By Francis Mugerwa (email the author) - Posted Wednesday, August 8 2012 at 01:00-Two weeks ago, Claire Muhumuza woke up and did domestic work before reporting for duty at Kagadi Hospital to attend to patients as she had done for over a decade.
Muhumuza, just like her family, could not anticipate that one of the patients she would attend to was infected with Ebola. At this time, the disease had not been diagnosed.
The disease, which was reported as a strange illness in the media, had killed 13 people from one family in a matter of days. A resident of Nyanswiga Village in Nyamarunda Sub-county, who was admitted with high fever, vomiting and having diarrhoea later turned out to have the highly contagious Ebola hemorrhagic fever, which has killed 17 people and dozens are still hospitalised but are out of danger.
“When she returned home, she told us that she was puzzled by the excessive diarrhoea of one of the patients she attended to. She suspected the patient to have cholera,” Mr Joseph Kasigwa, Muhumuza’s brother in-law, said.
Her relatives said she washed herself with Jik detergent when she reached home and encouraged other family members to do the same as a preventive measure against cholera.
After three days, she developed fever and took anti-malarial drugs. Her situation only got worse. She developed diarrhoea, her eyes turned red and she began vomiting.
Misfortune Several doctors in private clinics and at Kagadi Hospital attended to her both at her home and later at Kagadi Hospital. As her situation deteriorated, she was referred to Mulago National Referral Hospital, where she died on July 20 after two weeks of illness. She was buried on July 22 in Kahooro Village in Bwamiramira Sub-county. The demise of Muhumuza has had huge impact on her family.
“Life has changed. People shun me. They think I also have Ebola. I feel traumatised and stigmatised,” Mr Posiano Zahura, her husband, said. Mr Zahura, a records assistant in Kibaale District’s planning unit, said he used to live with his wife and three children in Kagadi Hospital’s staff quarters but after medical confirmation that she died of the highly contagious disease, health workers have restricted his movements and their former residence has been condoned off.
“All our household items are locked in the house. I cannot access ATM cards and other necessities because I am not allowed to access that house anymore,” Mr Zahura said. He has retreated to his ancestral home in Kyomukama Village in Kagadi Town Council, about five kilometres from Kagadi town, on the Kagadi-Isunga-Kibaale Road.
But even in the village, he claims neighbours have shunned his home. As he rehabilitates his house, he has an uphill task of accessing building materials. “When I send a boda boda to buy for me cement or any other materials, he does not return. No one is willing to give me a lift. I feel troubled,” he said.
The District Health Officer, Dr Dan Kyamanywa, said Mr Zahura is among the over 200 people who got exposed to Ebola patients and are under close surveillance. Muhumuza had initiated some development projects in the community.
She founded Kweyamba Group-Kamiranjojo, a savings and credit association where she was also a treasurer. Her death has left members of the association stuck since she was the principal signatory to the account. They are due to hold talks with bank officials on how to access their savings.
Family Muhumuza was due to baptise Milka Ninsiima, her four-month-old baby in August. Ninsiima also died of Ebola. Besides her husband, she is survived by two children: Tony Agondeze,13, a Primary Seven pupil at Quality Primary School and Crispus Asasira, a Primary Five pupil at St Jude Primary School, Buseesa.
“She wanted me to join the seminary and become a priest. I will struggle to fulfill her dream, ” Agondeze said. Muhumuza joined the civil service in the 1990s as a nurse and has been married to Zahura since 1994.
Her husband is wondering how he will care for the children given that their late mother did so diligently and used to pay school fees for them. “Before she died, she told me that her children should keep in school and that all her assets are for them,” Mr Zahura said.
“We have lost our dear one. She was more than a mother. She would also an earn income for the family. We request government to give us some compensation,” he said. The vice chairperson of the District Ebola Task Force, Mr Stephen Mfashigabo, said the family’s request for compensation will be forwarded to the health ministry for consideration.