I couldn’t start school without a wheelchair

World Vision Uganda Wheelchairs for Kids Australia
Wednesday, September 11, 2019

By Fred Ouma, Development Communications Coordinator, World Vision Uganda

At 10, a child in Uganda would be expected to be in primary four. But this is not the case for Deus, a pupil from Rakai district. At 10, he is in a top-class but he is almost four years behind children of his age.

Seated in the front row of his class, the sixth-born out of eight, Deus shows there is nothing wrong with his intellect. He is sharp and among the most active children in his class. His actual problem as to why he is four classes behind is because his parents didn’t take him to school on time. He started school (the nursery level) a year ago at age 9 instead of the average age of 3.

Life-Changed in a Moment

Deus’s mother, Pophia, said her son was born normal until he started walking and developed a swelling on his right leg. “It all started as a small swelling,” Pophia recalls. “In fact, it looked like an insect bite. But then what looked like a regular wasp sting transformed into a bubbling, pus-filled sore on the leg, followed by paralysis. Suddenly my son could not stand or walk.”

Deus had been stung before but his body had never reacted like this. His mother was shocked at how big his leg had become following what seemed like an insect bite. She took him to a nearby clinic. “I was told it was his body’s natural reaction, or it could be a fungal infection,” Pophia recalled.

Despite taking both oral medicine and injectables, the lesion kept on increasing in size and spreading on his entire leg. Later, it ruptured with pus-like discharge, leaving him almost bed-ridden and dispirited.

Searching for Solutions

But Deus’ parents wouldn’t tire before trying different places and people for possible answers. So they embarked on a journey and took him to different places, including Mbarara, Masaka and Lyatonde districts, where several investigations were done and more medicine was prescribed without much success.

They even suspected cancer, and some samples were sent to Uganda Cancer Institute in Mulago hospital. The test result came back negative for cancer. But the dire situation at home couldn’t afford them to proceed for a thorough investigation of other bacterial and fungal infections. By this time Deus could not walk. He used to just stare blankly into space.

In this short space of time, his parents realised their son’s ability to move had been dealt a death blow, and he won’t be running around and kicking footballs as his peers.

Dead Ends

Desperate and feeling frustrated, they gave it a last shot with traditional herbalists. They took oral concoctions and applied herbal lotions, but to no avail.

“We realised it was getting bigger,” said Pophia, who exhausted all her paltry income from a small grocery business in the search for his son’s treatment. The business eventually collapsed. Deus’ father, on the other hand, is a bicycle repairer with no income to talk about. “It felt red and hot. We noticed it filling up with liquid and it was getting worse,” she said.

Deus’ siblings go to a nearby community school, but he could not start school without a wheelchair. “Our home is a bit far and the terrain is not the best as we have to climb a mountain and pass through a treacherous valley,” said Pophia. “Ferrying him to and from school every day would be too difficult and that is the only reason he could not start school at an appropriate age.”

A Wheelchair Opens the Door to a Brighter Future

Deus’ luck changed when a community volunteer working with World Vision told his parents about the possibility of getting a wheelchair for him. And, when World Vision, with support from Wheelchairs for Kids, started giving out wheelchairs, Deus was among the beneficiaries.

Life has never been the same–said Deus’ mother, her face beaming–All he needed, and what we always prayed to God for as parents, were means for him to move around, and the wheelchair came handy.

Since 2015, a total of 1,096 children like Deus have benefited from this support. The wheelchairs provide hope and a fresh start for children, just like Deus. They are fit for purpose and designed to suit the tough African terrain, including urban and rural communities. All the way from Australia, World Vision ships bright and colourful wheelchairs to children who need them most. A third vital member of this partnership, Motivation Charitable Trust, trains local health centre staff to fit wheelchairs and ensure children are safe and happy.

A New Chapter

Equipped with a wheelchair specially designed for him, Deus wouldn't be left alone at home any longer. He couldn't wait to start schooling.

In our conversations, he was upbeat about completing his studies. He is excited about his future and would like to become an English teacher. “When I was being fitted for a wheelchair, I could not believe it,” said Deus.

Finally I was going to be free, go where I want, wake up and go to school with my siblings.

“Thank you for giving me the wheelchair,” said Deus. “It did not only ease my movement but also enabled me to start schooling. I have many friends and they help me in school to move around with me.”

And, at home it’s much easier for his mother now that Deus has his own wheelchair. “When he is seated in his wheelchair, it is a sigh of relief for all of us. I just can’t thank World Vision enough for providing hope and a fresh start for Deus.”