Uganda is all about stark contrasts. I’ve known this from my first trip: joy is often juxtaposed with sorrow and hope coupled with despair.
On Thursday afternoon a group of the children were heading over to our hotel. Earlier that morning I had been sitting around Melissa’s kitchen table with the Okecha brothers. We were reading the blog post I had written about them, and they were absolutely beaming. We were smiling and laughing.
Oscar, Brian and Willy were part of the posse that walked to our nearby hotel. They decided to hitch a ride on the back of a truck so they could get there faster. When it came time to jump down off the truck, Brian’s timing went horribly wrong, and he jumped as the truck was still moving.
He came down hard on the dirt road, hitting his head and presumably rolling some distance. Between the quick thinking and assistance of some nearby boda drivers, the police and the rest of the kids, Brian was quickly taken to Mulago Hospital in Kampala. Fortunately, nurse Douglas had just arrived at the hotel. He and team member Leroy stayed by Brian’s side for the next couple hours as he went to the hospital and was admitted.
The good news is that Brian seems to be doing much better now. He’s still in the hospital and probably will be for two more days. But it was scary for a while. Having must likely suffered a concussion; he was out of it until this morning. We could rouse him, but he would stay awake only for a short while, and if he spoke, he didn’t make much sense. It was obvious from his writhing when he was awake that he was in a lot of pain.
I had never before stepped foot into a hospital in a developing country. Mulago Hospital is a public institution (that’s why the police took him there… most accident victims end up in its wards). I was shocked by the deplorable conditions. I suppose I’d seen pictures of places like this hospital, but to smell it, hear it and move among its sea of injured, ailing and deceased was more than I’d bargained for when I woke up on Friday morning. Lynne and I spent nearly twelve hours there caring for Brian and trying to navigate our way through the system. (We could never have done it without the help of young nurse Douglas, CTT’s first post secondary school graduate and current medical intern at the orphanage.)
I took pictures at first because I wanted to be able to show Brian how attentive and loving his brothers were toward him. Over the course of the long day I took pictures of things and people around us because I wasn’t sure I would be able to adequately describe with words what I was seeing.
Willy would not leave his brother’s side. He was heartbreakingly tender toward younger Brian. Oldest brother Mande stepped in to relieve Willy after the first sleepless night, and Oscar quietly sat wide-eyed by his brother’s bed during the day. (At Mulago Hospital, the patient must have an attendee. This is apparently a family member or friend. The attendee brings along supplies like a sheet, blanket, washing basin, food, plate, cup, fork, washing cloth and even some meds. The patient is crammed into a ward with countless other patients and attendees, the latter sprawled out on extra beds or on the floor.)
We are all hoping for a full recovery for Brian, a treasure of a young man. And I, personally, feel nothing but the utmost respect for and inspiration from this close-knit family of five special boys.