It was one fateful evening on a cruel September day that Fiona, the mother of a two-day-old boy was preparing to bath and massage her baby in the compound. She had put hot water in the basin but before she could blend it with cold water to achieve the desired temperature, she remembered that she needed to pick some clothes and a towel from inside.
Little Kenzie [not real name], Fiona’s third born, sat beside the baby. He had just made three a few weeks ago. As Fiona was going through the clothes to pick out the right ones for the night, she heard her baby crying outside. Reaching out, little Kenzie had put the baby in the hot water with the mind of bathing him. Fiona’s mind went blank.
It was her neighbours who rushed with the baby to Lacor Health Center III, Amuru from where they were picked up by the hospital ambulance and brought to Lacor Main Complex. Luck was on their side as there were a team of surgeons from the Medical Missions Foundation (USA) doing plastic surgery for burn victims and treating conditions such as hers. But this luck was short-lived.
Upon examination, the surgeons realised that the baby had more than 57% burns and knew right away that there was nothing much they could do. The least they could do was counsel the mother and prepare for the worst. Nevertheless, they admitted the baby to the ICU and offered basic care. The baby was burnt from head to toe with wounds all over the body.
“We all lost hope; we encouraged the mother and said we were going to do what we could as health workers, but our prognosis at that time was too poor. So, we tried our level best and this has been daily dressing in a sterile environment,” said Anitah Nimusiima, a Nursing Officer attached to the ICU.
Fiona had hoped to name the baby after three days in a ceremony as tradition demands, but here, death was staring at her child. Would she bury a nameless baby? No! She names him Prince Moyo. If he survives then he’ll have the chance to receive a proper Acholi name from the elders.
Even though there was little the team could do, they never gave up. They did debridement, a procedure for treating wounds in the skin which involves thoroughly cleaning the wound and removing all unhealthy tissue, such as dead, infected, or contaminated tissue to try and help the wound heal faster.
For fear that anaesthesia might take off the baby, the team could only do debridement once. The departure of the Medical Missions Foundation (USA) at the end of the surgical camp was met with dubiety by Moyo’s mother and the team at the ICU. But before they could leave, they left dressing materials and a few supplies that could last for a month or two specifically for Moyo.
Being the In-Charge at the ICU, Anitah took it upon herself to care for the baby, monitoring him 24 hours a day. That way, she made sure there was no room for error. For the proceeding weeks, Moyo continued to recover steadily. Anitah was very pleased with the results and all doubts as to whether he’ll make it out of the hospital alive disappeared in just two weeks.
Protein was essential if Moyo were to heal quickly and he could only get it from the mother through breast milk and the amino acid supplements being given to him. But there was one problem – Fiona was all alone in the hospital with no one to bring her food or money to feed herself. Her husband works far away in Kampala on a farm where he has also taken another wife. Ever since he received the news, he has neither set foot in the hospital nor sent help. He blames Fiona for the accident and wants her to suffer the consequences.
It was at this point that Carla Northington intervened. Carla had been part of the contingency that came with the Medical Missions Foundation (USA). She had witnessed the situation first-hand and had been following it from a distance the progress. She and her colleagues were stunned to learn that Moyo was still alive when they checked in on them later. Anitah shared photos that showed so much improvement and better outcomes.
Without hesitation, Carla offered to help right away from her purse, paying the ICU bills and offering extras for other needs. Her contribution was very crucial in ensuring that Fiona could stay strong for the baby. Anitah had connected Fiona to the Lacor Health Training Institute’s school cafeteria that served her every mealtime all this while, but now, God was sending an angel in Carla Northington.
“I am grateful for her support. It has given me hope and strength. I pray for God’s blessings,” says Fiona who was well pleased. With Carla’s help, Anitah continued giving Fiona money for food and other supplies every day.
After a month and a half, Moyo finally left the ICU and the untiring care of Anitah. He was transferred to the Burns Unit where Sr. Filda continued to look after him. It could be said that Moyo had the zeal and the determination to live. He fought so hard, breastfed well and took the amino acids, something that was essential for his survival.
The most beautiful day that Anitah’s heart had longed for came on the 31st of October 2023. On this day, Moyo was discharged. Fiona can finally sleep some more at night as Moyo barely slept during his entire stay at the hospital. Even the painkillers could not stop him from feeling pain and crying all night long. This little boy has known pain at zero age. Can anything stand in his way after this experience? Only time can tell.
“In short, if I am to summarise what has helped this baby this far, is the critical care management that we have given, the daily dressing, the monitoring, the support, and also the prayers because it’s a miracle for a two-day-old baby to survive with 57% burns; it is even nowhere in the books,” Anitah concludes.
For Anitah, this has been a very personal journey filled with emotions. She can never forget how “it has been tough because this baby needs a lot of cross-monitoring, the dressing takes time because you have to make sure the baby is not in pain, you have to make sure you’re sterile to do the procedure.”
Indeed, Moyo’s victory is, for all its worth, Anitah’s victory. And Carla, in a note to Anitah says; “I’m celebrating you.”