The beginning

My name is Lamwaka Grace and I’m from Kitgum District. I am 26.

I came to be a TB patient in 2006. When I went to the hospital I had a serious cough and they diagnosed with TB. That’s when I started my treatment

My name is Lamwaka Grace and I’m from Kitgum District. I am 26.

I came to be a TB patient in 2006. When I went to the hospital I had a serious cough and they diagnosed with TB. That’s when I started my treatment

I started the treatment well and my condition was also good. Then I was at school and it was a stable condition, they accepted me to go back to school. I was studying, doing a course in agriculture. I finished the treatment in 2007.

From there, I was OK, I was very fine. But again, in 2008, a serious cough began. I went back to the hospital and they took my sputum. Again it was found to be TB. They put me on treatment for the second time. I was eight months on treatment and when I went back they found that TB was still there. I was fed up with the time the treatment had taken and that the TB was still there

When I come back home I sat my parents down and we discussed what was to be done with this sickness of mine. They told me that they would take me to Gulu Hospital. In the morning, my dad told me that they were not going to take me to Gulu hospital, first I had to go back to Kitgum government hospital.

I told my dad that I couldn’t go back there because they are the ones that have given me all these conditions. I would have been OK had I been getting different treatments from a different hospital like St Joseph. I told him to take me there but he refused. I started crying, and my dad left me at home and went to work.

I felt I had no one that would look after me. If a vehicle or a motorcycle had come towards me I decided I wouldn’t get out of the way. I saw no life in myself.

So I took a walk to town, but I could not see any motorcycles or vehicles coming on the road. On the way to town there was a friend standing at the roadside. He came and just rubbed my hand. At this time I realised that there was somebody there for me.

He asked me, ‘where are you going, you look stranded?’ I said, ‘don’t disturb me, let me go on my way.’ He told me ‘you are not going that way, let’s go home’. We went home and I started telling him everything about how we were supposed to go to Gulu today and how my dad told me that we were not going. I even told him how if a vehicle knocked me over it would be fine because I have no life in this world. TB was disturbing me. I had spent so much time on treatment and I was not getting cured.

This friend of mine took me to St Joseph hospital in Kitgum. The family doctor came, and I started telling him about my treatment and how I had not seen any good results. The doctor was concerned. He told me that again they wanted to see my sputum. The following morning I went back to the hospital with my sputum sample.

When I went to pick up my results the doctor told me ‘we have seen your disease and we cannot mange it here. Now what we are going to is we are going to refer you to Mulago hospital for another test. Maybe the tests they do there will tell us what to do’. When I heard this I was so sad! I got a referral letter to Mulago hospital. The following day I went and they started my x-ray examination.

I also went to Mulago hospital on Thursday. They told me that to get the x-ray result I should come back on Monday. I asked them what the problem was with Friday and they told me the doctor didn’t work then. My condition was getting worse, day by day. I went back home.

On Monday I went back. They gave me a tin to put the saliva in. I did that and I took it back to the laboratory. The doctor told me that I shouldn’t take even a single tablet. When I came back they told me that the result would come after 3 months and that I had to stay like that, with no treatment at all. Not a single drug.

One morning I was bathing and I got a call. ‘We are Médecins Sans Frontières, are we talking to Grace Lamwaka?’ I responded ‘yes’.

I didn’t even know who told them about my sickness but then I was on no treatment so I directed them to where I was staying at that time. When they came, they told me they got the information about me from the Kitgum Government Hospital where I started treatment.

They also took my sputum and told me the result would come in two months. The other hospital had said three months. I said to my god ‘help me’ - whichever came first, I would work with them.

Then I was admitted to the hospital. They put me on oxygen because my condition was not OK. I stayed on oxygen for four days and they also did a blood transfusion.

A week later, after all this struggling, I called MSF to see if they result was coming. They said ‘Hold on, Hold on’. I did the same with Mulago hospital.

I got a call from the doctor at Mulago hospital who told me my result was ready. I told him that it was good news for me to hear, but that I was badly ill and in the hospital. I couldn’t even move, I couldn’t do anything but talk. I asked the doctor if he would accept someone picking my results up for me - my uncle could come and get them. He accepted. So my uncle went to the hospital on the bus and he picked them up. So my results were bussed back to me.

The following morning they took the results to the hospital. There was coordination between St Joseph hospital and MSF. The hospital called MSF who said they were on their way. The doctor came and told me I would receive a visitor in the afternoon. He didn’t even tell me it was MSF! When I found out MSF were coming there was at least a bit of happiness on my face.

There was someone I knew called Popol. I didn’t know whether he was still working for MSF, but I prayed that he should be among those who were coming. When they arrived the first person to open the door was Popol!. I was so happy to see him. And you know what he asked me? He asked me “Grace, are you the one dying here? Are you the one dying here?” I replied “Yes”.

MSF asked me about the history of my sickness, the treatment and for my medical notes. Because of my condition, my brain would not work very well, but Popol knew me from before and he told some of my background to MSF.

The following day they came again and they started counselling me. I had not yet had any treatment, but they were counselling me. The next day was the same. It took four days, and that was the start of MSF helping me.