Beating Covid: 2 brothers spearhead fight against virus after recovery

Wednesday August 04 2021

Mr Gregory Gidagui Mafabi gives out free face masks to residents of Mbale District recently. PHOTO/JESSICA SABANO

By Jessica Sabano

Two brothers have joined forces to educate and empower the community to fight Covid-19 after the deadly disease hit their family.
Mr Cosmas Busima Mafabi and Mr Gregory Gidagui Mafabi are using their Francisco Giboni Mafabi Foundation to pool resources and buy the necessary drugs and equipment for people battling the disease in Bugisu Sub-region.
This was after the disease hit Mr Gidagui along with his wife and six children in June. 

The brothers started the foundation in 1994 in memory of their father, Francisco Giboni Mafabi Foundation, who died on July 4 that year. Its vision was to unite all Giboni family members so as to enhance their social and economic development. 
However, after Mr Gidagui and his entire family was badly afflicted by the Covid scare, the Foundation’s mandate was expanded to extend social and economic support to the society to fight the virus.
Gidagui’s experience
Mr Gidagui says for about one month, he suffered bouts of fever and experienced low energy levels. Results of malaria tests always came out negative yet the feeling of sickness persisted.
He could not imagine that he had Covid-19 until he took his daughter for a test after she returned from school with signs of the disease.

“My daughter was in boarding school at St Anthony Kajjansi but returned home with very bad flu and cough. She also complained of constant headaches. I put her on flu and cough medication but there was no change. I, therefore, suspected that she had Covid-19, so I took her for testing at Mulago National Referral Hospital,” Mr Gidagui narrates.
He says her test came out positive and so he too decided to test. This was on June 7. His own results came out positive the following day.
Mr Gidagui decided to test his entire family, including relatives. Thirty family members were tested and this cost him Shs3.28m. 
Of the 30, six more turned out to be positive. These were his wife and his five other children.
“At that time there were very many announcements of lives being claimed by Covid-19, so the fear was immense. I must admit I was so scared but because I’m a firm believer in the divine mercy of God, I decided to put the fears away and battle the disease,” he says.

He contacted Dr Dominic Wabuloko with whom he had worked during the first wave of Covid-19 while distributing food to the needy.
After explaining to him his condition, Dr Wabuloko deduced that because Mr Gidagui had been largely asymptomatic, his case was mild. 
The doctor thus prescribed home-based treatment for Mr Gidagui coupled with exercise to keep his lungs active and oxygen levels high.

“To ensure that we adhere to treatment, I mooted the idea of a collective fight. I, therefore, put all my positive children on treatment. We would steam everyday with dragon and axle balms and then take the tablets followed by daily exercise,” he says.
They took daily medication of Ivermectine, Dexamethasone, Azithromycin, Zinc, Aspirin and Vitamin C. Luckily for Mr Gidagui, he managed to beat the disease within four days although he took the full dose of 10 days.
While he and his daughter were cured of the disease quickly, his wife remained bedridden and was even hospitalised for weeks.

“For her, the disease had progressed to the lungs and they had started losing functionality,” he explains. 
Mr Gidagui’s wife had to be admitted to St Benedict Hospital Luzira and put on oxygen.
He says he is thankful to the Blessed Virgin Mary because he sought her intercession to God, who answered his prayers.  “My children’s mother is still sickly but she is past the scary stages; at least most of the water in her lungs has cleared and now we are on treatment to heal the wounds and infection; but I’m optimistic about her full recovery,” Mr Gidagui says.


 “I advise the victims to always have a positive mind and pray to God for everything is possible because I didn’t know I could cheat death,” he says.
The time was generally a difficult one not only for Gidagui’s family but also for his relatives. 
“It was a devastating blow to us because at the time there were so many deaths. We were, therefore, very scared because of being in the age bracket that is most affected by Covid-19,” Mr Jackson Wosukira, the foundation’s coordinator says.

A staunch Catholic, Mr Gidagui says healing quickly from the deadly virus showed him that God still loved him and has a purpose for him to fulfill.
Now Mr Gidagui and his family members are using the foundation to enhance the government’s Covid-19 fight. The foundation is based in Bukyambi Village in Budadiri, Sironko District.
The foundation’s chief executive officer, Mr Busima, says to achieve their dream, they co-opted other friends and experts to help in the Covid-19 fight in the community. Mr Gidagui serves as the foundation’s chairperson-in-charge of fundraising as well as its legal secretary.
The works
Already, the foundation has hit the ground running. Mr Busima says they mobilised their family members who pooled Shs50m into the fund. After getting the funds, Mr Busima and Mr Wosukira did a needs assessment to find out how best to enhance the government’s fight against Covid-19. 
“Being lay people, we did not want to antagonise the government but instead enhance its programme,” Mr Busima says. 
After doing a survey, they realised that across Bugisu Sub-region, the government’s message, especially as regards the observance of the standard operating procedures (SOPs) was being highly distorted. 

The foundation then embarked on extensive sensitisation about Covid-19 on social media and mainstream media via radios and TV. They also bought Covid-19 drugs to facilitate treatment for 10 people in 12 health centres in the sub-region. 
The donated doses include Azithromycin, Vitamin C and Zinc. They have also since distributed masks worth Shs7m to residents in the area and bought them dragon and axe oil balms for steaming, worth Shs4m.
Gidagui’s advice 
“My advice is that as human beings, we have to love and help others because this is the time to heal our souls through forgiveness and reconciliation with mankind so that God can also have mercy upon us,” Mr Gidagui says.
“Much as Covid-19 is a terrible disease, it is not a death sentence, so whoever contracts it must first of all remain calm. You then have to pray and ask for God’s healing grace. You then have to begin treatment while following the SOPs. And those that have not yet tested, please do as this will save you the exorbitant costs of managing the disease once it is full-blown,” he concludes.
Appeal by scientists
Scientists have advised members of the public to go for Covid-19 testing as soon as they start experiencing symptoms so as to enable early diagnosis. Dr Mukuzi Muhereza, the secretary general of Uganda Medical Association (UMA), said early testing enables early treatment and better outcomes. According to the Ministry of Health, late presentation to hospitals for treatment is linked to the rising Covid-19 death toll.