“I would see children from a distance of over thirty meters, but in January 2015, I would not see anything which is ten meters away”,
GULU-UGANDA: Thirty-three year old Phillip Bongomin is a Primary school teacher at Patiko Prison Primary School in Northern Uganda. He has been teaching since 2011. Although he has taught for over five years, he is not yet confirmed as a Education Assistant-the job title for a primary school teacher in Uganda.
Bongomin has been diagnosed with a medical condition known as “low grade glioma” and “maxillary sinus polyp” which needed free surgery from Mulago National Referral Hospital found in Uganda’s Capital-Kampala.
Low grade glioma is a type of cancer that develops in the glial cells of the brain. Glial cells support the brain’s nerve cells and keep them healthy. Tumors are classified into grades I, II, III and IV based on standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO). While maxillary sinus polyps are soft painless, noncancerous growths on the lining of your nasal passages. They hang down like tear drops.
Although Uganda has a policy of giving free medication to all patients who visit government health facilities, this is not always the case as Bongomin later found out from Mulago when he visited in December 2015.
Mulago Hospital is currently under renovation and new equipments being installed, consultants there now take advantage of that to refer patients to their private clinics. In the case of Bongomin Phillip, he was referred to “Case Medical Center” for an operation to remove the tumor, but at a whooping cost of over $6000.
“The above profoma invoice is an estimate of what the procedure might cost. It can be either more or less depending on the patient’s response after surgery. It stipulates three days stay in Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and seven days stay on the general ward”, note on the invoice reads.
His problem started in January 2015 when he started losing vision. Before the problem started, he says he used to see and recognize pupils who are over thirty meters away, but in January 2015 he could not see people and objects ten meters away.
“I would see children from a distance of over thirty meters, but in January 2015, I would not see anything which is ten meters away”, recalls Bongomin.
When he visited the eye clinic of the Gulu Regional Referable in April 2015, his eye sights were tested and found to be normal but a month later on May 28, 2015, the doctor recommended him to buy a pair of spectacles.
“My problem worsened after acquiring the spectacles and in October 2015, it was checked again. It turned out that my right eye could no longer read writings, except recognizing hand movement. If I put on spectacles, my eyes swells”, says Bongomin.
On December 07, 2015, he visited Mengo Hospital in Kampala from where they recommended him to go to Ernest Cook Ultrasound Research and Education Institute for CT scan which found out his problems.
Bongomin earns about $126 per month for his teaching job. If he has to sponsor for the operation using his salary, it would take him forty-two months to raise the $6000 required. But he is a family man with a child in kindergarten school and five siblings to support in school.
“I have problem in seeing things and a throbbing pain in the head. I also forget things quickly. If Good Samaritans can raise me the money needed for the operation, then my life will change for the better”, says Bongomin.
Because of his conditions, his school had reduced his workload from 45 lessons in a week to eight lessons only and dropped from teaching primary six pupils, which demands a lot of reading and research to teaching in lower primary.
“The school is aware of my conditions and reduced my workload from 45 lessons to eight per week. I am yet to officially inform education officials of the district” says Bongomin.
Ugandans are still far off in so far as getting free medical services from government facilities is concerned. Good medical attention is found in privately owned clinics, although owners of these private clinics are on government payroll.