We were asked to review a child who was unable to walk or talk by one of the district councilors in July 2015. He couldn’t give me much more background detail so off we went. The village LC1 met us and took us to her house and unlocked the padlock. We were shocked to see a dark, sparse room with a small mattress on the floor, and a small girl, covered in dirt and faeces looking up at us. She was an orphan, abandoned by the community, and living alone at 6 years of age and unable to care for herself. She was able to sit and crawl but not stand, walk or talk.
We bathed her, dressed her and gave her some food, before taking her to the medical centre for assessment. She was severely malnourished, about 10kgs underweight, with a chest infection and dehydration. After treating her we looked for a place for her to live but none of the local orphanages would take her – she was too old, didn’t have HIV, from the wrong parish or had a disability. We managed to find a short-term caregiver from her village who agreed to take her for 2 weeks while we found an alternative option. The foster family was given plenty of food to try and resolve her malnutrition and help her gain weight, and medicine to treat the infections.
A visit a week later found her happier, and already gaining weight, and she was trying to stand alone and play with other children. We managed to find a mother in the community willing to care for Kiiza alongside her own children, with our help financially and so they were set up in a room, the first time she had a proper bed.
We have worked closely with the new caregiver, providing regular physiotherapy and occupational therapy to improve her strength, mobility and use of her hands and she is now able to walk around on her own. We also discovered that she was having seizures, which the caregiver was worried to tell us about as she thought if we knew Kiiza was demonic we would withdraw our support. Instead we took her to the mental health unit for assessment and treatment, and she is now on medication to control the seizures. We are continuing to work with Kiiza and her new family to help her learn new skills and tasks for the future with the aim to enrol her into school next year. She now has a couple of seizures a week instead of 5 or 6 a day, and happily walks around the neighbourhood visiting new friends.
There are many children that we see each week with stories similar to these, often the diagnosis is different but the outcomes are the same: A loss of movement, a loss of independence, reliance on family and inability to interact with family and friends.
Our goals are often similar, educate the family on the causes of disability – that it is not witchcraft, the devil, contagious, or a curse, and to reinstate hope and a belief that the child can improve with intervention.
We look to improve on their mobility skills such as sitting and walking, personal skills such as bathing, feeding, toileting, and interacting with family and friends.