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Kagera man recalls how he longed to die

JUSTUS Patrick, (50) a resident of Muhweza village in Ngara District- Kagera Region had endured a mysterious disease that caused abdominal swelling associated with incredible pains for more than 30 years.

Treatments he received at Murgwanza Hospital in Kagera Region and Bugando Hospital in Mwanza Region did not help much and with no relief from the pains, he had lost hope for survival wished he had died.

He said doctors at the two hospitals were baffled when they saw his swollen abdomen, enlarged naval, broken skin and foul-smelling pus oozing from a wound on the stomach area. He had lost hope and retired at home waiting to meet Gabriel, the archangel, to descend on him.

He said the doctors at the hospitals he visited gave him water and pain killers which provided temporary relief only before the condition got worse with the swelling on the abdomen and pains returned.

“That was the time I wished it to burst and let me die. I felt useless and hopeless,” he said. Some close relatives were not useful. They convinced him he was bewitched.

“I really got convinced to go for traditional healers especially after undergoing all those surgeries without success. I was also confused they were giving me different statements. Some said it was because of liver problems and others kidney complications,” he said.

He wished to die but that was not to be. Good Samaritans, who included Bible Society, came up to save him in September last year after reading the ‘Daily News’ article which detailed his problems.

They advised him to try Muhimbili National Hospital and financially supported the trip to the largest referral hospital in Tanzania where his condition had improved from a healing process after receiving treatment.

It is at Muhimbili that things started to change for better and it began with the mental framework. He debugged the witchcraft fears after meeting other patients with similar problems. At MNH’s Mloganzila campus, he thought he would undergo another surgery umpteenth time. But to his pleasant surprise that was not the case.

The doctors said he did not need one. They checked on him and examined the sources of the fluid which had cause the swelling on his stomach and found out there were bacteria which kept on attacking some of his body immunes, he said.

They then introduced him some pills which made the swelling to reduce and for the first time he got relief from the pains he was suffering from.

“I was and I’m still exited to see that my treatments weren’t involving surgeries as I was expected. I thank God that I’m progressing well. I once again thank Muhimbili for saving my life. I am also thankful to the hospital for waiving payments which I could not have afforded,” he said.

According to him, the hospital’s Social Work Department for treatments’ had exempted him from paying for the cost of the treatments which reached about 5m/- “I were discharged and the doctors gave me another one-month medical dose to help me recover fully,” the happy looking Patrick said noting the doctors told him not to engage in serious physical activities, such as land-tilling or carrying heavy loads in the early days of his recovery.

He called on the government and other development stakeholders to invest much in healthcare services the availability of specialists atleast at all regional hospitals. He recalled that the doctors in previous hospitals had tried all their best to help him but could not because of their level.

Availability of experts at all hospitals will mostly save life of people with lowincomes as many are unable, economic-wise, to go for long travel in search of advanced health services, he said. “Almost all who faced similar problems of mine had passed away. I’m very much convinced to say that their deaths might have been caused by lack of advanced health treatments in the region,” he said.

Reached for comments, Dr Pascal Ndaro at Mloganzila hospital said that Patrick was suffering from what was known as autoimmune disease, where one’s immune system attacks the body. Autoimmune disease makes one’s stomach full of fluids, like the way it happens when a person suffers from liver-related complications, said Dr Ndaro.

When it happens that a person have ever experienced bilharzia disease or used to consume excess alcohol might result in to stomach’s full of water/fluids, said Dr Ndaro.

“However, autoimmune diseases are very rare compared to liver-related ones. And it needs thorough investigation to differentiate the two. No common symptoms for autoimmune diseases since they are in different forms. But, they are all curable,” he said.

Dr Ndaro said that failure to differentiate the two (in previous hospitals) might be the reason for Mr Patrick’s long-term sufferings because the treatments he received did not match with his actual problem. According to him, Mloganzila conducted various tests for Mr Patrick, including those of heart, kidney and liver but observed nothing wrong.

That is when the experts picked up the fluids and put it on further test, hence, detected autoimmune diseases. “He is progressing well and we directed him to regularly report at the nearby health centre in his home village so that we can monitor his developments,” said Dr Ndaro.


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