the world of acting with roles in major theatre productions.

Safaricom To Power Tusker OktobaFest Beer Festival

Safaricom’s involvement in OktobaFest as a technology and payments partner will focus on fostering seamless in-festival connectivity, empowering the youth and Gen Z community through Safaricom Hook, and powering digital payments through M-PESA.

Music Producers Launch Organization To Streamline Recording Industry

Recording Industry of Kenya (RIKE) was launched on 9th October 2023. Registered in 2022 as a not-for-profit organization, RIKE aims to promote the collective interests of producers of sound recordings in the country.

Nairobi’s Hero Bar Listed Among World’s 50 Best Bars

World Best Bars: Hero Bar in Nairobi continues to climb the list, moving up six places to No.62 and Johannesburg’s Sin + Tax comes in at No.94. Dubai new entry Ergo is at No.69 and Melbourne’s Byrdi has re-entered the list at No.61.

Kenyan DJs Face Off In Smirnoff Battle Of The Beats Season 3

The Smirnoff Battle of the Beats Season 3, a DJ competition, is poised to unleash an unprecedented musical frenzy countrywide.

The Highs And Lows Of Betty Kyallo, Sisters Show As Season 2 Ends

Kyallo Kulture has always been, above all, about sisterhood, and in Season 2 we have witnessed the charm of it - the ups that gave us wholesome moments as the sisters led by Betty Kyallo spent time together.

DStv Beats CNN, BBC To Become Most Admired Media Outlet In Africa

DStv, MultiChoice Group’s leading broadcast service, has been named...

MultiChoice Revises Subscription Fees For DStv, GOtv

MultiChoice has announced price adjustments on some of their...

Octopizzo: How I Make My Money

"I've been doing this for 12, 13 years. It reaches a point where you no longer need to prove that you can make a hit record," he stated.

New Spotify EQUAL Artist Qing Madi Talks Music and Dreams

Heavily influenced by her cultural background and the lyrical arrangements of Kendrick Lamar, the versatile Nigerian prodigy is shaping the future of music with her unique genre-bending fusion of Afrobeats, Pop, Soul and R&B.

Angry Standard Group Employees Wrestle With Auctioneers

In what looked like a movie, Standard Group employees moved to stop the auctioneers from carrying away the seats.

Inside Details of How Equity Sealed Deal to Acquire Rwandan Bank

Equity Group Managing Director and CEO, Dr James Mwangi, said the transaction Equity-Cogebanque deal was sealed on 30th November 2023.

Kenyans Embrace Online Platforms For Savings, Investment Solutions, Survey Finds

More than 63 per cent of Kenyans rely on the internet and technology for their savings and investment needs. This is according to a new...

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here