INNOVATION COMES IN HANDY FOR LADY CAB DRIVER

Mary Karani . [PHOTO - COURTESY]
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Lady driver suffering from a life threatening condition back to business after getting support from Bolt

With the gradual reopening of businesses and easing of movements, the economy is resuscitating with different sectors trickling back to work. Doing so safely is presenting major challenges – both to the passengers and drivers.

Many of the current efforts by the transport industry players should be focused on ramping up efficiency, ensuring safety and optimal utilization of the existing systems.

Ride-hailing service providers for instance, have introduced in-cabin separation to protect drivers and passengers against the spread of coronavirus as they enjoy their trips. It is in that respect that Bolt has introduced the Bolt Protect ride type; where vehicles are fitted with protective plastic film of nylon installed between the passenger and driver seats. This acts as a precautionary barrier that limits the airflows between the driver and passengers, thus reducing the possibility of the virus spreading through droplets expelled by sneezes or coughs from an infected person.

This tactic has not only reduced the risk of exposure to the virus, but has also played a significant role in enabling many drivers with underlying health conditions to comfortably carry on with their taxi duties,without the fear of being infected in the course of work.

 Besides Bolt Protect offering protection against the spread of the virus, it has also offered lifeline opportunities to many vulnerable groups of drivers.

Meet Mary Karani (pictured) a lady who operates under the Bolt platform, and who has an underlying condition. We spoke to her about how Bolt Protect has come in handy for her while doing business. Below are excerpts from the interview:

BL: How did you get into a field as unlikely for women as taxi driving?

Mary: I did some research because I wanted to get into an income generating activity in order to finance a project that I was undertaking. I was not keen on formal employment.

I wanted to be my own boss, setting my own targets on a daily basis and striving to achieve them.  I was keen on engaging in an activity that would not be detrimental to my health. So I picked driving which is my hobby. I love driving because it takes away my stress. It was a perfect side hustle for me due its flexibility.

To that end, I did a lot of research for about one year. I used to take rides in Uber, Bolt and Little cabs in order to learn from the drivers about their experiences in the business.

Of course the industry has very few women so whenever I got a female driver, I became more inquisitive. Eventually, I decided to test the waters and I was not disappointed.

BL: What is your main job?

Mary: I do patient advocacy.  I am the voice of patients who have a rare condition but do not have a voice and are not recognized. I do this because I have a rare, chronic and life-threatening condition. I suffered for over thirty years not knowing exactly what I had or how to manage it.

The reason why I eventually knew what I had is because I went an extra mile to find out why I was not getting better. There are so many gaps when it comes to rare conditions.   Many doctors do not know about them. I really don’t blame them because maybe they do not learn a lot about such conditions in medical schools. A rare condition could be just a spot on your body, so doctors may not fully know how to clinically identify it, how to diagnose it and how to manage it.

I decided to go an extra mile because this condition had threatened to claim my life many times. I therefore reckoned that since I was still alive, I would continue fighting. Not necessarily for myself but for other people who may have been misdiagnosed for years. People who probably have lost hope and they need support to know that they can live with this condition.

 I was so sure that I would not reach the age of thirty two years unless I encountered a miracle. When you have a condition that you do not know how to handle, no doctor is helping and no medicines are working – you really want to give up. You go into depression. You lose the will to live.

Then I joined an international group based in the US and I was shocked to find so many other patients out there in the world who were struggling just like me.  All along, I thought I was alone. I was encouraged to find out that there are other patients who had passed through similar experiences like me. Because of that gap and suffering for a long time, I decided to engage in patient advocacy.   Consequently, I joined an international patient group.

 My condition is inherited and affects members of the same family. What I learned from the international group is that there is a way you can manage it. Though there is no cure, there are medications that can help in its management and they are available locally. Nevertheless, no doctor had ever prescribed them for me. I do my advocacy not just in Kenya but in Sub-Saharan Africa.

BL: How have you managed to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic?

 Mary:  This condition comes about because of lack of a certain protein that I was not born with. It is just like the way people living with Albinism do not have a certain protein. For me, there is a protein that is not sufficiently produced in my red blood cells.

In hereditary angioedema, if there is no proper medication, the body swells continuously for five days. It becomes life threatening when it swells near the throat or face.  It can easily close your throat. It has many triggers, some of them being stress, anxiety or infections like flus and colds.

After the outbreak of Covid-19, I was very frightened.  I felt the need to take extra precautions and so I actually put my car aside and stopped working. I didn’t think it was worth taking the risk having fought for thirty years just to keep alive.

What really gave me a scare is that I carried someone who was very sick in my car. Some people had just arrived at Wilson Airport and were going direct to a hospital. I don’t know what one of the passengers was suffering from, but he was very sick. It was some time I think in February or March so Covid-19 was already here. He was sneezing and was very feverish and after that, I decided to close my app until I got some assurance from the health authorities that the deadly pandemic was under control.

I was sad and frustrated about halting my side hustle and my projects. Then Bolt sent an email to all drivers about the protective shield that they wanted to fix in the cars.  I felt that the innovation would really help since I was only carrying passengers at the back seats. This made sense because the air would not circulate all-round the car. It made me feel safer. I therefore went to Bolt to fix the shield and I immediately put on my app and went back to work.

As you may be aware, once some passengers get into a car, they remove their masks because they feel that now they are far away from the eyes of the police. They also start engaging in conversations.  In that respect, the shield really makes me feel safe.  Therefore, I have been able to get back to work without too much fear.  Frankly speaking, this was a timely intervention by Bolt.  I am now enjoying  my side hustle. 

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