Mohamed Kassujja, 13, from Kabowa village in Kampala has been on Hospice Africa Uganda treatment and care program for more than 10 years. Born in 2003, Mohamed was very active as a child and loved to play. Although he lost his mother at an early age of only 2 years, his aunt took good care of him and he was well until a strange disease attacked him at 3 years.
‘’It all started by my right eye itching and later and swelling like a pimple. At first my aunt took it for an ordinary eye ailment and simply administered an eye drop which didn’t help at all and the swelling continued to worsen covering other parts of the head and this compelled my aunt to take me to Mulago National Referral Hospital where i was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, a cancer that affects the retina,” Kassujja recalls.
In Mulago, doctors then started him on Chemotherapy treatments and later radiotherapy. These treatments were able to significantly reduce on the tumor but unfortunately affected his eye was eventually removed. “This treatment took up to 6 months and at this time, I was in severe pain and always cried and the pain killers given to me were not even helping much. The pain was too much for me.”
This is the time that a team from Hospice Africa Uganda met Mohamed during their routine hospital visit at the Uganda Cancer Institute, Mulago. “The Hospice Africa Uganda team was like my savour from the pain and suffering I was going throught at the time. I was immediately enrolled on the treatment program and was given blue oral morphine, the strongest class of the oral analgesic due to the nature of the pain that I was going through and my pain disappeared, ohh I felt so good.
According to Kassujja, the morphine helped to manage the pain and the team also controlled other symptoms.
With good care, Mohamed’s condition improved steadily and by 2008, he was very stable and he was gradually withdrawn off from morphine and later declared cancer free. With his heath improved, Mohamed started school and has since been supported by friends of Hospice Africa Uganda who help cover his cost of tuition and other requirements.
Several years after he was declared cancer free, Mohamed is still under Hospice Africa Uganda care and support program and every holidays attends the day care program to interact with other children in the program and also to be reviewed by the clinicians “We still have to continue to monitor him because sometimes the disease can re-occur. We are also continuing to rehabilitate and counsel him because he faces a lot of stigma especially at school where pupils tease him because of his eye problem,” Said Sarah Ndaula, a palliative care nurse at Hospice Africa Uganda.
Despite the challenges he faced as a child, Mohamed has been able to complete his primary school education with support from Hospice Africa Uganda and is very determined to make it in life and his dream is to be a doctor. “Hospice Africa Uganda is my savour and my miracle. I don’t know where I would be today, maybe I would be dead but am alive and in school, all because of Hospice Africa Uganda that treated me well and enabled me back to school and I have been able to complete my primary. I’m now in secondary one at Kawanda secondary school. When I grow up, I would like to be a doctor because as a doctor, I will save lives of many people and I also see that doctors are very professional in their work.”