May 1, marks International Labour Day. Kenneth Karara, a relationship manager at National Social Security Fund (NSSF), spentpart of this day playing football with friends.
During the activity, he sustained a muscletear on his right foot.
Later that afternoon, after returning home, Karara applied some ointment and ice onto the injury with the hope that the pain would reduce.
However, two weeks later, he developed a painful swelling on the foot. He drove to SAS Clinic on Bombo Road.
“The medics said they were unable to manage my case and referred me to Ultima Trauma and Orthopaedic Centre Limited in Nakasero, Kampala,” he recalls.
There, his leg was wrapped in cast, a hard material made from either plaster or fibreglass intended to help repair broken bones. Karara was instructed to rest for two weeks because he was straining the leg by frequent movement. He heeded his doctor’s advice.
However, on the third day of home rest, Karara experienced severe pain in his leg. The discomfort was accompanied by itchiness. There was no choice but to rush Karara to Lifelink Hospital, Kyaliwajal. The couple and their three children live close to the hospital (in Bulindo, a neighbourhood in Kira Municipality).
“I was attended to and discharged,” he says.
But, on May 22, other health issues developed including chest pain and unbearable stomach pain. During the day, Karara collapsed and his in-laws found him on the floor and motionless. At the time, his wife, Diana, a baker, had gone to make a delivery. Immediately, he was rushed back to Lifelink Hospital.
“While there, the doctors ran a number of tests and discovered that he had mild pneumonia. He was given medication and we returned him home,” Diana says.
However, Karara was uneasy that night. He kept tossing and turning in bed while sweating profusely.
In addition, he kept complaining of stomach pain. The next morning at around 5am, he begged Diana to rush him to hospital. She drove fast back to Lifelink Hospital. On arrival, he was admitted in the emergency unit while a number of more tests were conducted on him. He spent a night at the hospital.
On May 24, results including one from a Computed Tomography (CT) scan showed clots in his lungs. On this same day, the Lifelink medical personnel transferred him by ambulance to International Hospital Kampala (IHK) in Namuwongo, a Kampala suburb.
Life in ICU
Dr Eduard Khandazhapov, the head of the ICU at the facility, says at the time Karara was admitted, he had difficulties breathing because of the clots present in his lungs (that were a result of immobility brought about by the foot injury).
“He had other complications including bronchopneumonia, a condition that causes inflammation of the lungs as well as sepsis (which occurs when chemicals released in the bloodstream to fight an infection trigger inflammation throughout the body),” Dr Khandazhapov says.
In Karara’s case, the sepsis was causing organ failure, particularly his kidneys.
“We, therefore, had to put him under Continuous Renal Replacement Therapy (CRRT), a special form of slow and continuous blood purification treatment reserved for critically ill patients, for instance, those with acute kidney injury,” he says.
Due to the delicate manner of Karara’s health, Dr Khandazhapov could not work alone. Therefore, he sought the services of other specialists from within and outside the hospital. And, one of those professionals was Dr Ben Khingi, a consultant surgeon in the plastic/burns unit at IHK.
Dr Khingi says Karara spent nearly two months in ICU. During this time, he developed other complications.
“My role was to handle some of these issues (that rose due to Kenneth’s long stay in bed), but also, render some kind of support aimed at ensuring that he got back on his feet,” Dr Khingi says.
In the midst of all this, one wonders how was Karara’s family coping?
When her husband was admitted, Diana pledged to stay by his side like she vowed 14 years ago at the altar. Once Karara was admitted in ICU, Diana requested a family friend to help look after their eldest son until things normalised. The boy is a Primary Seven candidate.
She took her other two younger sons currently in Primary Four and One to live with her parents.
Diana put her business on hold and stayed at the hospital. But, since there are no beds available for attendants in ICU, Diana and her sister, Fiona, would many times sleep outside the hospital on the available benches reserved for visitors or on the floor. Sometimes, they would sleep in her car.
“I had to endure the discomfort and the mosquitoes,” she says.
