“We must walk from here,” I’m told as the car halts to an abrupt stop. My colleagues and I are on our way to visit a young boy and his grandmother who have been receiving medical care from our teams. The long and rough dirt road we’ve been traveling has ended and we must now set out on foot. We walk single file the remainder of the way. The thin, winding footpath has been carved into an otherwise wild hillside and it requires concentration to keep our footing. The family lives deep in the bush of Uganda.
Eventually, we arrive in a small clearing and are warmly welcomed by Kedress, the matriarch of the large family. I’m struck by the beauty and also the isolation of this location. Beyond our voices, the only sounds we hear are the chirping of some nearby birds, the clucking of a few small chickens and the breeze rustling through the surrounding brush. “The land is a natural forest,” Kedress explains, “It is very difficult to farm here. Monkeys come and eat all of the crops we plant.”
Kedress and her family are refugees who were displaced from their home by violence and land disputes. Without better options, they were forced to move to this remote area. They experienced a great deal of instability. They lost everything. And Kedress’ young grandson, David almost lost his life.
David had been living in an abusive and unstable household and wasn’t receiving the care a young child needs. He became severely malnourished. Eventually, David was abandoned by his parents and left in the care of his grandmother, Kedress.
I meet David and am immediately moved by his bright smile. I’m also surprised by his small size. He looks to be about two years old. But David is five.
Kedress describes the shock, she too, experienced when David first came into her care. She had not seen David since he was a baby. Despite four years having passed, David had barely grown and was shockingly small. She could see he was suffering.
Kedress’ heart broke for her grandson—she knew he was dying. She tried to treat him with herbs, but he didn’t improve. She was desperate for help. And that’s when it showed up on her doorstep—in the form of a Medical Teams Community Health Worker. Thankfully, this health worker ventured deep into the bush to check on Kedress and her family. He saw David was in urgent need of medical care and encouraged Kedress to take him to a Medical Teams clinic.
When David arrived at the clinic, he was in critical condition. His skin was peeling off and his body was swollen. David was in severe pain. When the Medical Teams nutritionist, Monicah, saw David come in, she dropped everything to treat him. Monicah started David on antibiotics and milk formula and checked on him every four hours.
Slowly, he regained his strength. For two weeks, Kedress sat by David’s side as he received intensive care.
Finally, David was healthy enough to be sent home. But his care didn’t end there. He still needed therapeutic food to continue recovering. With the dedication and support of his grandmother, David’s treatment continued for two months. Every week, Kedress walked two hours each way to collect his food. Her own health conditions made the journey difficult, she explained, but her love for David drove her to do whatever it took to make sure he recovered.
Now, her face lights up as she watches David play nearby, “It is my joy to see my family happy and healthy.”
The Medical Teams community health worker continues to visit and check on the family. They make sure Kedress receives ongoing nutrition counseling and monitor David to ensure he does not regress. Food continues to be very challenging for the family. They pray for the rain to come and for their crops to grow.
Kedress is very grateful for the help of the health workers. “I am very happy that Medical Teams is always visiting and caring for us.” She believes it is God’s grace that led the health workers to her and David. “God saved David’s life for a reason.”
Kedress believes David can be something great. She wants to see him grow up to become someone important like a medical doctor.
And David is not just special to his grandmother. He also touched the hearts of several Medical Teams staff. One was Robert Businge, a Health Officer.
“It is my joy seeing little children grow and be cared for, surviving difficult situations – emergency situations – and they have a life to live again.”
Robert described how bright David is—without having ever attended school, he understands five languages. “That means this boy, if well cared about, could be something important for the community,” Robert explained. “Anything is possible. David can be anything.”