As I began writing I was still riding an emotional roller coaster of highs and lows and my mind is still trying to process the images and conditions I experienced that day.  The events of the day, the favor and support we received and seeing God’s hand in every step of the way has forever changed my life and the true perspective of this world that we live in.


Monday was scheduled as a day of rest for the team and a “fun day” with some shopping in town and a trip to the source of the Nile.  I planned on using the time the team was shopping as some much needed down time to recharge and get ready for the days ahead.  However, I received a phone call from the Mafubiri Village that a young burn victim we had been trying to treat needed her bandages changed.  This poor child had been burned by hot cooking oil over 80% of her body with second and third degree burns. The burns covered half of her stomach, half of her back, one entire leg, most of one arm and part of her face. It was by far the worst burn victim I have seen in person and it is a miracle she was still alive.


Once we arrived I knew this was an issue that the little clinic and nurse in Mafubiri was no longer capable of handling.  I could smell the infection as soon as I walked in the room, even before I removed the dressings to check the wounds. As I saw  the wounds the nurse had tried to work on I knew we needed to get this child to a hospital capable of handling burn victims. I am trained to handle burns for a short time but not the longer term healing process.  We made the decision to get her to a bigger clinic to better assess her wounds and get her the treatment she needed.  We took her to a local clinic where they were able to clean and dress the wounds.  However, they were not equipped to handle the severity of the case and she needed to go to Kampala.  My wife in her infinite wisdom knew that I was in not condition emotionally or physically to make the two hour drive to Kampala.  She hired a driver to take us to the Malago Hospital in Kampala which is a government hopspital. 


At this point I started to become aware of the fact God was, and had been, working in this situation. Without hesitation two amazing men, Jonathan Stark and Dawson Skow, made the decision that I was not going on this journey alone.  They set aside there plans for the day to help this child and her mother.  Our amazingly strong wives, Kari Segner and Michelle Skow, stayed behind to handle the kids and continue on with the team.  As we began our journey, the mother held the burned child and Dawson held the infant who had to come with mom due to breastfeeding, God was already doing His thing.  We had to stop for fuel before heading for Kampala, the gas gauge was below empty and the first station had no petrol.  The second station again had no petrol.  As we turned around and headed down the highway the driver suddenly began swerving back and forth. After my initial alarm I asked what in the world he was doing. Jonathan informed me he was swerving to “slosh” the remaining gas around in the tank so that we could make it to the gas station.  As we coasted into the third gas station, with literally no gas left, we were relieved to see a petrol tanker truck filling up the tanks at the station.


Our journey to Kampala was as smooth as a trip to Kampala can be, and the child was thankfully able to rest and even sleep for some of the trip.  She did not even cry out until about 5 minutes from the hospital.  God also provided peace for the young infant who was absolutely mesmerized by Dawson and his goatee.


Once we arrived at the hospital we began searching for the right place for the baby to receive treatment. We were directed to the completely wrong end of the complex and we ended up turning around and heading right back to the place we started.  Momma was exhausted and was struggling to carry her poor child.  As we were walking a doctor saw the child’s leg and began asking questions and led us to the exact spot we needed to be.  When we entered the waiting area it was unlike any scene I had ever seen.  Words and even images cannot begin to describe the shear about of people waiting to be seen and the dire conditions some of the people were in.  We found favor once again and were taken in to see the triage doctor immediately.  Again the scene was unlike anything I have ever seen.  We were taken to a room with multiple patients, but it was the environment around me that shocked me.  There were hundreds of people lining the hallways waiting for treatment, blood on the floor, and the atmosphere of despair. The scene looked like something from a Hollywood movie set.  Only there were no cameras and no movie stars, it was real life. This hospital would make any under funded county hospital in America look like a pristine, state of the art facility.


 The doctor began examining this little girl in the midst of this chaos, the man next to us had been beaten so severely his eyes were completely swollen shut and blood was trickling down his face.  The woman across from us had a severely broken leg.  Yet among all this chaos God was there and was whisking this little girl through to get treatment. We arrived in a room with about 45 beds lining the walls and walkways, this was the area she was to receive more long term treatment.  Again, the scene was unlike anything I could begin to describe. There were people with all types of ailments and conditions in this small cramped room.  I was amazed at how the people came together to help each other.  Kobasinja had been wrapped in her mother’s shawl, but as soon as her mother unwrapped her and her wounds were revealed, the people in the room joined together to help out.  One Jaja (grandmother) took the infant and changed her diaper, another woman laid out sheets to make the bed for Kobasinja to lay on and yet another woman brought soup for the child to eat.  It was amazing to see all the people join together to help this mother and her children.  The doctors came in to start their rounds and I did not wait for them to make their way over to us.  I went and grabbed one of the doctors and told him this child was burned very badly.  He immediately came over to access her wounds.  He got IV antibiotics flowing and fluids for re-hydration and began a plan for long term care.   


The hardest part of the trip was the ride home…. The adrenaline stopped pumping and the reality and emotions all came crashing down.  To make matters worse we learned from our driver the true story of what really happened to Kobasinja. The story that her mother told us was that the cooking oil spilled onto her.  However, she told the driver that the co-mother, the second wife of her husband had a disagreement. The two wives had been fighting a lot since the husband had recently been killed in an accident.  The co-mother ended the argument by intentionally dumping boiling cooking oil onto the child.  The co-wife then ran away and authorities are still searching for her. It was so hard to hear that so much evil exists in this world that someone would intentionally burn an innocent child.


However, God even had a plan for our trip home.  We had received a recommendation for a guest house, which first of all we could not find in the dark.  Second, once we did find the guest house, it looked liked an abandoned warehouse. Once we saw the place and the surrounding, Jonathan said “to Jinja.” We drove in the dark back to Jinja which was an adventure in its self and is about a 2-2.5 hour trip. On the way home we were able to talk to our driver, David, about Jesus and his relationship with Christ.  David is on the brink of accepting Christ, he knows all about the Bible, the story of Jesus and that He is the only way to salvation.  However, he has not yet accepted Christ, but he is close.  So it was awesome to be able to talk with David and to hear his story and to share our stories as well.


God moved that day in a big big way.  It is a reminder that we serve a very big God.  The images and experiences from this day have forever changed me as a person and my perspective.


*Update on Kobasinja’s conditions:  She was taken in to surgery to have wound debridement (the removal of unhealthy tissue).  She had been put on an NG tube for feeding, but that has been recently removed.  She was taken today into surgery for skin graphs. She came through the surgery fine but she still has a long recovery process. Please continue to keep this young child and her mother in your prayers.  

Matthew OrtegaComment