Opinion
Ebola: Remembering Dr. Mathew Lukwiya
Publish Date: Aug 06, 2014
Ebola: Remembering Dr. Mathew Lukwiya
The late Dr. Mathew Lukwiya who from contracting the Ebola virus
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By Simon Mone

Whenever I think about putting the interest of other people before my own, one personality comes to mind. Monsignor Lawrence Kanyike, the former chaplain of St, Augustine Church in Makerere University.

Now at Kyengera Parish, Dr. Lawrence Kanyike has time and time again reminded members of St. Augustine community to always give help to people and always give until it hurts. He has always advised us to be diligent when in service and think more about the needy and less about ourselves.

Monsignor’s advice has kept community members alert, and always willing to give a hand in possible circumstances. Considering the numerous churches available in Uganda today, one would expect that the good teachings offered therein are being sufficiently practiced to ease human suffering caused by various misfortunes.

Today’s society offers all kinds of human suffering, which require us all to extend our humanitarian hearts. This makes me appreciate the sacrifices made by the late Dr. Mathew Lukwiya, the late Dr. Samuel Muhumuza Mutoro and now the late Dr. Sheik Humarru Khan. These brave professionals laid down their lives to save Ebola patients.

In October 2000, the late Dr. Mathew Lukwiya reported an outbreak of a strange disease at St. Mary’s Hospital in Lacor, which was confirmed as Ebola one week later. Through surveillance, clinical case management and social education, the late Dr. Lukwiya together with the hospital staff made resolute efforts to try and bring the epidemic under control.

Task forces were formed to follow-up contacts with identified Ebola cases for 21 days. Burial teams were formed and trained to manage all Ebola deaths. Traditional healings, burial practices and large public gatherings were forbidden.

The gallant act came after the funeral of a health worker, an Italian nun who had died of Ebola. The morale of workers had clearly subsided and the day’s shift refused to work. Joined by the other health workers at St. Mary's Hospital Lacor, they gathered in one of their assembly halls and demanded that Lacor Hospital be closed. Dr. Lukwiya rallied them not to give up.

He reminded them about their responsibility as demanded by their vocation, which is to save lives. And that they are being called up on to risk their lives by serving with love in order to nullify the risks involved in the job. Lukwiya told them that he would continue to work even when others abandon patients on jobs beds.

He succeeded in convincing the health workers and leading by example, he started working double shifts from 7:00 am to 8:00 pm each day.

Two days later, Dr. Lukwiya caught a fever, which worsened and he began vomiting. Once it was confirmed that he had contracted Ebola, he asked to be transferred to an isolation ward. Among his last words, the gallant doctor said, “Oh, God, I think I will die in my service. If I die, let me be the last." Then he punctuated it by singing the Christian song, "Onward, Christian Soldiers".

On Tuesday, December 5, 2000 at 1:20am, Dr. Lukwiya breathed his last. He was not to be the last to lay down his life serving patients. In July this year, another Ugandan medical doctor lost the battle to the same disease after volunteering to treat a colleague in Liberia.

The latest gallant professional to put down his life while in service is the late Dr. Dr. Sheik Humarru Khan. He contracted Ebola while treating patients in Seirra Leone. Like these gallant doctor, we can sacrifice to serve the needy.

The writer is a civil engineer

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