Ezra

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Ezra, is the 3 year old son of the Pastor Eric and Peace.

Almost everyday, as I walk to the clinic I pass Peace and Ezra walking towards me on their way to daycare. Ezra always gave me a wave and a big smile. Sometimes I wondered if he was saying “Hello” or was it “Goodbye”.

In January, Pastor Eric, Kibaale Community Centre Chaplain came and told me that Ezra was taken to Masaka Regional Hospital to be seen by a dentist. He had a toothache. The tooth was pulled.

A few weeks later, Eric brought Ezra to the clinic because his eyes were not focusing. He was not able to follow an object, turn his head towards the person who was speaking. In fact, his head was slightly turned to one side. After discussions with the Clinic Officers and comprehensive nurse, Ezra was referred to Masaka Regional Hospital two hours north of Kibaale to see an eye specialist. Masaka recommended a doctor in Mbarara two hours west of Masaka. This specialist stated that with time, the boy would be fine. He gave them vitamins and suggested they come back a few months.

Then a few weeks after the problem with his eyes, Ezra was not able to walk, nor to stand. His arms and legs did not move normally. He was too weak to move on his own. These new symptoms brought us to the realization that he needed to be seen by a neurologist, a brain specialist. He would have to travel to Kampala to the government hospital called Mulago. The clinic staff knew no one in Mulago Hospital. It took a few hours to find a neurologist, learn that he would be in his office the next day and that he would see Ezra. Immediately, the specialist recommended a CT scan. Unfortunately, the contrast needed to visualize the brain was not available. Eric was not willing to wait. He searched out a private hospital called Kampala Private Hospital. He found the Professor, an neurologist. A CT scan was taken. The cost of a visit to the private neurologist, tests, CT scan and treatment for three days was extremely expensive. Kibaale Community Centre clinic referred Ezra, therefore, the bills would be paid.

After reviewing the CT scan, the Professor stated that Ezra had a lesion which he thought was some type of infection or T.B. (tuberculosis).The family was finally sent home after a few days in hospital on intravenous antibiotics and anti-tuberculosis drugs. The Professor wanted to see them again the next Saturday. Of course, they were sent home with lots of medications.
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Now, it is a long way from Kibaale to Kampala. If you take the morning bus which leaves Kibaale at 4 am you will arrive in Kampala by 10 am. It is somewhat expensive. A cheaper method is to take small buses which stop frequently. The drive wants to make the most money so he stuffs his vehicle with as many people as he possible.

That next Saturday, Eric and Peace carefully carried their son from Kibaale to Kampala through all the hazards of Uganda travel to see the Professor. He was somewhat pleased with the way the treatment was going and send them home on the same medications. He wanted to see them one more time that next Saturday.

It was an significant challenge to travel with Ezra and everything else back and forth from Kibaale to Kampala. Was it necessary? If Ezra was not getting worse could they wait a week before traveling back to Kampala? On Wednesday afternoon, Eric and Peace along with Ezra visited the clinic. Ezra was not getting worse but was also not getting better. The clinic staff called and spoke with the Professor who recommended another visit.

Early Saturday morning, Eric and Peace took Ezra once again to Kampala Hospital. Once the Professor saw Ezra he recommended another CT scan…. The results were not good. The lesion had increases significantly. It was not TB and it was not an infection. Whatever the cause of the lesion, it was obstructing the flow of cerebral fluids. Neurosurgery, an operation of the brain would need to be done immediately. The plan was for surgery early Monday morning but since Eric and Peace did not have the funds for the surgery to be done at this private hospital, Ezra was moved to the government hospital, Mulago.

It was just after midnight when Ezra was finally admitted and but into a bed. He had the same neurosurgeon. It seems that many of the specialist cannot survive working just for the government. The Professor worked in Kampala private Hospital and he was the head of the neurosurgery department in Mulago government Hospital. Ezra appeared to be in good hands.

It was 2 am when I got the call from Pastor Eric to tell me that Ezra had died.

