Sep 25, 2015
By: Kimberly Kamara, Program Director
Walking on Idjwi Island in the hot humid air, it was necessary to cross a village to reach the hospital. As Dr. Jacques Sebisaho and I walk through this village, the children playing together all stop to talk and follow the doctor to the hospital. They have spoons in hand and are preparing to receive breakfast at the nutrition program sponsored by the hospital. We laugh as a little boy of maybe 3 years asks Dr. Jacques when he will be given his mosquito net.
As we continue walking, I notice that there is a boy with a swollen tummy sitting alone in a chair by the door of his mud walled home. He is not engaged with the other children and is not well enough to join in their games. I couldn’t imagine a sadder fate than sitting alone in such an uncomfortable state. Social structure, family, and friendships are the wealth of life I’ve always observed. Being so touched by this boy’s isolation, I wanted to learn his story.
Fiston Rutunda is 15 years old. He is one of 8 children, all of whom were lucky enough to be sent to school. About 5 years ago, while in fifth grade, his stomach began to swell. He went to the doctor to have it drained and felt much better. About two months later his stomach swelled again. Although he was able to finish fifth grade, Fiston was not well enough to attend school and was forced to abandon his studies.
Living with a perennially swollen stomach, Fiston finds it hard to breathe and cannot move around readily. So much so that he no longer lives with his parents and stays with distant relatives to be in closer proximity to the Amani Global Works hospital. He has difficulty sleeping and kneels on his knees, putting his head on a table when he wants to rest because he is unable to lie down. He no longer has favorite activities and other children are afraid to approach him. So Fiston sits alone all day. He dreams of being healthy enough to go back to school and play with other children.
Although he had his stomach drained two weeks ago, it is now larger than it has ever been. Dr. Sebisaho suspects this is the result of an unknown medical condition that may have been exacerbated by a schistosomiasis infection that went untreated for too long, which has led to permanent liver damage. I feel sad that this boy with a radiant smile, who is so thoughtful and shy, has to suffer. Dr. Sebisaho is trying to raise funds to bring him to a more advanced medical center for more diagnostic tests and hopefully a lasting remedy to end his pain. I am optimistic that the collaboration between Amani Global Works and the END Fund will prevent other children from suffering a similar fate.