At 13 years old, a devastating tragedy happened so many times that my attitude towards lifestyle changed completely. At first, it was TB. My Step uncle Katumba the heir to the stepmother who raised me contracted TB from eating leftover food from a TB patient who had visited Imperial Hotel where he worked as a manager.
Then came AIDS. It was at this time in 1986 that HIV got introduced as a deadly disease in Uganda. The first Victim I knew was our aunt who we visited at WARD 4B in Mulago hospital. This Ward was known for AIDS-dying patients. We found that she had a skin rash all over her body and had become so dark. She was one of the first victims in the country I recall very well.
Then came to my paternal aunt Babirye whose task to give her medication was mine. And one day she got herpes zoster and showed me that ring around her waist and she told me she was dying. She died a few days later under my care at Makerere. Then came my Aunt Namatovu who still lives today. My recollection of her contracting the disease was that she was whisked off by a chairman of the Kanyanya zone who passed on over the disease. I had known him because I was a youth counselor at the Local Council three and always had meetings in his home.
When my Aunt knew she had contracted the virus she asked me to always escort her to Nakulabye where the first testing center and the clinic was before ………. At Baumann’s house where Elisa’s tests would be given freely and Western Blot taken to Entebbe laboratory.
During my visits with my Aunt, my work was to translate what the doctors were telling her since she did not know English at all. I learned so much from this experience. My Aunt still lives today because she was informed.
The hardest and will be my last example out of the many is Uncle Ssegawa. Buried at Nampunge on Hoima Road, 23 miles from Kampala, at that age, he was the hardest patient I ever dealt with and one of the major reasons I chose to study medicine after my mother and father’s death of cancer a subject I will talk about next. Uncle Ssegawa’s death hit me hard because we would visit Mulago hospital every week for trials. We walked a mile many times to come home from Mulago hospital and it took us almost three hours because of his fragility. When he developed oral thrush, herpes zoster I recalled my Aunt and in a few days, he was gone. Those memories never left me. I chose to have a department to deal with such cases when I started the organization.
“I thank the proprietors of Baylor College for saving the lives I sent to them even when the principal of the service only encountered children. And I say “thank you” you saved lots of lives under Lijif. And I would like to thank Principal Pharmacist Mr. Ssebisubi that in 2014 when I requested for medication of TB, HIV and other microbicides from Oklahoma Hospital brought by Miss Catherine, he signed off for the medication to be cleared at customs even when it did not meet the requirement of 75% release date as they had a month to expire. For the demand and need for that medication, it was cleared and in two days we had none left! Thank you for your consciousness.”