By Paddy Malinga

Friday, March 22nd, 2020 is indelibly engraved on my life’s memory lane for it was when all educational institutions were closed abruptly and preceded Uganda’s lockdown, quarantine, and curfew presidential initiatives in the fight against the novel COVID-19 virus and many other directives that were sequentially heaped upon with time. All students were sent home to control the spread by minimizing contacts and life at home, at first, was good with the assumption that only in a months’ time and probably a few days, the norm would be restored. Far from it, it was a never-ending nightmare that got worse and worse as the lockdown extension became routine and more stringent directives put in place and any easing was beyond a dream as cases were increasing each passing day.

At home, I stay with my mum and my other 3 siblings, one girl in the family. She had just joined A level and mum got a loan to pay for her entrance. She had missed a week due to the fees that were not available. Mum by lockdown had paid just a bit to the friend that lent her the one million. Mum had stocked food for a month, bag of rice and posho plus beans but now it was beyond a month and food had gotten done.

She had asked from our neighbor a few kgs of posho as she awaited her salary but unfortunately, the friend that lent her money for my sister demanded full payment of the loan to which my mum succumbed and paid with all her salary and supplement from her SACCO. Still, we survived through other tough challenges during this period but for one night that scared me and sent shivers down my spine.

I remember that evening vividly with all my senses. It was getting dark around 7 pm or so when my sister’s symptoms of headache and dizziness got worse. She had been in bed, for now, the second day as we were reluctant that they would fade with rest as usual. Alas! Tears scalded my sister’s face as she lay weak and could not stand, fever spiked, and her words choked in the throat. Now the government hospital was just a Stone’s throw away but as the narrative was, at night, they’re no doctors, no nurses and it will only be a bottle of normal saline running and no drugs plus it wouldn’t be possible to do tests in the night. The hospital was no option and now it was already curfew time but that was less of a problem. We had to rush to the clinic.

My mum’s word echoed through my mind with a lot of pain when she said we had nothing to do but wait for the morning and take her to the hospital and furthermore that we couldn’t afford going to the clinic since we had only five thousand shillings left that wouldn’t suffice. I felt of lozenge of sadness lodged in my throat as I gazed at my sister, tears rolling down her cheeks, frail as if life draining away from her drop by drop. It was an unfamiliar terrible sight of hopelessness that made me hate myself for being in a poor family.

I regret that thought for my parents have given their best n they do work but, in that instant, I couldn’t help it. Without thinking, I reached out for my bag and pulled put a Two thousand shillings note meant for church program of discipleship ministry I head at campus and gave it to my mum. I distribute this money to different cell leaders to conduct church programs we do online since it’s the only way to keep the church going.

Without haste, we carried our sister in the dark to the nearest clinic and good riddance, doctor was around, and tests were quickly performed. The money by God’s grace was sufficient for the initial treatment to ensure she would go through the night. The doctor confessed to us that she would have far worse odds with each passing hour as she had severe malaria on top of the typhoid and bacteremia. The following day, we went to the hospital and they had just supplied the monthly drugs and she recovered.

When I sit back and ponder at this experience and recall the fact that I was unwilling to take up the role before that possibly was the only straw that saved my sister’s life makes me tremble and shudder at the thought of “what if I hadn’t taken it up?” I drown in the vast cosmos of depression over this lockdown that made it impossible for my parents to work and sheer thought of basic need of health we had failed to accord to my sister.

I would have probably lost my only sister. In these melancholic thoughts, I can see light and Jesus at work that we will overcome this pandemic. I saw light in the kindness of the doctor and the plans of God that goes ahead in the future for us.  I can see light in the work of the health professionals, NGOs, philanthropists, and government lending a hand to the people. My sister’s light was rekindled and so shall the light of humanity. I can see a covid 19 free world.