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How an idea was birthed from a loss


Duncan Motanya was just 28 years old when his father with whom he had grown fond of since childhood, died of diabetes in 2013.

It was a private family tragedy which left behind severe emotional and financial distress.

But prior to his passing on, Duncan reveals in an interview how the family learnt of his father’s health condition in a traumatic fashion that left them all baffled.

“We learnt about his diabetic condition in a very outlandish way. He had been involved in a motorcycle accident, which left a serious wound on one of his leg. We then took him for a medical checkup and regrettably it was revealed he had diabetes upon running several tests on him after his sugar levels shot,” reveals Mr Motanya in a recent interview.

Owing to his medical background as a remedial nurse, Duncan believes his father would have savored the knowledge in his professional training to detect his condition early enough – only that it was too little too late.

“Eventually his leg was surgically detached from him or amputated. He briefly felt better but ultimately succumbed to congestive heart failure, one of the conditions caused by lack of proper management of diabetes,” narrates Motanya when we visited his medical facility for a chat with this writer.

The 36 –year old re-counts how that life experience left a devastating impact not only on the family resources but predominantly on him – even though it is a phase he concedes gave birth to a noble idea he relishes today.

“I sat back and began to research more on Diabetes and the more I read about the disease, the more I discovered that there is more to it than just the treatment aspect, but information and the management thereof,” he says.

And so in 2014, Motanya who is a certified diabetes educator started a private support group called Diabetes and Hypertension Support Group Kenya which garnered over 13,000 members and an online page he started in 2014 called Kenya Diabetes Management Center and Pharmacy which has more than 101,000 followers to date.

Idea hatched

With that, Motanya registered a COMMUNITY BASED ORGANIZATION AND opened a small –roomed outlet in Ruiru, Kiambu County using meager resources from his savings and small funding from friends with the sole purpose of helping create awareness on diabetes and how to manage it among the growing CBO fan base.

But this noble idea would later overwhelm him and his team as more requests were now inclined towards testing and treating of the disease. But they had no required licensing and documentations to operate a fully-fledged pharmacy and medical center for diabetic patients.

“I used to live in Ruiru where we operated a small room until 2020. We would get so many inquires at the time which prompted the idea to get necessary licensing to run a proper pharmacy for the services we were offering such as selling strips,” narrates Motanya who went to Nyambaria Boys and St. Stephens High schools.

He would later approach a former schoolmate – a lab technician, with who he jointly opened a pharmacy and a medical laboratory personalized for the diagnosis and testing of diabetes.

“So we came together and roped in my cousin who is a qualified and certified medical officer and said we are going to be deliberate in our services. So we paid all the due licenses and documents needed to run a medical center and a pharmacy and we took off in January 2020,” he says.

The same month, the three opened Diabetes Management Medical Center, Pharmacy & Laboratory (DMMC) – a Kenyan-owned online Pharmacy and Diabetes Care Center in Ngara and embarked on a tedious process of hiring staff, procuring medical equipment among other activities.

The idea, according to Motanya who is a director at the facility was to empower diabetic patients and not to make crazy profit margins – a medical center he proudly says is built from a patient-perspective.

“We approached a faith-based organization called Mission for Essential Drugs and Supplies (MEDS) with the idea who understood our approach and agreed to come through for us in terms giving us medicines at affordable prices,” narrates Motanya who pursued a Higher Diploma in Marketing, Communication and Media Studies at EAIBS.

Motanya – who is also the current chief executive of a local fintech, Zenka – a mobile lending institution, admits it was a demanding decision for the trio who were full-time employees in their respective companies.

“We had to make a choice, and we did, and here we are today attending to hundreds of patients who walk into our facilities and are able to be assisted by our team of experts and nutritionists. We are changing one life at a time,” narrates a fulfilled Motanya – whose future ambition is to elevate the facility into a hospital in the near future.

Presently DMMC has six active Whats App groups where patients share their life experiences with their medical experts which goes a long way in mitigating humiliation associated with the disease. “Here patient information is safe guarded, no outsiders,” he says.

To date DMMC employs over 20 staff directly and indirectly.

Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the prevalence of diabetes in Kenya at 3.3 percent and predicts a rise to 4.5 percent by 2025. However, two-thirds of diabetics may be diagnosed.

Adults and children with type 1 diabetes spend an average of Sh53, 907 a year out-of-pocket for health care or about Sh8, 000 monthly but insulin isn’t always the biggest expense, according to Motanya, who reckons that the facility charges almost half of that.

And as the world readies to mark, World Diabetes Day and Diabetes Awareness Month in November, Motanya is encouraging Kenyans to live a healthy lifestyle while also urging the government to extend tax incentives to Kenyan companies in order to make costs of treatment attainable.

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