By Watuwa Timbiti
She lies in clean white sheets, and from the heaving, it is clear she is in pain.
Suddenly, a bout of protracted vomiting descends on Rita Tukahirwa as Ruth Agaba, her caretaker and a resident of Magere village, Gayaza, Wakiso, struggles to put a small red bucket to trap the vomit. Agaba says all that comes out is pus.
Tukahirwa has been severely ill since her graduation day in 2006. Her body presents a multiplicity of black patches and fresh wounds, resulting from the peeling off of her skin.
Her head is not any better; it is equally being eaten by the ailment, known as Lupus SLE, that has denied her the benefit of her hair.
Lupus SLE is an autoimmune disease, in which the body's immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue, leading to long-term (chronic) inflammation.
When the disease started
Tukahirwa’s journey, as narrated by Agaba, has not been smooth. It has been an in-and-out of Mulago affair in the desperate attempt to save her life.
The first onset of the disease was in 1992. It was treated locally and the scars disappeared, Agaba narrates, only to reappear later in adulthood.
Agaba, who is Tukahirwa’s childhood friend and age-mate (both born in 1980 in Ruhama county, Ntugamo district) is a perfect epitome of enduring and solid friendship.
Rather than leave Tukahirwa, a Social Sciences graduate of Makerere University, to return to the village and die, she took
her into her house to give her care. She sacrificed her family comfort for the last strand of a friend’s life.
“On the day we graduated we just had to cut the red dress (left) she was wearing off her body and since then it has been like this,” Agaba says. Tukahirwa lost her parents while she was in Primary Four.
When the illness struck, with the help of her aunt, who later died in 2007, Tukahirwa, the eldest of her siblings, was put on a dialysis machine in Mulago for months.
“Her aunt seemed the only pillar she had and when she died everything seemed to come to an end. She had been renting and she was being evicted from the house,” narrates a teary Agaba.
Amidst sobs, Agaba adds that Tukahirwa had literary hit the wall and the all she asked for was transport fare back to the village.
Agaba explains she knew that granting Tukahirwa her request amounted to sending her to an early grave, thus her decision to take her under her care.
“She only has her grandmother and siblings who are equally helpless. I decided that she should not go and die, but stay with me and fight the battle here,” Agaba says.
Agaba's point of worry is that Tukahirwa does not eat and is surviving on glucose. Her entire system on the head, according to the ear, nose and throat specialists, is affected, thus the continuous pus trickling from the chest through the throat — the cause of the constant nausea.
To ease her condition, Agaba says, doctors in Mulago recommended a surgery to correct her ear-nose-throat system.
However, a skin specialist advised against this arguing that the surgery would intensify the peeling off of the skin. Caught in such a dilemma, Tukahirwa was discharged on September 9, this year.
Agaba says Tukahirawa has suffered rejection from many people, including some medical personnel who cannot withstand her sight. Agaba’s housemaids also left abruptly quite often because they could stand washing the bed sheets stained with body discharges.
The discharge is so much that sometimes we have to throw away the bed sheets and other beddings all together. But all is not lost, according to Agaba, her husband has been supportive.
Agaba, who is emotionally attached to her friend considering the times she springs on her feet to place the red bucket at her mouth, keeps breaking down in tears, saying:
“Sometimes I wish I was not her friend because whenever I see her crying in pain, I psychologically get affected; she is the only true friend I have known since childhood.”
Surviving on the kidney
One of the tests done, according to Agaba, discovered that Tukahirwa’s liver and other internal organs had been compromised, except the kidney, which is also under imminent threat of infection.
Doctors recommended a three-tablet (cellsept) treatment daily with each tablet costing sh10,000, which Agaba, a procurement assistant at Parambot Brewery, cannot afford.
“We call upon all people of good will to come to our rescue and secure cellsept to save her kidney from infection. We could be helped with detergents and beddings since we sometimes have to throw away and replace some,” she appeals.
Sadly with Tukahirwa’s illness, the future of her one-year old daughter hangs in balance. The child’s father is nowhere to be seen.
“It is now a year since he disappeared. He is said to be in Sudan and yet we do not have his phone number,” Agaba says.
For any contribution email email@example.com
We appreciate your concern towards Rita Tuhakirwa’s condition, right now she’s at Mulago Hospital in a critical condition. However you can send your contribution to Ruth Agaba’s (Caretaker) Account Number;- For more information on Rita you can contact our writer Paul Watuwa who interacted with her on 0773-685121.
Account No: 0348050680
Bank: Barclays Bank
Warid PESA 0703-094484
May God bless your giving heart.