Hello friends! I’d like to take a moment to tell you a story if you’ll indulge me. I cannot promise spells, thrills or a throne of swords but I promise if you’ll stick with me to the end it’ll leave you with a little magic…
As some/many of you might know, in April last year I was the victim of a horrific attack that left me hospitalized with a multitude of injuries and in need of surgery(and if you don't know now you know). I was in the Intensive Care Unit for two weeks and in hospital for the rest of the month. The injuries, most of which were to my face, resulted in me having surgery to put plates underneath my right eye, my chin and above my lip. I also suffered a basal skull fracture which damaged the nerves on the right side of my face and a ruptured right ear drum. I got my initial treatment in Uganda before I was fit enough to travel, after which I left for the UK for follow up treatments. Recovery was brutal (to say the least) but when I got to the UK all my doctors were impressed by the treatment I’d had in Uganda- it was the first remark made by my GP, maxillofacial surgeon, neurosurgeon, ophthalmologist, physiotherapist and ENT upon seeing my scans and seeing me physically. They were right- I had been fortunate enough to receive amazing medical treatment back home and I knew it. I was and still am grateful for the care I received, from my surgeons who were phenomenal, to my friends and family who were relentless in their support but there was one aspect from my treatment that stood out to me: my nurses. I had heard a lot of talk about the importance of nurses in the medical community and often of the injustice they faced. After my first experience being admitted in hospital and having surgery I can honestly say this: nurses are the backbone of the medical community. The nurses that attended to me went above and beyond their call of duty.
I’d like to paint a picture for you to make all this a bit clearer: my first clear, conscious memory was waking up post ICU- as the saying goes it takes a village to raise a child and the entire village had been camped out to lend their support. So, there I was, in a hospital bed, an unbearable amount of pain shooting through every part of my body, attached to various machines and taking countless pills and injections that I had no clue about and seeing friends, family and loved ones who all came to show their support. At that point I was unsure of the specifics of the surgery I had undergone and had no idea what the various pills I was taking or liquids flowing through my IV were for, except that one liquid gave me a delicious but fleeting break from the pain as it’s warmth seeped through my veins into my chest (God bless Morphine). But I digress… As you can imagine terror and confusion were frequent visitors of mine, but my nurses were always there to meet it. My doctors in the UK all commented on the fact that I was an active patient and I knew this was due largely to my sister Samantha, who basically became my mouthpiece (good thing as well because I could barely open my mouth post-surgery) and also because of my nurses. One of my nurses especially (the head nurse) a legend named Francis Kironde was on the frontline. Sensing my confusion and fear he’d make time to talk me through every medication he would give me and what it would do. When the queue of visitors had decreased each day, he brought me my file and talked me through my surgery, explaining to me what I could expect from recovery, encouraging me and comforting me. Lifting me out of bed, and back into it, walking with me around the hospital floor when I had strength- holding my hand through it all. My nurses became my friends, Francis most especially. He was there constantly, even when his shift was up, at all hours, deep into the night when it was time to take medications and he knew I was afraid. I don’t think there’s a single person who visited me that didn’t know Francis, and he did this all with a smile. At every waking moment (and I’m pretty sure sleeping as well) Francis was there or somewhere nearby, smiling his big smile and bringing a little light into a very dark time. When I couldn’t sleep he would talk to me about his own life, his work; he’d encourage me and tell me with such certainty that I had no choice but to believe it that I was going to be ok, that I was one of the strongest patients he’d seen and that the pain was only momentary. Here was someone who didn’t know me from Adam prior to my hospitalization yet whom I felt grieved with me, and saw was willing to do anything and everything to ensure that I would be ok. Francis and all my nurses were like angels in blue around my bedside every day and every night- nursing me, feeding me, talking to me and comforting me. When I left the hospital, I was struck by how much I would miss it, not because I’m a masochist, but rather because I would miss my nurses. I would miss having people who when I’d wake up abruptly in the night terrified about a beep on one of the machines, would calm me down and talk me through (very slowly because science is really not my thing) what was happening. Nurses who woke me softly at all hours to take medicine I dreaded but would have a funny anecdote at the ready to make my anxiety subside. Nurses who spotted my frustration, irritation and anger with the situation before anyone else and found the words to say to keep me going. Nurses who didn’t know me, who were doing their jobs but who took the time to get to know me, do more than their jobs, who truly cared about me and my recovery. Before I left the hospital, Francis sat me down and set alarms on my phone for all the medications and wrote down what each alarm was in case I forgot. Having sensed how nervous I was about leaving the security of the hospital he told my mum he was willing to move in at home as I transitioned. I know- what a man.
There is not a day since I left the hospital, left Uganda that Francis hasn’t messaged me to check on me, to pray for me, to encourage me. No longer my nurse, he became my friend. During one of our conversations I asked Francis how work (the work he loved so much) was going and he told me he was off work- why? He had been diagnosed with Cancer- Osteogenic Sarcoma in his left thigh. I was devastated to hear this news, and yet still he calmed ME down, telling me about the cycles of chemotherapy he has to keep getting in an attempt to stop the spread of the cancer and the plans for his treatment, all the while asking me how I was doing, asking about my family and friends whom he remembered by name. I was and still am in awe of his grace and his strength. The chemotherapy has been brutal as you can imagine and although initially the doctors had suggested amputating his leg, upon further investigation they discovered that only the thigh bone was affected from about midway until a few centimetres to the hip leaving the rest of his leg (from the lower thigh bone to the foot) cancer free. The doctors concluded that to avoid amputation they would need to perform reconstructive surgery- cutting out the affected part of the thigh bone and sparing the rest of the leg. Such a surgery however, is complex and cannot be done in Uganda. As a result, Francis hopes to go to India for his surgery but as you can imagine such complex treatment is costly and he would need $36,000 to cover his medical costs. As most of you can guess such an amount would be almost impossible to raise for most, let alone for someone on a nurse’s salary in Uganda.
So (finally) I get to the crux of my story. Throughout my recovery, difficult, painful and terrifying as it was I was always humbled and strengthened by the knowledge that I was fortunate enough to receive the medical care I did. I was blessed with amazing parents and family that were able to provide the best medical treatment; with siblings that were four walls around me and a floor and roof. Incredible friends who refused to leave my side (seriously did you all take leave from work?). I was lucky, but not many are. There are so many who have been through similar and worse and haven’t been blessed with the resources that I was. So many, like Francis, are faced with life threatening challenges and no way to combat them. So, I write this to implore you, to ask you kindly, if you have at all been moved by the story of this angel on earth. I appeal to your compassion to help me help someone who has given his life to serving others, and now faces the threat of not being able to do that anymore. As I got to know Francis (who has been a nurse for a decade now) I found out why he became a nurse in the first place which is an incredibly moving story of its own and which I’ll share along the journey once I have his permission. So, I hope you’ll continue to stick with me. For now, I ask you to please donate whatever you can, and if you can’t please share this post so it may reach as many people as possible. It’s not often that we’re given a chance to bless those who have been a blessing to us and so I don’t want to waste mine. Thank you, friends/ family, (those of you who are still reading this) please hit donate/share and say a quick prayer if you believe in the power of prayer and let’s give the backbone of a wonderful community the bone he needs to keep going.
MOBILE MONEY PAYMENTS FROM UGANDA CAN BE MADE TO Francis Kironde on 0751816881
Please put your name as a reference or initials if you prefer to remain anonymous