By Moses Walubiri and Anne Mugisa
The nation is mourning the demise of First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for East African Community Affairs Eriya Tukahirwa Kategaya, who passed on at Nairobi hospital on Saturday. He was 67.
One of the longest serving cabinet ministers and deemed a statesman by many across the political spectrum, the former Rwampara county MP lost his battle with thrombosis – a medical condition where a blood clot prevents the flow of blood in the body.
Kategaya was airlifted to Nairobi on January 20 when his condition deteriorated at Nakasero Hospital.
The veteran politician weathered many false alarms about his health upon his admission at Nairobi Hospital and was, according to his wife Joan Kategaya, keen to return home as he felt well enough.
Mrs. Kategaya told New Vision on Sunday that her husband was responding well to treatment, which had entered its final phase.
This involved undergoing daily hydrotherapy and physiotherapy treatment in the morning and afternoon.
On the day he passed on, Mrs. Kategaya said her husband looked noticeably better, having undergone his routine hydrotherapy earlier in the morning.
So upbeat was Kategaya about his condition that he had expressed his desire to return home with his family members whose plans to come back to Uganda were complete.
However, doctors at Nairobi Hospital shot down the idea, demanding that they be given another fortnight to review the health of the former national political commissar before discharging him.
“Moments before he died, we were watching television, while in discussion about the future of Uganda. Doctors came and took him for his physiotherapy. We were shocked to be told moments later that he had collapsed and died,” Mrs. Kategaya said about her husband’s last moments.
The Government recently said Kategaya was steadily improving, with information minister Karooro Okurut giving regular updates about his condition.
Born to Yosia Kategaya and Erina Mpumbya on July 4, 1945, Kategaya grew up in a peasant family of 14 siblings, seeing off numerous challenges as he went through Kyamate Primary School and Ntare School en route to the University of Dar-es-saalam university for a Bachelor’s degree in law.
Kategeya who, besides President Yoweri Museveni, has been synonymous with the NRM revolution, has held different ministerial dockets and responsibilities in a career, spanning a considerable chunk of his adult life.
Save for a three-year hiatus (2003-2006), Kategaya has over the last 27 years been state minister in the Office of the President, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Internal Affairs, Minister of East African Community Affairs, National Political Commissar and First Deputy Prime Minister.
This puts him in an exclusive club of Ugandans who have spent almost all their adult lives at the very top of the Ugandan government.
Kategaya cut his political teeth during his days of student leadership, before playing an integral role in the external wing of NRM’s armed struggle.
His gentle and non-confrontational approach to politics had endeared him to many political actors across a usually fractious political divide.
Doctors explain causes of blood clot
What causes thrombosis?
Thrombosis, also known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT), is a medical condition whereby one’s blood thickens and forms a blood clot, explains Dr. Musa Waiswa, a clinical haematologist.
He says some of the common causes of blood clots include: prolonged immobility due to travel or admission, fractures resulting from accidents, cancers, pregnancy and contraceptives. Prolonged immobility, especially, when one is seated can lead to the pooling of blood in the legs, which may in turn cause swellings, stiffness and discomfort.
People with clots may experience the swelling of the leg, tenderness, soreness and pain. Occasionally, a piece of a clot may break off and travel with the bloodstream to the lungs. This is known as pulmonary embolism and may cause chest pain, shortness of breath and in severe cases, sudden death.
Dr. Waiswa explains that some of the rare causes of thrombosis include: deficiency in Protein C, S and anti-thrombins, which lead to the thickening of blood.
Dr. Henry Ddungu, a physician and haematologist (blood specialist) explains that diseases such as diabetes, HIV/AIDS, inherited disorders and surgery may also expose one to thrombosis.
Dr. Dungu says treatment for the condition involves using blood thinners, but only a few specialised doctors are capable of treating such cases.
In Uganda, Ddungu and Waiswa are two of the three only medical specialists known to treat thrombosis, whose prevalence in the country is increasing, according to medical experts.
In 2010, Dr. Martin Opio, a physician at Kitovu Hospital in Masaka district, conducted a study on the prevalence of blood clots among patients at Mulago Hospital. He says within three months, he had received 40 patients in one ward.
Dr. Ddungu observes that most patients who suffer from the condition rarely know that they are sick.