I have never gone to a funeral. I have avoided them. I guess because the first time I was intending to go, someone told me that as the only “mzungu” white person it was expected that I give a speech.

I was planning on going to Ezra’s funeral. I wanted to support Eric a loving father, a great pastor, an amazing chaplain as well as Peace, a gentle and loving mother, a kind and thoughtful woman of God.

Funeral in Uganda start at 2 pm. We closed the clinic at noon so all the staff could attend Ezra’s funeral. In many ways it is similar to the funerals I have attended in Canada. There is one basic difference, the Ugandan ones are less formal and more fluid. Make shift tents were spread out in front of Eric and Peace’s home. People brought chairs and benches. Under the main tent was the body of Ezra circles by his family and loved ones. To one side of the main tent was a PA system used by each of the speakers. Everything was translated. The last speaker was another local pastor. He spoke about Ezra and how much his family will miss him, that he is now in Heaven looking down on his family and watching what they will do now and in the future. He ended with this question to us all.. “When you die where will you go?”

Once the informal funeral service was over, the majority of the people walked down the road to an unkempt field. It did not appear to be a cemetery; there were no grave markers. It was a humble piece of land covered with prickly shrubs. At the far end of the open patch was a small hole in the ground. As I approached the site…. singing broke out and everyone joined in. It was hard for me to see exactly what was happening…. but during the fourth or fifth song, the small body of Ezra was placed into the ground. Screams erupted. Loud sobs exploded across the 500 plus people. Singing continued as the body was put into the ground and slowly covered with earth; many of the men took turns. The local pastor completed the burial with a simple prayer and a benediction.

The clinic staff and all the community are asking the questions “Why did it have to happen to Eric and Peace, they had already lost their oldest son, Paul to Malaria at at about the same age.” “what caused Ezra’s death?” “What could we have done differently?” “Why did it happen to such a young innocent little boy?”

Ezra had amazing parents. He was loved. He was cared for. When he got sick Eric and Peace found help and would not be deterred by any obstacle………

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…..Derrick

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Late Saturday evening, January 5, is when I first heard about Derrick. A sponsor from Canada, Brad and his family had come to Kibaale to visit with the students who they are sponsoring. It was on one of those home visits that they were introduced to Derrick. He looked sick, had a swollen left leg and was using very old homemade wooden crutches to walk with. Brad told Derrick’s family to bring him to the clinic on Monday and he would pay for his care.

So, on Monday I meet Derrick for the first time. He looked like he was maybe 6 years old and no taller than 3 feet. It was difficult to see his face since he looked down… but what I saw was great sadness and pain. There were no smiles, no greetings, no voice…. just complete silence.

The Clinic Officer saw Derrick immediately and requested that he be sent out for an X-ray. The clinic would pay for transportation to Kyotera and for the X-ray but the problem was no family member was willing to take him. Late, Monday afternoon an aunt offered to go with him. They arrived back just about dark and presented me with the X-ray films. Anyone looking at the films would see that he had a broken leg… his left femur was broken in at least two places.

That evening, I contact Brad and explained the situation. He was willing to pay all costs including transportation to anyplace in the world for good care. Unfortunately, the next morning, when the family gathered including two aunts and a grandmother to hear about his condition, no one was willing to take him anywhere.

In Ugandan culture, a patient who is in a clinic or in a hospital needs someone, a family member to take care of him or her… to cook their food, bathe him or her and clean up any messes.

After a day of discussions, one aunt was willing to go with him as far as Masaka. The Clinic Officer and comprehensive nurse knew about an excellent bone specialist at Masaka Regional Hospital called Dr. Masitwa.

A call was made to this well known specialist and he strongly suggested that the boy be admitted to his private clinic. At his private clinic Dr. Masitwa would be able to care for him daily; whereas, in Masaka Regional Hospital he is only allowed be on service, come and see his patients two times per week.

