Uganda Pediatric Surgery Mission: Day Five
The Ugandan people are celebrated for their spirit of generosity. Did you know that Uganda accepts more people fleeing persecution and war-torn lands than any other country on earth? Over 1.4 million refugees have found safety in her borders. When asked why such a poverty-stricken country would continue to help others in need, most Ugandans simply answer, “Because it’s the right thing to do.” Even those who have nothing material to give still offer their abundant prayers.
We have seen that spirit this week overflowing. When we were originally planning this first surgery mission, we thought four doctors would be seeing children. As fliers were posted and news spread on the radio, however, medical professionals from around the country began making the journey to help and to serve. From the far north down to the south, 25 nurses and 11 doctors arrived this week in Mbarara to offer their time. What a gift they are providing.
Today, an additional 35 waiting children received their operations. Thirty-five little faces. Thirty-five precious souls. We’re happy to report that every child’s surgery took place without complications.
One of the youngest patients on the schedule today was Baby Marvin. He and his twin were born prematurely in April of this year, and tragically his fragile brother passed away the next day. Marvin’s mother, Evaline, stayed four months in the hospital caring for her surviving infant until he was stable enough to go home. A few days after discharge, however, Marvin’s groin began to swell. Evaline rushed him quickly to the hospital where she learned her son had a hernia. It’s estimated that up to 30% of preemies are born with this condition.
Evaline felt so much desperation as she didn’t have any money left to pay for Marvin’s surgery. The pain of losing his twin brother made her fears for Marvin’s health even greater. In the middle of August, she heard about the medical exchange and ran quickly to the hospital to add her baby to the list. She was overjoyed today with the wonderful news that her baby has now been healed.
In many countries around the world, the birth of a child with special needs is believed to be a sign of a curse or even witchcraft. The arrival of a baby with medical issues is often seen as a sign that harm will befall the family circle. Because of these deep superstitions, it’s not uncommon in some regions for fathers to abandon their children born with birth defects, and that applies even to babies born with correctable conditions like hernias. Our team has met many single moms this week who have told the same regretful story of suddenly finding themselves completely on their own after the birth of a child needing medical help.
Such was the case for the mother of Jovis, who brought her daughter to the mission with the hope that finally her daughter could be healed. Her husband left the family after seeing the infant’s hernia. Jovis’ mom was never able to go to school, and as an uneducated woman, she has no stable source of income. She hires herself out to help work in the fields in order to support her five children. The tiny bit of money she earns from her hard labor is barely enough to feed the family and definitely not enough for medical care. She sat and told our team that because of their poverty, 14-year-old Jovis has still not completed primary school despite being incredibly bright. We’re just so grateful that after waiting 14 years for surgery, Jovis’ hernia has now been repaired. Once schools reopen again in Uganda, we are hoping we can support this beautiful teen to finish her education.
Another child whose father was unable to accept his medical condition is seven-year-old Innocent. A few weeks after his birth, when doctors gave the family news of his hernia, his mother found herself all on her own searching for a way to make Innocent’s surgery possible. She said that life became incredibly difficult for them as they had no source of income. All four of her children have been unable to attend school.
When Innocent’s mom learned about the opportunity to finally receive free surgery for her son, she hurried to the hospital to secure a slot for her little boy. She would like the surgery sponsors to know what a gift this is for the family. “Thank you for helping my son, it has been a difficult time for us.”
The mothers who have come to see our team this week have truly touched our hearts. They have lived through so much hardship and heartache, but they continue to search for a better life for their children.
There is a quote sometimes seen on the internet which says:
“The world needs strong women. Women who will lift and build others, who will love and be loved.”
Uganda is a country filled with strong women, and today we give thanks to all the moms around the world who fight so hard for their children. You are leaving a lasting legacy in their lives that is priceless beyond measure.
Before we end the blog for today, we also want you to meet beautiful, somber Whitney. She has endured so much in her short two years on earth. Whitney was born with a rare condition called Hirschsprung’s disease, which occurs when nerve cells are missing in a child’s intestines. Without these cells, the bowels are unable to work normally. If treatment isn’t given urgently after birth, this medical condition can be fatal.
Whitney has undergone 5 surgeries to date and has sadly suffered from several post-op complications.
We are thankful that Whitney has come to see the team at Holy Innocents. Her mom shared that she cannot remember the last time she saw her little girl smile.
Our team spent lots of time with little Whitney today attempting to earn her trust. After continually blowing soap bubbles her way, everyone was brought to tears when she showed the first hint of a tiny grin. We are hopeful that Dr. Situma and his team can provide Whitney with the surgery needed to finally live pain-free. We know you’ll join us in that hope.
Tomorrow will be the final full day of surgeries. We are all so grateful for the good thoughts and wishes being sent for the children and our team. We’ll leave you with a few more gorgeous faces of some of the kids who received their operations today. Each one is a reminder that when kindness and compassion come together as one, lives can be changed in such beautiful ways.