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Lumka: ‘I’m doing it for my kids’

“Being a single mother and a full-time medic is very challenging, but also good. You’re saving lives and then you go home and have to look after your kids. The concept is the same. You look out for your children but you also look out for your patients,” said Lumka Cingo.

In light of August being National Women’s month, we spoke to Lumka about what it takes to be a single mother of two young children and a full-time Basic Life Support (BLS) medic at ER24’s Milnerton branch.

The first thing you notice when you walk into Lumka’s house in Phillipi in Cape Town is that it is very small, yet tidy. As you walk in you see her kitchen and her lounge and just next to the lounge is the bedroom that she shares with her two children. Her work boots are neatly packed next to one another and almost mirror-like the way she had polished them. Her 14-year-old son Yambathisa and her 9-year-old daughter Lilitha didn’t leave her side for a moment.

Lumka, like many other medics, works night shifts that start at 18:30 in the evening up until 05:30 the next morning.

“I make sure dinner is ready and that their school clothes are washed before I leave. When I am on the night shift I ask some of my neighbours to check in on them once in a while. I worry when I leave. My son usually takes care of my daughter. I also call them regularly to make sure they are okay,” said Lumka, originally from the Eastern Cape.

One gets the feeling that Lumka not only manages this juggling act, but she does it really well. She has also set her sights on furthering her studies and becoming an Intermediate Life Support (ILS) medic.

“I want to be able to do more for the patient. I don’t feel like I am being challenged enough. The money will also be better and I can do with more for my family,” said Lumka.

With her salary, she raises her two children, pays the rent, buys the food and pays for their school fees.

“Raising kids makes it difficult to pay for studies. I am hoping for a bursary as the course of four months is very expensive,” said Lumka.

It’s her passion for people and her community that made her follow the path of becoming a medic.

“I care for people. I also need to do more for the community. I want to be there to help them in difficult times,” said Lumka.

Lumka’s hard work isn’t going unnoticed.

“Last year I was awarded the BLS of the year award at my base. I was very happy. Hello, me? I didn’t know that people were watching me doing my work,” laughs Lumka.

But what about seeing and treating injured children on the job?

“It happens a lot. You can’t help but to think of your own children. You do feel something,” said Lumka.

Thinking about the wellbeing of her children is her main priority.

“I want them to finish school and do what they want to do. I want them to get good salaries. I don’t want them to struggle like me. That’s why I want them to do well in school and get good marks and perhaps a scholarship to university. I am not doing this for myself. I’m doing this for my kids. That’s why I go to work, for them.”

Andrew Coutts, Lumka’s most recent partner at ER24, speaks fondly of Lumka.

“Her attitude is one of the best I’ve come across in this company so far. She is willing to learn and not hesitant to ask questions. Working irregular hours with small children is difficult,” said Andrew, an Intermediate Life Support (ILS) paramedic.

Lumka is, rightly so, very proud of herself.

“We should be proud to be women. I am very proud of myself. Women should be able to do what they want. I love working with all the other women at the branch. They are all so amazing and work very hard,” said Lumka.

“She should be an inspiration for other women. Being a single mother of two children and working full-time in this industry, in particular, is hard work. Lumka is a credit to women in general,” said Andrew.