By Miriam Donohoe
Jovia was lying on a mattress on the ground of her one room house in a slum area of Kampala. Weak and emaciated she was clearly in her last weeks of life. She had cervical cancer and full blown HIV/AIDS, but despite her illness she smiled as she held my hand. I found it hard to hold back the tears.
It was early January and I was on one of my first home care visits with Hospice Africa Uganda, a charity whose mission is to bring peace and comfort to people dying from cancer, HIV AIDS and other serious illness. An Irish journalist and media consultant I had no medical experience whatsoever. So I found the visit really tough.
I had come to Uganda to volunteer with HAU after learning about this inspiring organization through my work with the Irish Hospice Foundation in Dublin. And the hand of hospice touched me through Jovia, aged 29, a single mother of a 14-year-old daughter, Sharon.
Myself and Jovia spoke for several minutes. She told me that at one time she had a better life. She was a trained cook and travelled with her job. But then she was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and later cervical cancer. Most of her family abandoned her and the father of her daughter had not been on the scene in a long time.
As is the case with so many ill people in Uganda Jovia could not afford health treatment. Hospice Africa Uganda was alerted to Jovia’s case and the care which she received from the dedicated clinical team transformed her life. The oral liquid morphine they prescribed controlled her pain, and she was made comfortable. Other needs were also looked after. Some money for food. And she received spiritual guidance also.
I visited Jovia a total of four times and learned that she was a bright, intelligent and loving woman. I was able to help her with money donated from Ireland. Her big concern was getting her daughter educated after she died. After I posted an appeal on my Facebook page an Irish family came forward to help.
Jovia passed away peacefully at her home on April 27th. Happily she died comfortably and in peace. The home care team visited her the day before she passed away. She died in the knowledge that her precious daughter would get an education, and that meant so much to her.
That visit I made to Jovia in January seems like a life time ago now. The hospice team who cared for her were angels.
Since then I have met many other Jovias, desperately poor people with terminal illness who are crying out for help and support.