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Kanyaruju, Kiboga’s Mother Theresa

By Vision Reporter

Added 22nd March 2011 03:00 AM

LOSING a child is not a joke. It is one of the most painful things a woman may ever live to tell. But in the last few years, Florence Namuli has not lost one child but three. And all, in a few months after they were born.

LOSING a child is not a joke. It is one of the most painful things a woman may ever live to tell. But in the last few years, Florence Namuli has not lost one child but three. And all, in a few months after they were born.

By Conan Businge

LOSING a child is not a joke. It is one of the most painful things a woman may ever live to tell. But in the last few years, Florence Namuli has not lost one child but three. And all, in a few months after they were born.

Little did Namuli know that she was HIV positive. She had also never taken her children for immunisation. You may not have to blame it on her, because she concedes she was ignorant, but not anymore. With her low education and humble background, Namuli could have done little to save her three children.

But a couple of years ago, she met a lady with a ‘big heart’ and it was at this point that she realised she was HIV positive and that she had unknowingly infected her babies. She had also been exposing them to the six killer diseases, since they were not immunised.

Geraldine Kanyaruju, an experienced and caring midwife, was the ‘big heart’ that came to her rescue. It was during one of Namuli’s visits to Kiboga Hospital that she met Kanyaruju, who has become a pillar of hope and protection for several mothers and pregnant women in Kiboga district.

“I used to listen to her programmes on Radio Kiboga. She would always be hosted on a family planning and care for mothers’ programme at night. She would always appeal to husbands to bring their wives for antenatal care,” Namuli says.

“After following Kanyaruju’s programmes, my husband sent me to Kiboga Hospital where I met and narrated my story to her. I was tested and found HIV-positive and by that time I was pregnant,” Namuli says.

“She became my friend, nurse and protector and always came home to check on the baby and to follow up the instructions she gave me”

Namuli adds that her two surviving children are fine.

“My third born and fifth born are okay. The fifth one is also my last born and will soon be 18 months. Thanks to Musawo (Kanyaruju),” says the grateful mother.

Even when Namuli was scared of telling her husband, who works in a local film hall, about her sero-status, Kanyaruju stepped in and broke the news. She counselled him and helped the couple stay as a family.

Kanyaruju, who is known in some circles as the Mother Theresa of Kiboga, was born in Kabale district.

She left her home when her parents died and got married in Iganga. When she later got widowed, she left Iganga with her two children; the eldest now aged 31 years, and rooted her life in Kiboga, which seems to have become her permanent life.

Kanyaruju obtained her certificate in midwifery from Soroti Nursing School in 1976 and joined Kiboga Hospital in 1997.

Growing up, Kanyaruju used to admire nurses in their smart white uniforms walking with gait in the corridors of Kabale Hospital. It is then that a dream to become a nurse sprouted in her.

The heavy-bodied and light-skinned midwife, who has been in service for about 35 years, has entirely buried her life in looking after mothers and pregnant women.

She goes out of her way to even visit their homes to follow up on the medication and the medical instructions she gives.

She is known as the kind, committed and soft-spoken ‘Musawo’ (midwife) at Kiboga Hospital.

Kanyaruju has a strong power of listening and in the course of the interview, I deliberately choke her with an endless six-minute-long story to test her patience. But she silently listens to me, reportedly, as she does her own patients.

Her workmates know her as a serious, composed and committed lady who is always ready to take on extra load.

“Ssebo (Sir), can you kindly tell that journalist to let Musawo proceed with her work. She has a multitude of people to work,” one of the nurses whispers to an old man who seems to be their supervisor.

She is right. There is a long queue of patients waiting for her in the few minutes she has stepped out to talk to me, do not mind the fact that she is off-duty.

Could the ‘Mother Theresa’ name be a growing reality in this lady? Mother Theresa was God’s gift to humanity who dedicated a major part of her life to serve the poor and destitute.

Mother Theresa’s service to humanity received worldwide recognition and she stood as the icon of peace, love and compassion.

Partly like her, Kanyaruju’s compassion and love for God has drawn a circle of friends and patients who know her for her works.

She may not be so highly educated, having stopped in Senior Four and then joining a nursing school, and thereafter graduating as a midwife; but in her lies a source of consolation and protection for several mothers and women in Kiboga.

Kanyaruju later upgraded to a nursing sister at Mulago Hospital, which earned her the level of a registered midwife.

Margaret Nakazzi, a housewife, says she first met Kanyaruju in 1998 when she had pregnancy complications. Nakazzi, who stays a few kilometers away from the hospital, says Kanyaruju is known as a “helpful and caring person in her village.”

“I had miscarriages in 1999 and 2001. But when I went to the hospital and met her, she quickly got me a doctor who examined and referred me to Mulago Hospital. I later learnt that I had a complication in my womb. I was treated and I was able to get pregnant and produce my only child,” Nakazzi narrates.

“If it was not for her, I could easily have had another miscarriage. I will always remember her for having connected me to the two doctors at Kiboga and Mulago hospitals,” she adds.

Nakazzi adds that Kanyaruju is a lady of high esteem.

“She is experienced and loves hygiene. A lady of the people,” she says.

“She has also helped us tame our husbands who never wanted to come with us for antenatal care. She comes to our homes and talks to them, an issue we are proud of.”

Sarah Kobusinge, one of the other patients who works at a hairdressing salon in Kiboga town, says apart from the official work at the hospital, Kanyaruju travels to villages, sensitising men and women on family planning and living positively with HIV/AIDS.

She has in the past worked with a number of organisations like the Infectious Disease Institute, AMREF and SUSTAIN, to promote several projects.

“I have no problem with that woman. She is disciplined and committed to her work. I wish everyone was like her,” says Kobusinge.

The same sentiments are expressed by Florence Nazziwa, a 33-year-old mother of three children. They were all delivered under the watchful eye of Kanyaruju. Nazziwa’s eldest child is 12 years while the youngest is seven.

In a day, Kanyaruju and several other midwives handle about 60 mothers and women with various pregnancy-related complications. She had been doing the same work for decades and her life seems deep-rooted in saving lives.

She will be required to retire in seven years’ time, though she seems not ready to let go.

“I feel my life is rooted and buried in helping the needy women with pregnancy and health complications,” she says.

Since she is expected to pack her bags out of the hospital soon, where will this ‘Mother Theresa’ go? She plans to open up her own domiciliary when she get enough money.

Kanyaruju, Kiboga’s Mother Theresa

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