Gail is ministering in Mukono with a prison ministry this week.

Yesterday, Monday, I have to say was a long, hard day, even in light of having returned from Buvuma Island out in Lake Victoria to the amenities of internet, etc.,  on the mainland. Buvuma was hard this time, but Monday was harder. We returned with a man whose face has been greatly deformed by a fire ten years ago when he was about 20. He lost his right eye, the right half of his nose and upper lip, and has bad scarring (I will not include pictures here, as they are sobering).

We traveled to Corsu Rehabilitation Hospital in Entebbe (near the capital, Kampala) which has a facial reconstruction unit. Because of Monday travel, which is always more difficult for some reason, we spent about seven hours in the car going and returning, finally arriving around 9:30 pm back in Jinja. The traffic was bumper to bumper through most of Kampala and half the time was spent just getting in and out of Kampala. But that wasn’t what made the trip difficult because that is normal in Kampala.

We sat in the hospital waiting to see the two doctors from the facial rehabilitation unit who would evaluate our friend for reconstructive surgery. He is a village man, meaning that the only time in his life he has left the island was to go to the hospital ten years ago when he was so badly burned. This was his second trip off the island. He is a farmer and so lives out a subsistence living in a lakeside village on Buvuma, which is deep poverty even by Ugandan standards. He has a partial education, but the trauma of his injuries has washed most of that away – it is fairly evident from his somewhat limited responses that he still suffers severe PTSD from the accident that took his face, suffering short-term memory difficulties that will make it hard even to follow the doctor’s instructions.

On top of all this, his mouth is a wreck, suffering severe dental abnormalities that may have originated congenitally but were severely exacerbated by the fire. The dentist must see many severe dental situations in his work every day, but it was evident that even he was shocked by the severity of what he was looking at. So we spent the day getting a plan hatched for plastic surgery to reconstruct his face (minimum two to three surgeries, each requiring three weeks in the hospital), and then dental cleaning and evaluation. The two processes of plastic surgery and dental reconstruction must be carried out in tandem due to the way the jaw and gum structure support the structure of the face.

However, even all this was not what made the day difficult.

I was moved to tears repeatedly by seeing the parade of small children passing by us for treatment of various horrors they had experienced. One small three year old girl was working on walking between parallel bars because both legs were in casts, either from surgery or accident. The father was trying to entice her to take one step after another with some Fanta orange soda. Even then, she did not want to move her feet.

Another little boy had some kind of facial tumor that disfigured the left side of his face, causing it to expand and hang down like a huge jowl.  Another four year old boy had more terrible burns than our friend, having thick burn scars over most of his face and scalp. Numerous cleft palate children passed through the reception area, and countless missing limbs, deformed hands and feet, and tiny newborns, wrapped tightly so that we could not discern the problems that caused the confused young mothers with fear in their eyes to clutch them so tightly, saying eloquently, this is not the way it is supposed to be.

It was extraordinary to watch these little children, who live with their troubles as their normal, everyday life, running and playing and chattering to their families just like the ones we are used to seeing, just like children are supposed to be. But, oh, what a difficult journey they will have accomplished before they even reach their teens. How old will their eyes be by the time their little bodies even reach twelve?

I am glad for places of healing like Corsu Hospital in Entebbe. We are deeply affected by having gone there and spent the time we did. May it give us the gift of walking more humbly and gratefully each day. May it challenge our sense of privilege from which we draw our attitudes and choices every day because we do not have to climb the mountains these little ones will conquer just to be able to experience the freedom of walking on a public street without being stared at or despised for their infirmities.

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