Survivor narrates Ebola ordeal

Mr Goodwill Mpanga and his wife at home in Bundibugyo District. PHOTO/ALEX ASHABA

What you need to know:

  • Mr Mpanga said when he got the disease, many people thought it was witchcraft.

Mr Goodwill Mpanga, 63, is an accountant and resident of Mukundungu Village, Busaru Sub-county in Bundibugyo District.
In December 2007, he contracted Ebola. Mr Mpanga says he got the disease at the burial of his brother-in-law, Jeremiah Muhindo, who died shortly after testing positive for Ebola.
“After the burial of my brother-in-law, I slept at his place. On the first day, I developed body pain and I became weak. The following morning the situation worsened so I decided to go back home,” he said.

He added that on his way home, his skin darkened and he had a high fever.
“On December 7 I could not move out of my house. My brother Elisa Mumbere Kayembe took me to Bundibugyo hospital,” he said.
Mr Mpanga says at the hospital, he was first taken to the Outpatient Department. He met a team of doctors from the World Health Organisation, who tested him and confirmed that he had Ebola.

He was taken to the isolation centre where he found some of the people he was with at the burial. Shortly after this, he lost consciousness. He woke up three days later.
 “I spent seven days in the isolation centre. In our isolation room, there were 10 people but by the time I left, six had died. Whenever someone died, I would think that I was next,” he said.
Mr Mpanga says at the time, there was no vaccine for Ebola. He adds that the health workers were only treating Ebola symptoms.
“We were given many antibiotics whose names I cannot remember. I was also taking local herbs,” he said.
Mr Mpanga adds that the doctors also encouraged them to eat local food such as matooke and posho.
“The doctors would ensure that every day I take my drugs on time,” he says.

After seven days in the isolation centre, he asked the doctors to discharge him because he had regained energy although he had not fully recovered.
When he was discharged, Mr Mpanga says he was only given antibiotic drugs. He adds that it took another month for him to fully recover.
“When I came back home, I still had body pain and was still weak with side effects. I lost my memory and my testicles reduced in size. Doctors from Bundibugyo hospital and Kampala kept monitoring me every week,” he said.
Mr Mpanga adds that he was doing physical exercises every morning.
The doctors also instructed him to abstain from sex for six months because the virus could still be in his semen.
He, however, says his daughter, who was five at the time, also developed similar signs and symptoms after he returned home and was admitted for four days. She later tested negative.
Locals shunning him
Mr Mpanga says on his way home, he stopped at a trading centre but people ran away.
“People refused to come close to me. The doctor I had travelled with convinced them to come closer but they all declined,” he says.
For the first two weeks at home, no one visited him. He decided to limit his movements in the community, saying whenever the locals would see him, they would whisper to each other that he is an Ebola survivor. 
He added that people did not want to line up with him at the bank.
Mr Mpanga says if anyone develops signs and symptoms of Ebola, one needs to visit a nearby health facility for testing.
“Back then, people did not believe it was Ebola. Instead, they said it was witchcraft. People discouraged others from going to the hospital and that is why we lost many people. I have told people that seeking medical advice is key,” he says.
His wife, Ms Naume Mpanga, 58, says when her husband was diagnosed with Ebola she thought he was going to die.
“Although I was nursing my brother who died of Ebola, I became scared when they told me that my husband had Ebola. One day I requested the doctors to put me in an isolation room because I had developed fever, but they refused,” she said.
Ms Naume says at home, she ensured that food was always provided on time and also after two weeks people started visiting them and they supported them financially.