This is Joseph. He’s a kindergartener at the Rafiki School.
(Well, actually, now he’s in P1. A new year has started since I left the Rafiki School in Uganda.)
I know I’m not supposed to have favorites, but this kid has my heart.
Well actually, he and at least 101 other kids share pieces of it, if I’m being honest.
He’s a day student. His dad is Emma, short for Emmanuel.
He works as a guard at the Rafiki village gate.
Joseph has a mother and little brother as well as a basically newborn baby sister.
This family lives less than a mile from Rafiki in a room that’s probably 8ft. by 8ft.
But that’s pretty typical.
Okay. So why, almost two months after I’m home (which by the way, where has the time gone?), am I writing about them?
Because I saw God work through modern medicine through this family, and maybe I’ll inspire someone to use their knowledge of medicine to make situations like the one I’m about to describe stop happening.
I’ve been putting off this story because I’ve been afraid to tell it. Not because it’s bad. But because it’s powerful. And I want to tell it in the best way possible.
So here goes nothing. Details are a little bit fuzzy, but here’s the gist of it.
I had been hearing about Emma being sick for a while through conversations with the missionaries. It started that he had maybe gone home from work sick one day, but, by the time we went to see him, he had been out for more than a week. Because transportation and resources are limited, the average person can’t go into the city for medical treatment when sick. There are local clinics where village doctors, not a witch doctor, practice, but they are often wrong about diagnoses because of limited training. The doctor had diagnosed Emma first with malaria, which is pretty common, and then had added typhoid fever and a urinary tract infection to the list.
Carolyn, ROS and possibly the most incredible woman I’ll ever know, knew I was interested in seeing how people lived in the outside villages, and so she invited me to come with her to see Emma. We had driven by the collection of rooms that many people call home many times as it’s on the dirt road leading away from Rafiki, but I had never been inside. The outside was rough brick, and inside was cement, floors and walls. Emma was laying on a “mattress” (if you can call it that, but it was more like a piece of foam covered in fabric) that took up a little less than half of the room. I remember sweating because of the heat, but Emma shivered under blankets. Joseph and Benjamin, Emma’s two sons, sat at the door of the room with a few other children, watching the mzungu (white) women talk to Emma. As we talked with Emma for a while, he told us of his diagnoses and showed the pills that he had been given to take. There were at least five different pill boxes and bottles for each of the different conditions, and I think he had gotten shots at the clinic. He told us he had not eaten or drank barely anything for a few days as he had no appetite and couldn’t keep anything down. We talked and prayed with him and his sons, but as we walked back to Rafiki after our visit, Carolyn remarked that it wouldn’t surprise her if he didn’t make it through the weekend. She had never seen him that bad off.
But God showed that He wasn’t ready for that yet. On the following Monday, Emma was still alive but had gotten worse. At this point, he had eaten almost nothing for at least a week and had lost a lot of weight. He was still taking the medicines but didn’t see much improvement. Carolyn and Mike have been in Uganda for ten years and have seen most anything that can happen. They didn’t buy the multiple diagnoses and wanted a second opinion. Carolyn drove Emma into Kampala, the capital city about an hour away, to go to the clinic that Rafiki uses for the children. The doctor tested Emma for every possible diagnoses–malaria, typhoid fever, uti, yellow fever, and more–and all of these came back negative. Emma’s biggest fear was that he had AIDS and that it was the real cause of the symptoms, so he praised God when that came back negative. The doctors looked at all of the medicines he had been taking and came to the conclusion that the mix of the medicines inside his body had been poisoning him. Emma, the father of three children, could have died because of the medicine given that was supposed to help him. Although they can’t be sure of what the original cause of the malaria-like symptoms were, it was likely that Emma had the flu, which has symptoms like malaria. Because of the drugs given for malaria, his body reacted in such a way that made the doctors add the other diagnoses. Because he was in a village where testing isn’t done for situations like this because of its expense, Emma was given medicines that instead of helping him might have led to his death.
Emma, the man that we thought might die before the weekend ended, returned to work less than two days after being taken off the medicine. I saw Emma just three days after all of this occured, and it was like I was seeing a different man. He still had to recover further physically, but just knowing that he was healthy renewed his spirit. The joy in his eyes had returned.