On some occasions, she would pace the corridors anxiously with hope that a doctor would come and give her some good news. But many times though, it was never the case.
“Many times I would be pacing the corridors and suddenly, I hear deafening noise from one of the machines in the ICU. My heart would skip a beat because deep down, I thought my husband was slipping away from this world,” she says with teary eyes.
The experience scared Diana because many times she had witnessed patients being taken into ICU only for them to be later wheeled out as dead bodies.
“It was such a tough time. I saw many traumatising things,” she says.
Diana says for about two months, her husband was in coma.
“He was on life support with all sorts of medical devices attached to his body. He even at some point had tracheostomy, a medical procedure that involves creating an opening in the neck in order to place a tube to enable air enter the lungs,” she says.
At one point, Diana was told her husband had a 50/50 chance of recovery. “I remember one Thursday, I was told there was nothing more they could do for him, and, that I should expect anything,” she says. This perturbed Diana. Amid the uncertainty, she is grateful to loved ones who stood by her. These included Dr Bildard Baguma, Ben Mwine, Fiona Kobutungi, her parents, mother-in-law, and The Beebwas.
Leaning on prayer
Since the doctors were saying nothing more could be done, Diana resorted to prayer. By her side were family, friends and well-wishers from different prayer fellowship groups that the couple belonged to.
“We made some kind of altar outside the hospital where we would gather from time to time to pray for Kenneth,” she says.
Diana prayed to God to restore Karara’s health like the way it was before the injury on May 1. As they prayed, the doctors too continued playing their role of availing Karara with the best treatment and care. Then, something unexpected started happening towards the end of July.
“The doctors began telling us that they were beginning to notice a few improvements. For instance, his body was slowly responding to dialysis while his heart rate began to normalise,” she says.
After being in coma for two months, Karara woke up and slowly began taking notice of his surroundings.
“He could not talk at the time because of the tube in his neck, so, he had to communicate by writing. He wrote like a little child, though. The written information was difficult to understand,” he says.
Diana says as Karara began regaining his consciousness, sometimes, he would ask all kinds of questions including whether the documents she was signing in hospital were an indication that she was selling off the house to cater for his medical bills.
Speaking of medical bills, you would wonder how much the family spent on Karara’s treatment.
Diana says at the facility, when a patient is on life support, the cost could even amount to Shs10m a day. So for Karara who was admitted in the facility on May 24 and discharged on August 16, the expenses must have been high.
“The bill was out of this world. I would rather not even say the amount,” she says.
She adds, “Part of the expenses were sorted out by his medical insurance which by the way got used up. Then, we were fortunate that his employer and friends of the family came to our rescue to sort out the other remaining expenses. We are very grateful to them.”
There were also well-wishers who contributed some financial aid from time to time.
On August 16, after being discharged, Karara says he could not wait to get home to be with his family.
“I missed my children!” he says.
At some point, after regaining consciousness, Karara says he hated being at hospital.
“There was a time I found the nurses quite annoying. You ask for something, then, they give you something else. Those nurses quite agitated me,” he says.
Karara says he kept praying to God for strength to enable him walk out of hospital sooner than later. And, on August 16, Karara was given a special sendoff by the hospital team after the team acknowledged, too, that his recovery was miraculous.
Today, Karara is utilising the time at home to focus on his full recovery.
Lessons from the experience
The couple says that the experience has taught them a couple of life lessons including:
The significance of treating everyone with utmost dignity.
“When Kenneth was in hospital, all sorts of people would come and see him including politicians, boda boda riders, Rotarians, guards, corporates, and different church groups. “At some point, someone asked what kind of celebrity my husband was, and, I remember responding that he was no celebrity but rather an ordinary man,” Diana says.
Kenneth adds, “I believe the reason all these people came was because of my character. I always respect people regardless of their background or occupation.”
The experience also taught the couple the value of friends.
It was a sound reminder that life indeed is short.
But most importantly, prayer moves mountains and God is the giver of life.