Early this year, I traveled to Kisizi Hospital, in the southern part of Rukungiri, where my father had been admitted and scheduled for a surgical procedure. It was a thirty minute ride in a taxi, from Kabale town, through the winding roads of the hilly and valleyed lands of south western Uganda. Public transport in the countryside is different, as a passenger, you meet a community of people in the car and they become family immediately. They tell stories of their homes, seek advice, and see nothing wrong with sharing personal stories. The people in this part of the world are the Bakiga, they are cultivators; some of the most authentic and delicious potatoes and vegetables are grown in this magnificent and fertile region.
As everyone declared their destination, I mentioned to my new found family of fellow sojourners that my journey and communion with them would end at the entrance of Kisizi Hospital where I was heading to visit my father; they all expressed their sympathies and sought for details of his health condition which I unfortunately could not give the extent they preferred. While in transit, members of the “family” freely shared their challenges and their joys as others gave their opinions, freely. There is an aura of genuine love and acceptance which seems to apparently take refuge in the countryside yet, persistently, flees from the urban.
Kisizi Hospital is a historical missionary Hospital well sheltered in the middle of hills. Behind it is a sensational water fall, whose vertical decent to the bottom of the cliff can be heard even at the entrance of the hospital. Right in the heart of the Hospital compound is a water fountain which mirrors the surrounding flowers especially when the golden sunset and sundown stare into it. I had never come into contact with a calming perceptual experience of harmony, grace and radiance in a hospital.
My parents, who at the time of my arrival were taking an evening walk around the hospital, came to meet me at the hospital gate. I was greatly surprised to see daddy doing the walk but he convinced me that the surgery which he had undergone the previous evening was already steadily healing, and he was getting back into his routine. They showed me various structures and other facilities, including the hospital chapel. I could hear people singing in the chapel and what was not clear, to me, was the answer to the question, “how can people sing in a hospital?” The Chapel is right in the middle of two residential hospital wards; each ward has an entrance into this chapel, and there’s a third entrance aside from these two. Curiosity led my feet into this chapel and lo and behold, it was full of people; mainly hospital staff, patients and the neighbouring community. They were singing, and dancing, and clapping… The Bakiga have a traditional dance full of vigor; it involves rhythmical energetic jumping, clapping and singing. Legend has it that people used to stamp the ground until they found signs of underground water; so this rigorous dance, which is characterized by high leaping, out stretched arms in a curve and strong stamps on the ground, is a demonstration of stamina and strength. Women, men, the young and the elderly dance, and a spectator would certainly sympathise with the ground. Everyone in the church sang and responded to the singing and the drumming and other instruments with dancing, and clapping. Even the visibly sick were shaking their bodies in obvious celebration of the gospel.
It was in this supercharged chapel environment that I met a young lady in her late 20s and for purposes of this story, I will call her Rose. Rose got married in 2011 to a young man who, like her, had a passion to serve God; their home was in the rural areas of Kihihi. Rose shared with the congregation, and later with me, her story. In telling her story, she was being brutally honest about her life, and here is the abridged version of it.
5 years into her marriage, she had not conceived and together with her husband, believed God for a child as she carried on with her work. One day Rose realized that she was pregnant. She was filled with joy (naturally) and she shared the good news with her husband who was equally joyous. Hubby instructed her not to cook, dig, fetch water, fetch firewood etc. He hired someone to do all that and ordered his wife to just be pregnant. They were filled with joy. Like other normal pregnant women, her first trimester was not very pleasant, but she pulled through as she regularly visited the nearby health unit. People who were close to her were very happy for her.
Her pregnancy continued to grow; 7 months, 8 months, nine months … then 10 months. She decided to seek help from her health unit, and they scheduled her for an operation.
Health care in most rural areas is very poor.
Rose decided to go ahead with the operation only to learn that in her womb was a cyst not a baby. The hopeful husband was so disappointed, and so was she. The healing period did not bring any healing; her wounds were getting septic by the day so she would regularly go back to the health unit for treatment. Rose and her husband were not wealthy; they lived on a piece of land which was owned by hubby’s parents. In addition to preaching, they were subsistence farmers. Their income was not enough to take them to Kisizi hospital which was 180 kilometers away from their home, the substandard treatment they received was all they could afford.
Rose harbored shame! While women around her had children she had none, while her mother-in-law watched her for 9 months and hoped for a grandchild, none came. She shed tears, alone. While guilt enveloped her, mainly for giving hubby false hope, she endured more surgeries which were all disastrous. These surgical procedures affected many of her body systems including her urinary system. Urine would flow out without warning. She started avoiding crowds because her condition came with an unwelcome stench. ‘I had an issue of blood, an issue of urine, and an issue of septic wounds. No one wants to be near someone like that!’ she confessed.
Rose started spending nights on the floor, because the urine, blood and pus that would flow out of her were spoiling the beddings. She would however wake up before sunrise and tidy up her sleeping area. She cried and lamented everyday. About four months into her sickness, hubby came home in the evening and requested her to pack her belongings and leave; ‘This was the first time he was speaking to me in a long time.’ Rose recalled. ‘He had stopped talking to me, eating food or even coming home.’ She said.
‘I explained to him that I was not to blame for the health condition and the cyst and that I had done everything possible to have a child and be healthy, in vain.’ She then added that hubby still stuck to his guns; he told her that he was ready to take on a new wife. No amount of convincing could change his mind; she tried to mobilise people to speak to him in vain. He even gave her enough money to get a taxi to go to her mother’s home.
Her mother’s home was in a more remote rural area, the quality of the medical care there was even worse. The pain was unrelenting, ‘but I was never alone,’ she added. Rose’s mother had a fellowship group which regularly came home and prayed with Rose. She even had friends who would help her with laundry and other chores. A friend later told her that she had heard that Kisizi Hospital would be implementing a medical project for women with gynecological problems in the next one month. Rose did not hesitate; she traveled to Kisizi Hospital and was admitted immediately.
It was three weeks after her arrival to the hospital, that I met Rose in the chapel singing and dancing. She was going to travel back home the next day. She was healthy. She was not bleeding, walking to the bathroom and wounds were treated and substantially healed. ‘All ill health conditions were ruled out and I am now healthy!’ She exclaimed emphatically, and then added ‘I do not even have a scar on the abdomen!’
Rose did not pay anything for her surgery because it was a project which had received funding. I asked her what she was hoping to do with her life after the hospital and her answer challenged me. ‘I will serve God.’ She answered looking straight into my face and added that she was sure that if God could fix her health, and pay the bill, then he could fix anything else. She was convinced that God prepared her to bless people with hope, and the truth of God’s ability to save. She left me at the chapel entrance to get her bags ready for her trip out of the hospital into service to God. I pray for her, that she will have joy, peace and she will bear fruit for God.