Back in March of this year Kato Mathias, a 5 year old little boy, was referred to Healthy Child Uganda by one of the village health volunteers as a 'special child' - a term used by the project to describe kids who are deemed to have special needs or who need additional care. Kato (he is a twin, hence the name, his sister is Nakato) was diagnosed as having Hirschsprungs Disease (a disease which effects the nerves in the large intestine) when he was 2 years old. He had had surgery in Kampala when he was 4 years to remove the diseased part of his intestine and a stoma (small hole) cut in his abdomen - we don't know if he was ever given a colostomy bag but unfortunately when he came to the project he wasn't using one, his mum was wrapping pieces of fabric around his abodem, a situation which was neither hygienic or very comfortable for him. Both Kato and his mum, Macklean were very subdued and both of them looked utterly miserable - she also had a breastfeeding child, Kato's twin sister and an older child to care for and from what we were told a husband who drank a lot.
I was aware of a charity called Hope Ward at IHK, a private hospital in Kampala owned by a guy from Northern Ireland - the hospital has had many VSO doctors working on the ward or in other parts of the hospital. Chris and Richard, both exVSO volunteer doctors had spoken to me about the ward and how they take cases where the patient or the family need medical care but are unable to pay for it. I contacted the coordinator of the ward and fortunatel after seeing Kato they agreed to treat him. HCU provided money for Macklean and Kato to travel to Kampala, but all Kato's other expenses (medical treatment, hospital accomodation and food) were covered by IHK - Macklean had to provide meals for herself but she was allowed to stay on the ward with him. We had thought Kato would probably be at IHK for a few weeks, but in fact it turned out to be 3 months - he had to have two major operations and then time for recovery. However, the surgery was successful and at the end of June he returned to his family in his village.
Kato, with his mum came to visit us at the project office when he returned from Kampala at the end of June. It was so good to see both him and his mum smiling, they were like two completely different people, they were so much more relaxed and talkative, and like all Ugandan children Kato loved having his photo taken.
Kato and Macklean came along to a nutrition training workshop I was doing in their parish.
Kato enjoying a his lunch of matoke, beans, greens and pumpkin
HCU is still monitoring Kato and he is doing well, but unfortunately is not yet going to school, it's difficult to find out from his family if this is because they don't have the money to pay school fees or if they feel he's not strong enough yet. Kato is extremely little for his age and really needs to put on weight - I gave Macklean lots of nutritional advice and tips and she was receptive at the time, but unfortunately back home where she is busy caring for her other children and planting and growing food for the family, giving Kato special care is not a priority.
Kato has become a bit of a special project for me, he is such a sweet little boy and the change in him has been fantastic, but it's difficult to get too invloved. Macklean asked me a while back to try to get her a mobile phone, so I gave her an old spare one that I had. She rings me occasionally, well she 'rings' me in typical Ugandan style - when the caller has no airime or credit he or she 'beeps', 'flashes' or 'sends a missed call', meaning they call, allow the phone to ring once or twice then hang up and you are expected to call them back. I can't count the amount of 'missed call's I get in a week!). Unfortunately, Macklean doesn't speak English, so I have to get someone else to call her back for me!