Esther (13) and Irene (7), two girls with totally different characters. Esther is cheerful and curious. Irene is shy and very polite. But the girls have a few things in common; they are both from Amudat district, go to school in Kalas girls Catholic primary school and live with a disability. Esther suffers from a post-burn contraction as the result of an accident with fire at home when she was a baby. Irene contracted tuberculosis as a young child, which left untreated entered the bones and caused retarded growth and development. Gladly we were able to take the girls to CoRSU hospital, specialized in helping children with disabilities.
Story of Esther
Esther never received treatment for the damage caused by the accident. We learned about her situation when the ministry of Gender shared a list of vulnerable girls identified during their visit to Amudat. Esther is the first girl in her family to ever access education. Her mother used to collect Aloe Vera to pay for Esther’s fees. Her disability was probably the only reason why her father allowed her to go to school, knowing he would not receive a full dowry for his daughter. Esther has always embraced her education and more so when she was enrolled in the scholarship and taken from a remote village school to Kalas girls primary school. The day we told Esther about our plans to take her to CoRSU hospital, she was very excited. The girl had endured pain in her arm and elbow for years, because the bones, veins and muscles were affected by the fire.
Travel from Amudat to CoRSU hospital in Kisubi
We travelled together with Esther’s mother from Amudat to CoRSU hospital in Kisubi, a long and exciting journey. Esther and the others were astonished by all the new things they were seeing along the roadside; multi-story buildings, factories, the river Nile and lake Victoria. It was their first time to reach a city. Upon coming to the hospital, Esther was assessed by a plastic surgeon, who comforted her and explained the operation would take place the next week. Awaiting the big day, she remained in the hospital with her mother. A day before the operation, we took Esther, Irene and their mothers to the zoo in Entebbe. This exposure and leisure time, seeing animals they only knew from stories of elders in their communities, was a great distraction. On the big day, Esther was relatively calm.
The operation took the whole day. Her mother moved around aimlessly, nervously looking forward to seeing her child come out of the operating theatre. When Esther finally came out, she was sleepy but feeling well. Although the pain increased as the anaesthesia stopped working, she never shed a tear. Her strong heart and courage are truly amazing. Esther’s arm and hand were repaired using skin from her upper thigh. She stayed in CoRSU hospital for 33 nights. Looking forward to the day she would be able to use her “new” hand and arm.
Dorian Cosijnse visited Esther regularly in the hospital. And one of the sisters from Kalas girls came to visit her too. Esther is currently rehabilitating from Amudat and awaits her next visit to CoRSU hospital in January.
The story of Irene
Irene’s mother died when she was young. After being abandoned by her father, she came into the care of her auntie. Irene’s auntie does not differentiate between Irene and her own five biological children and loves all of them wholeheartedly. She took Irene to the hospital in Mbale when she was first diagnosed with tuberculosis at a young age. Unfortunately, she didn’t have a translator to help her out and finances were limited. By then, Irene’s body was already affected. Most villagers never expected the child to survive. The first few years, Irene could not walk at all. Her auntie narrates: “Irene was moving like a snake and was sick all the time. I feared for her life”.
Fortunately, she gradually improved and is now able to walk, although with difficulty. Walking long distances causes her back pain. The long distance to school made it impossible for Irene to access education. CCA now pays for Irene’s needs and fees for boarding school.
First weeks of school
The first few weeks, Irene felt very uncomfortable in school. She locked herself in the latrine every day, feeling too ashamed to move around. Fearing other children would laugh at her. The teachers and sisters tried their best to comfort her. When she finally accepted to sit in class, she started urinating in the classroom. She shame and fears characterized her first weeks in school. Fortunately counselling and continuous talking helped Irene to feel more comfortable in school and to grow a her confidence. Seeing other children with disabilities in CoRSU hospital was a positive experience for her. She realized that she is not the only child with an irregular appearance.
Upon arrival in CoRSU hospital, the doctors conducted an X-ray scan and other body exams. They concluded that Irene’s condition is not operable. She was taken to the department of physiotherapy and given muscle strengthening exercises. The doctors advised her and her mother to continue doing everyday things, like walking, bathing and doing household chores. These everyday exercises help her to remain strong and active and to keep her joints flexible.
Thankful for the good care
The two girls and their mothers are happy with the medical attention. Altogether, we are very grateful for the good care given to our supported children in CoRSU hospital. Children with disabilities face a lot of stigma in Uganda, so to be treated which such great attention, love and respect was a great experience for all of us. It was CCA and our local partner’s first time to take disabled children for medical help. But we hope to support many more children with disabilities to receive the same kind of life-changing treatment in the future!