One of the saddest moments in life is when society loses an individual from whom many had often sought advice and eventual healing in the line of medication.
To Dr Emmanuel Mukunya, saving life was a duty above everything else.
On the afternoon of Monday, July 19, a sombre mood engulfed Greater Luweero areas, including Nakaseke Hospital where Dr Mukunya had spent a several years of his life-saving career. Dr Mukunya breathed his last in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Mulago National Referral Hospital after losing the battle to Covid-19.
A dedicated medical officer with a record service of more than 25 years at Nakaseke Hospital, Dr Mukunya rose through the ranks from hospital medical superintendent to principal medical officer.
His colleagues describe him as a thorough man who moved around the corridors of Nakaseke Hospital as a surgeon and nurse in a dilapidated structure that had been brought down by the National Resistance Army (NRA) Bush War in the 1980s.
“At a personal level, Dr Mukunya had unmatched track record of service basing on his rise through the ranks and the expert knowledge he exhibited as a medical practitioner. His knowledge in community medicine possibly explains the humility under which he has been serving,” Dr Mukuzi Muhereza, the general secretary of Uganda Medical Association, also the Nakaseke Hospital medical superintendent, says of the deceased.
Even when he was appointed acting Nakaseke District health officer, he held the post only for a short time and chose to return to Nakaseke Hospital to save lives as a medical practitioner.
At some time during the Bush War, Dr Mukunya had to crisscross the corridors of Nakaseke Hospital, answering to emergency calls as a general doctor, and at the same time the nurse since he was the only available doctor at the time.
“He departs Nakaseke at a time when we greatly needed his expert knowledge. Luckily, we are now more than six doctors at the facilities serving under conditions that have improved after the hospital was refurbishment by government and more staff recruited. We shall dearly miss Dr Mukunya,” Dr Muhereza says.
Ms Rose Namayanja Nsereko, the ruling NRM party deputy secretary general, and former Nakaseke District Woman MP, eulogised Dr Mukunya as a man who went beyond his call of duty to impact on the lives of the people of Greater Luweero and Nakaseke District in particular.
“He is one medical practitioner who I came to know early in my life and surprisingly, even the people he did not directly treat came to realise that there was a servant of the people in Nakaseke Hospital and the other Greater Luweero Districts. People who serve with such exceptional character are rare. May his soul rest in eternal peace,” Ms Namayanja told Daily Monitor in a telephone interview yesterday.
“One time, the district officials wanted to have Dr Mukunya transferred from Nakaseke Hospital but the community put up a spirited protest. The residents of Nakaseke knew who Dr Mukunya represented in terms of service delivery,” Ms Namayanja added.
Ms Elizabeth Nabaggala, a resident of Wobulenzi Town Council in Luweero District, recalls a medical surgery executed by Dr Mukunya on her son in 2006 at a time when Nakaseke Hospital was experiencing a power failure.
“Dr Mukunya assured me that the life of my son would be restored despite the power failure. He conducted the surgery aided by a flash light from a torch at night. He saved the life of my son without asking for a single penny. He only advised me to ensure the boy feeds well after the procedure. He put life of others above all other social demands, including money. It is sad that we shall not be able to attend his last send off as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic guidelines, including a ban on inter-district travel,” she said.
When confronted with pressure and fatigue due to long hours of work between the hospital wards, corridors and the patient operation theater, Dr Mukunya would walk around the hospital compound and at times rest his head at the office table for just a few minutes before resuming work.
A section of the health workers at Nakaseke that have had chance to work with him through the years, said he did not want to show his subordinate staff and patients that he was tired and needed some rest.
Nakaseke South MP Paul Lutamaguzi Ssemakula says Dr Mukunya lived to the noble call to serve humanity as a medical practitioner.
“A man known to many residents as their family physician and friend is a rare character in the current environment where many Ugandans mind about their respective families before service. This is the [kind of] doctor we are sadly bidding farewell to. These are not normal times because of the lockdown. It is sad that Uganda has lost a frontline health work dedicated to the medical profession,” Mr Lutamaguzi said.
Family speaks out
Ms Peruth Mondo Kirabira, a sister of the late Dr Mukunya, eulogised him as a family man who gave all he could to fulfill his call to serve humanity in the field of medicine.
“Dr Mukunya, who lives behind a wife and three children, has mainly served in hospitals and had a long career as a medical practitioner at Nakaseke Hospital. Our family was proud of producing a personality who loved his career and dedicated his life to saving lives through medical practice,” Ms Kirabira said.
A medical graduate from Mbarara University with a Post Graduate Diploma from Germany in Community Medicine and an Old Student of Busoga College Mwiri, Dr Dr Mukunya was born at Buyinda Village in Kaliro District to the late Abnel Ludigo, a forest ranger and Apofiya Ludigo in 1958.
He will be buried at Kagoma Village in Jinja District.