By Gladys Kalibbala
Doctors explain that about 80% of physical disabilities in Uganda that occur in children can be prevented, reduced or cured through timely interventions. Unfortunately, many still fail to receive the required services due to funds.
“It hurts to see that many children with minor disability that can be cured are left to die or suffer long-term disabilities because their parents are poor,” noted Dr Paul Muwa of CoRSU hospital, Kisubi.
One of the lucky children to receive a timely intervention recently is Gladys Nakankya.
According to her mother Frankline Nakkazi (right with her), a resident of Nabweru who was excited about her daughter’s successful operation, the girl was born as a normal child.
She however got concerned when her daughter showed no signs of walking by the age of one and half years.
She had developed knock knees (an abnormal curvature of the legs) by the age of two, which made her mobility a bit difficult.
Nakkazi took her child to various hospitals around town where she was given calcium tablets but the problem seemed to worsen every month.
Little Nakanya’s mother had hoped her legs would straighten but her worries piled on as her daughter’s legs curved in even more.
But the disturbed mother’s worries would soon be washed away.
A friend of hers directed her to CoRSU Children’s Rehabilitation Hospital located at Kisubi, just off the Entebbe highway. “I was received with smiles all around while doctors assured me she [her daughter] was to walk normally very soon,” beams Nakkazi.
CoRSU CEO Malcolm Simpson takes the Japanese Ambassador H.E Kazuo Minagawa around the hospital's workshop.
Nakankya was soon operated on and later started on physiotherapy to mobilize the knee joints.
Modern surgery introduced
According to the Executive Board president of CoRSU, Aloysius Bakidde, the organization which offers free services to children below 18 years survives on donations.
“With continued generous and important donations, we can re-emphasize our commitment to the future of CoRSU. We will endeavor to reach out to the poor of the poorest to restore hope,” he says.
With continued appeal for support where this organization has kept its promise of changing lives of disabled children and their families, the Japanese government saw it fitting to provide assistance.
The Ambassador of Japan to Uganda, H.E Kazuo Minagawa recently handed over a set of arthroscopy equipment estimated to benefit more than 4,000 disabled people.
“The services have been provided not only for the people within the country but also for those from neighboring countries such as South Sudan, DRC Congo and Tanzania, 80% of whom are physically handicapped children with walking difficulties,” explained the Japanese envoy at the time.
The envoy was taken around the facility.
He added that the establishment of an arthroscopic unit worth $67,632 (about sh173m) will help develop arthroscopic services in Uganda by enabling doctors to have quality training with the machine.
What is arthroscopy?
According to Dr. Paul Muwa of CoRSU, arthroscopy is a minimally invasive surgical procedure in which the examination and treatment of damage of the interior of a joint is performed using a type of a very small camera on the end of a thin flexible tube that is put into the joint through a small cut and the surgeon views on a monitor screen.
Arthroscopic procedures can be done either to evaluate or to treat many orthopaedic conditions including torn floating cartilage, torn surface cartilage, reconstruction, and trimming damaged cartilage.
A girl goes through the exercises at CoRSU after her operation
Muwa explains that the advantage of arthroscopy over traditional open surgery is that the joint does not have to be opened up fully.
Instead, for knee arthroscopy only two small cuts are made – one for the camera and one for the surgical instruments to be used in the knee cavity.
This reduces recovery time and may increase the rate of surgical success due to minimal trauma to the body and also less scarring because of the smaller incisions.
It is technically possible to do an arthroscopic examination of almost every joint in the human body but the more common are the knee, shoulder, elbow, wrist, ankle, foot, and hip.
“The availability of the arthroscopic machine will enable CoRSU to start a new surgical service that is very new in Uganda and can really help change people’s lives without major surgery,” explains Irene Nabalamba, the advocacy officer at CoRSU.
Children with physical disabilities at the rehabilitation centre.
No need to travel abroad
Dr. Michael Mukasa, an orthopaedic surgeon at the rehabilitation centre explains that patients no longer need to travel to Nairobi or South Africa for such services.
He adds that in 2012, about 30 total joint replacements were carried out with the hip joint being the most common condition worked on.
“With the existence of the Private Wing, the number is likely to increase to 40 cases this year.”