From March 10th to 20th I am in Uganda visiting friends and missionaries with Next Generation Ministries » see NGM Facebook page. Below is my attempt to summarize the story of Sharon and the care she is receiving.
Wednesday morning began as planned: run before sunrise, being the bookmobile to deliver a favorite book as a gift to Olivia (more on her soon). It was another gift brought from the States and intended for her one day that on this day proved the key difference.
Olivia is paralyzed from the waist-down after receiving a poorly administered spinal epidural from a student nurse at Jinja Main Hospital. Eddy was born healthy, but since walking in that hospital to deliver her son, Olivia has not felt her legs and feet. As a paraplegic from malpractice without recourse she’s been relegated to a wheelchair. Next Generation Ministries took her in as a daughter and is paying for her medical expenses and a nurse to visit a few times a day to cleanse her sores and nurse her back to health. More on Olivia and her determined hope in Jesus in a future post.
A couple totes of supplies made the trip from home, and a new wheelchair. Nate sent those as a personal gift, a deep embodiment of the motto of NGM as “a river of relationships connecting resources to needs.” While I contemplated riding the wheelchair myself to each plane (and practiced at home with the kids), instead it was checked as luggage. So too were three special foam pads that made the trip in a tote of various supplies. Olivia has not received her new pad yet, but her gift was put to great use for another she hasn’t met either.
It was those pads that became the makeshift transporter bed for Sharon, a girl we met only Wednesday. Her needs were many, but time was of the essence. Yet, as the saying goes, “There is no hurry in Africa.” Everything takes time, that’s just the way it is, and you have to respect the slower pace of life.
Monday afternoon Sharon, nine-years-old, was walking home from school when a boda boda (motorcycle taxi) hit her from the side and ran her legs breaking one, followed by another boda boda that ran over her upper body, breaking both arms. (We can only guess how it all unfolded, as no one stopped to tend to her.) A true hit-and-run, doubled.
Sharon was rushed by friends and family to the free government-run Jinja Main Hospital where on Monday they admitted her in five minutes but neglected to care for her for three days.
As word spread about her injuries, many from their church family visited to offer encouragement, prayer, and whatever funds they had. A young man named Sononi (pronounced Saw-nan), a follower of Jesus, visited the hospital and noticed how none of the staff had cared for her besides doing the admittance paperwork. So he asked what could be done and took her for X-rays. I can only imagine how painful that was for Sharon. At great expense to himself, Sononi bought the pain medication as directed, which we learned was not administered to her in all of the three days she lay there.
It is no exaggeration to say that the conditions of Jinja Main Hospital are the worst I have ever seen, and more deplorable than I could dare to imagine. Known as the pre-cursor to the morgue, this is where one goes to wait to die. And the “deathbedside manner” (as I discovered) shown by the staff and especially the doctors produced a great well of emotion in me.
All of us knew we had to step in, as Sharon’s young bones would attempt to heal themselves, and she had zero chance of recovery waiting for someone to care and do something. Her family is so poor it may have been an upgrade in residences to stay and sleep at the foot of her bed, for at least there were walls an a fan, considering this heatwave at the equator.
We visited on Wednesday, through Sononi’s contact with Chris, Ezra and Peter, and the scene was worse than imaginable.
But we could see a spark of hope arise in the family even those they were getting no communication and even less compassion from the official medical staff there. So Paul led the conversation with the medical staff, empowering the Ugandan nationals (Chris and Peter especially) to enter the conversation. Unfazed, Sharon’s mother Jessica had been praying around the clock, and when we arrived Hellen was there, a dear friend who proved to be a key part of God’s work in this situation.
When confronted by someone seeking the truth we each have a handful of ways to respond, and not many more: we can be humble and honest, or can shift into self-protection mode and either deny, deflect, distract, or minimize. You’ve seen this with kids, with colleagues, and even yourself, I’m sure.
This pattern was clear among the leadership at Jinja Main Hospital. Under-communicate, deflect responsibility, shift blame, and pretend the problem isn’t that bad. If you’ve ever had medical care where the doctor sees you as a number and not as a person, you’ve probably sought different care. That wasn’t an option here for the family. At first my thought was, “We would never settle for this in America.” But then I realized my arrogant elitism (the solution will not come from the outside). The Ugandan people should not settle for this either and we must empower them to fight in healthy ways for change. All people made in His image deserve competent, compassionate care.