Over the Weekend, Miss Nkumba Doreen Muganwa visited cancer patient Carol Atuhirwe under the #SaveCarol #ILoveCarol campaign

World over, numerous patients have already been killed by miscalibrated chemotherapy pumps that drip poison in to the bodies of patients. And now today’s revelation by Agnes Mugyizi, the mother of Carol Atuhirwe who’s battling cancer that treatment at Mulago’s radiation machine did a big damage her are absurd.

This month, Uganda’s only cobalt-60 radiation machine in the radiotherapy clinic at the Mulago National Referral hospital has broken down again, affecting patients who have travelled from as far as South Sudan, eastern Kenya and Rwanda.

Ms. Mugyizi lamented during a press conference held on Tuesday at Panamera Bar to dream up efforts of financing the deficit the #SaveCarol campaign including a car wash on Saturday at the bar’s parking lot- opposite Kampala Parents School in Naguru.

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“I believe the radiotherapy machine had already broken down through her treatment. Much as it helped burn the tumor in her throat, it also burnt her right shoulder all through her chest,” she said.

Ms Atuhirwe now needs a total of $80,000 (about Shs264.8) for her treatment abroad after undergoing  a total of 36 surgeries here.

#SaveCarol lead organizer Muhereza Kyamutetera said that of the Ugshs 270M required for her treatment in USA, so far Ugshs 117,837,400 has been raised implying that Ugshs is still 152M remaining.

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A patient undergoes treatment for cervical cancer at Mulago hospital in Kampala. The radiation therapy machine – for the past five years the only one in Uganda – may now be irreparable.
A patient undergoes treatment for cervical cancer at Mulago hospital in Kampala. The radiation therapy machine – for the past five years the only one in Uganda – may now be irreparable.

Carol’s story

On her blog, carosblogonline.wordpress.com, Ms Atuhirwe writes her journey as a cancer patient. She writes that she stopped speaking long before she got to know she had throat cancer, but never took anything serious until it was a little late.

“It was in the year 2011; I was just in my Second Year, last semester at campus when I started coughing small amounts of blood. I didn’t take things seriously until Third Year when I started losing my voice. I thought it was like any other loss of voice.”

“So I started taking things that could clear my throat. It took long and I couldn’t answer any more questions in class, school became hard for me, fellow students laughed at me, sometimes talked behind my back; it was a horrible experience but wouldn’t allow all the two years to die for nothing so I hanged in there,” she wrote.

When she went for a serious medical checkup with the help of a relative, that was when she found out she had cancer. After getting chemotherapy, radiotherapy and several surgeries for the throat cancer, Ms Atuhirwe said she was screened and doctors at Mulago hospital, where she had been staying for more than a year, found out she had lung cancer as well.

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(L- R) Richard Sebadduka (Event Manager, #SaveCarol Fundraising Committee.),; Muhereza Kyamutetera (Chairman, Organizing Committee, #SaveCarol Fundraising Committee) and Carol's Mum, Mrs Grace Mugizi)
(L- R) Richard Sebadduka (Event Manager, #SaveCarol Fundraising Committee.),; Muhereza Kyamutetera (Chairman, Organizing Committee, #SaveCarol Fundraising Committee) and Carol’s Mum, Mrs Grace Mugizi)

However, the throat cancer healed after the treatment.

After a year of chemotherapy for lung cancer without change, she said she had a surgery last year. According to the post on her blog, her oesophagus (gullet) broke down, the spine got exposed and the trachea moved down.

“I crave tasting food, drinking water, having a normal life like other people, maybe I get a job, then never to cover my neck to hide my pain; those will be my joy scars, my warrior scars, courageous. I wish all this ends. I stop sitting on my bed day-by-day, go out sometimes, visit my friends, take trips. Oh God! Make this last dream come true,” Ms Atuhirwe wrote.

Cancer is one of the fastest-growing health challenges in Uganda. Dr Jackson Orem, the UCI director, says the institute registers about 5,000 new cases each year; most patients present with advanced stage cancer. Like Carol, many of them are usually referred to radiotherapy treatment for several weeks, even months.

But over the past five years, the cobalt-60 machine has become more and more erratic. In 2013, the decision was taken to replace it. In fact, the government paid for equipment three years ago, but it cannot be used until a suitable bunker is built to house it – the current one is inadequate, Orem says. In April last year, Mulago administration said construction of the bunker would begin two months’ later, and predicted the country would have new radiotherapy equipment inside a year.

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