The family transported Derrick to Dr. Musitwa’s clinic. The next day I arrived at the clinic to provided the finances for his stay and to speak with the doctor about his plan of treatment. I was informed that the left femur had been broken in two place and the accident had occurred more than 7 months prior. The bones were completely infected. If Derrick had not been admitted to hospital; he would have probably died of an overwhelming infection within a month.

The plan was to operate immediately and clean out the inside of all the infected bones pieces. Derrick would be on intravenous antibiotics and given protein enriched foods for healing and improved health. Since Dr. Musitwa was absolutely sure Derrick had been completely neglected in the village. He was not willing for the family to be given any money to purchase protein foods, or any other items which Derrick would need. Therefore, all of Derrick’s needs would be supplied by Dr. Musitwa’s clinic staff. They would buy the protein foods such as eggs, fish, beans, chicken, and milk and anything else necessary.

I went up to Masaka every week to do clinic business and to see Derrick. The family stayed and supported Derrick for the first week of his stay at the private clinic but by the second week they had excuses as to why they could not continue. “I have to go to school”…. “I have children to get ready for school”….. “I have a garden to plant.”…….. I need to get back to Kibaale and look after grandma.”…..

So, after discussions with the folks in Kibaale…. we hired a Post S-6 student; a student who is waiting to start university in August. Catherine did not have a job and needed money for school. What a perfect opportunity. Accommodation and all meals were provided…. all Catherine had to do was help look after Derrick…. cook his meals, wash his clothes, bath him since he had a very large dressing on his left upper leg and ensure he took his medications.

Each week I was excited to go and see what was happening with Derrick. He was changing before my eyes. He was no longer the invisible child in pain and full of sadness but was growing into a tall 12 year old youth. The picture included is a few weeks old and look at how tall and happy he has been come.

On March 7, two months after I first meet Derrick, he was discharge from Dr. Musitwa’s clinic… but where were we going to put him. No member of the family had come to visit him at the clinic after that first week. No one had come to the clinic in Kibaale to ask about where he was or how he was…. It looked like no one cared.

Once again…. there were discussions with the staff of Kibaale Community Centre especially the sponsorship office as well as the clinic staff….. Derrick needed to be sponsored for us to continue to look after him. He was suppose to be medically O.K. and therefore could go back to the village. BUT NO ONE WANTED HIM TO GO BACK TO THE VILLAGE.

Brad, once he heard about Derrick’s need immediately offered to sponsor him. So, we brought Derrick back to Kibaale and found a place for him to stay and put him in school. His village is a long way out and he still requires crutches to walk. Margaret, the mother of the family who were willing to take him in and care for him is a teacher. She recognized Derrick’s educational level very quickly. At his age, he should have been in Primary 4. We all thought that he was maybe a year of two behind in his schooling but that was not the case. Derick does not know how to write his own name, nor the letters of the alphabet, nor his numbers. He should be put into a Kindergarten class. No one agreed to that suggestion.

Last Friday, March 15, Derrick was placed in a very special boarding school 20 kilometers outside of Kibaale in a village called Ssanje. Everyone in Kibaale has been helping to solve the various problems regarding Derrick. Another member of the sponsorship office, Christine suggested we try a boarding school called Sabina Boarding Primary School. This school has been used in the past for two children who were found in the village never having an opportunity to attend school. These two children have done very well. Our hopes are that they will be successful with Derrick.

Today, March 19, I was told that the grandmother arrived a few hours after Derrick was taken to Ssanje. She was not willing to believe that he had gone to a boarding school… “Who is paying for his school fees?”

Sunday March 17, there was an open house at Sabina Boarding School…. grandmother was not willing to go for a visit but she gave Christine a few things for Derrick… a piece of sugar cane, a few ground nuts and a small amount of Matoke.

I have been told that Derrick’s story is not new….. there are many children abandoned or neglected all over Uganda. Families have too many children who they cannot provide the basics for forget about school.

Derrick may have been abandoned and neglected once a upon a time … but not now. He has been found, cared for and loved. He has a future and hope. All this because someone cared…to Brad and his family thanks.