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DR IAN CLARKE: The bomb blast victim who received no help from Government

By some freak misfortune our night guard, George, decided to go into town the morning the bomb went off at CPS. The next day he was missing, and we finally managed to trace him to the Intensive Care Unit in Mulago. He had been caught in the bomb blast and had a serious head injury; he had been taken to Mulago where surgery was performed and thereafter he was sent to ICU.

After the bombings the Prime Minister went on Television to state that the government would look after the victims of the blast, but after George was transferred to the Neurosurgery ward the doctors wished to discharge him. At this point George was paralyzed and could not speak, so I wondered why he was being sent home, in the light of the statement by the Prime Minister. I called the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Health who was sympathetic but said I should deal with the Prime Minister’s office directly. I then wrote a letter to the Prime Minister, copied to the Ministry of Health, and delivered it personally to the Office of the Prime Minister, where her secretary put it on her desk.

I also spoke to a senior neurosurgeon who said George could stay until the PM’s office decided what to do. I also searched Kampala for any facility that could carry out long term care for such a patient. There is a Catholic order known as ‘Missionaries of the Poor’ who have two centres in Kampala, but after visiting I realised that they could not care for George.

I was then out of Kampala for two weeks, and when I returned George’s son told me that George had been discharged while I was away. They had taken him back to his room in the city, but he had immediately developed pneumonia because he was lying flat and was back to Mulago casualty. So I went to casualty to see what was going on. He looked pathetic; he had lost weight and had a cough, but he could not open his mouth, so he just lay there and coughed weakly. Fortunately I found a neurosurgeon who looked at his scans again and diagnosed that he had ‘locked in syndrome’, a condition that can arise after a severe brain injury in which the person is conscious and can follow with his eyes, but cannot speak or move his muscles. George could move the fingers on one hand, but his mouth was clamped shut, and he could only be fed through a tube.

Since he had pneumonia the neurosurgeon got him transferred to a medical ward where the conditions were much better. It was now several weeks since I had left the letter at the Prime Minister’s office so I returned to check on progress. When I reached the office her secretary told me that the PM had not yet seen the letter.

‘What do you mean?’ I asked.
‘I put it on her desk, but she has not yet looked at it,’ she replied.
I was stunned, since this letter had been sitting on her desk for over one month. I had also made contact with another official in the Prime Minister’s office who promised he would follow up the matter, but still nothing happened.

By this time George’s pneumonia was improving, and he was to be discharged again. His wife and family were in the border area in Kisoro, and his son suggested that we take him back to his village. IHK donated a hospital bed so that George could sit up, and Kiwoko Hospital donated a wheelchair. When I came back home my double cabin pick-up was packed with the bed, wheelchair and all George’s possessions ready to take him back to his family early the next morning.

Seeing all George’s possessions packed and ready to go tugged at my heartstrings. Only a few months previously he had been arranging the chairs on our veranda and now he hovered between life and death. He would certainly never walk or speak again, and it was unlikely that we would ever see him again. It was the right thing to take him back to his family since there was evidently no help coming from government, but what did the future hold for this lovely little man? The sad truth of our society is that if someone is indeed a ‘little’ man, he is unlikely to get help despite the promises.

Do you have a story in your community or an opinion to share with us: Email us at editorial@watchdoguganda.com

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