Thursday September 2 2010

‘I have lost 3 children to ‘umbilical hernia’ and another has same illness’


Ms Harriet Kyomugisa, 30 sits in the courtyard of her mud and wattle house in deep sorrow. She carries her four-year-old child on her laps. Her son, Hilary Asinguza, has a swollen umbilical cord which has made it hard for him to enjoy his infanthood. Other children from the neighbourhood run around playing football but he can’t join them due to the protrusion on his stomach and stigma. “He can hardly play, eat and breathe well,” Kyomugisa, a resident of Mparo village in Hoima town council says. Asinguza has started developing wounds on the protruded umbilical cord.
IN NEED OF HELP: Harriet Kyomugisha displays

IN NEED OF HELP: Harriet Kyomugisha displays her son’s swollen umbilical cord. She has lost three children to the same illness and is worried Asinguza might also die. He can hardly play, eat or breathe well. PHOTO BY FRANCIS MUGERWA.
“I’m worried he may die just like three of his brothers” the depressed mother says. Kyomugisa occasionally breaks down as she narrates the ordeal that has traumatised her. She lost three children who sufferred from the same illness, which she describes as strange according to consultations she has made with elders in her village.

She says her first born, Sam Maiso died at nine years in 2000, Kenneth Kahuma died at three and a half years and Steven Kahuma died at seven years in 2004. “They died of the similar illness as the one that is eating up Asinguza,” Kyomugisa says, with tears in her eyes. She says after the swelling of the umbilical cord, the child develops wounds on the protruded umbilical cord, becomes weak and sickly before eventually passing on. “I have tried to treat them using local herbs but the illness continues,” she says. “The umbilical cord starts swelling when the child is eight to 11 months old. It swells gradually until it goes out of hand.”

Operation phobia
Kyomugisa says one of her sons; Maiso was operated in a private clinic in Hoima town but died shortly after the operation. “I now fear to take Asinguza for an operation because he may die shortly after medication just like Maiso died” Kyomugisa said.

While it’s only the boys who die after this illness, Sarah Katulina, the only girl Kyomugisa has is healthy. Katulina is in P.3 at Good Hope Primary School in Hoima town. Asinguza lacks appetite although his favourite dish is rice and meat. He finds it hard to play and is shunned by his age mates due to his shape. He wears dresses in a bid to cover his protruded belly.

Kyomugisa who is a single parent at the moment is cash-strapped and hardly gets enough money to take her son for specialised treatment in better hospitals. She says the illness that befell her children left her marriage on the rocks. She separated from her husband Mr Sam Kahuma sometime back who she said abandoned her after the second child died of the same illness. Kahuma now operates a boda boda at Hoima central market stage. The two had reportedly been married for 16 years.

Since then, Kyomugisa started struggling to make ends meet. The husband used to be the sole bread winner in the family. She is now seeking financial assistance from good Samaritans to look after herself and the family and treat her sick child.
Kyomugisa now works as a maid at Nile Depot in Hoima town where she cooks food for the workers. “She is hard working but we feel sorry for her when we find her crying all the time worried about the fate of her sick child” Mr Nasser Rwaigwera, one of her employers says.

Medical advice
Medics have advised her to take Asinguza for treatment..
“He could have a congenital problem. It requires thorough examination and diagnosis,” Dr Patrick Musinguzi, who is attached to Hoima Regional Referral Hospital, says. Another doctor, a surgeon at the same hospital, Dr Dennis Bitamazire reasons that the children could have an inborn illness.

“They could be having weak walls in the abdomen,” he says. He explained that between the inside and the outside of the abdomen, there is a strong sheet of tissue known as the rectus sheath which protects the abdomen and helps it to remain in good shape.

“At times it becomes weak on the umbilicus or anywhere in the mid line. Once it weakens, any pressure in the abdomen pushes the internal organs out of the abdomen and eventually they protrude,” Dr Bitamazire says. He said the protrusion is seen as a sack known as hernia. More medics have recommended an operation for Asinguza. “He can be operated. Tissues which are separated can be brought together and the abdomen becomes strong,” Dr Bitamazire says. But Kyomugisha does not have money to take her son for specialised treatment. She appeals to any Good Samaritan for help.

To help Kyomugisha and her son, contat her on 0785621737