GOING THE EXTRA MILE
In October 2013 Yakub posted a picture on our Facebok page of a sweet young girl that he had transported back to her village after she had attended the Main Referral Hospital for the treatment and dressing of a large abdominal burn-wound. As I was travelling out to Uganda a few weeks later I took along emollient creams that I knew burn-wounds needed after healing, and I looked forward to delivering them. The long and bumpy road to Wabukwa took it's toll on Billy-Bus but after an hour or so we were there and that was when the shock set in. This beautiful little girl (Rachel) had not recieved any other healthcare after Yakub's visit and her wound had been dressed only in ash from fires to absorb and keep the weeping under control. Although she smiled for us when asked to, she was obviously in a lot of pain and her temperature was high.
The accident had happened six months earlier when her dress caught fire as she tried to roast her own maize (Rachel was 3 years old at this time), and her leg, arm, chin and most of her abdomen had been badly burned. I learned that she had been taken to Kampala and stayed there for two weeks but after that her Grandmother (Jaja) discharged her because she needed to return to look after her animals ....... the local school teacher was the one who had taken her to Jinja for the dressing but she had not received any healthcare since. Jaja was not willing to let us return her to Kampala but she did agree that we could arrange care for her in Jina ..... and so began our long journey of getting care for Rachel. Whilst always friendly to us and caring towards Rachel, Jaja was not active in the healing of Rachel's wound. We had the ethical dilemma of 'we provide transport but not healthcare costs' and if we did for Rachel then what about others who cannot afford care ...... but Rachel needed intravenous antibiotics, debridement of her wound, pain relief and nourishing food...... so that is what we got her ...... whatever our Constitution said we could not walk away and leave this little girl to a painful and precarious fate.
With the help of friends who contributed to the costs and a friendly Doctor in the Main Hospital we started her care, eventually admitting her to a private clinic and then paying a local nurse for a while to apply her dressings. During a period of nearly a year Rachel needed frequent courses of antibiotics as her wound would become infected again and she was in pain and unhappy, developing a stammer. The local nurse was also found to be unreliable and Yakub then undertook to do the dressings, having observed the technique and learning the principles from us ....... It was a long journey many of us took, from near or far with this beautiful girl, whose parents had abandoned her. Gifts of clothes, toys and dressings were sent for Rachel and we know that her progress was observed by all our friends. The slowness of the healing though was a grave concern. We talked about this to her Jaja who agreed that we could take Rachel for HIV testing ..... the brave little girl must have wondered why the 'mzungu' was crying when we got her NEGATIVE result :-)
We all fell in love with this lovely little girl who had and was suffering so much, and throughout her care we learned a lot and we gave a lot (in many ways) ..... and because of Rachel we got to know others with health needs in the village and transported many of them for health care. We became known and made friends in the village and it was so amazing to hear that on a Sunday last September, just before I left Uganda, Rachel stood up in Church, held up her dress and declared to all that her 'tummy was better' ....