Joseph's Story 

Burns are a global public health problem, accounting for an estimated 180,000 deaths annually. The majority of these occur in low - and middle - income countries and almost two thirds occur in Africa and South-East Asia.

Burns are one of the most devastating household injuries. In Uganda, burn injuries account for 11% of all childhood injuries and children constitute 75% of the burn victims seen in hospitals in and around Kampala. Non-fatal burns are a leading cause of morbidity, including prolonged hospitalisation, disfigurement and disability, often with resulting stigma and rejection. This is the story of one young Ugandan boy, who bravely faced a devastating, life changing burns injury.

Joseph Mbidde is 12 years old. His father is a fisherman but the Ugandan government has stopped his fishing rights following a number of cases of illegal fishing. As a result the family live in desperate poverty. 

Joseph suffers from epilepsy. In March 2016 his mother left him alone whilst she went to fetch water. On returning home she discovered that Joseph had suffered an epileptic fit and had fallen onto the fire. He received severe burns to the whole of his left arm and body and was admitted to hospital in Masaka, where he stayed for 4 months. Although paediatric hospital care is free of charge in Uganda there are many other costs which have to be met, such as food, bedding, dressings and medication. After 4 months Joseph’s family had run out of money and his mother had to discharge him from hospital. At this time the whole of his wound was covered in pus. For a further 3 months Joseph suffered repeated fits and was in a great deal of pain from his burns, crying constantly. His mother watched him helplessly and expected him to die. 

In October 2016 a community worker advised the family to take Joseph to the Wellspring Children’s Medical Centre for help. His mother tells us, “On October 26th 2016 we went to Wellspring as we had been directed and sought help. It is true God works through our fellow man. It was through the community worker that we met good people who helped bring a smile back on Joseph’s face. At Wellspring we were warmly received and, after a few hours, they took us to Kitovu Hospital, covering all costs. My son at last began appropriate treatment and everything we needed for his stay in hospital was provided. We spent 2 months in Kitovu Hospital and were then referred to CoRSU Hospital for plastic and orthopaedic surgery.”

Skin grafting was undertaken but it was apparent that the bone of his arm was exposed. The suggestion was therefore made that his arm should be amputated. The doctors told Joseph about these plans and he bravely replied, ”That is fine with me. After all this hand is no longer useful so cut it off and I can be free from pain.” His left arm was then amputated from below the elbow. 

His mother concluded: “I want to thank the medical staff at Wellspring for being so kind and welcoming. They provided everything we needed to save Joseph’s life and free him from pain. I thank Medcare for providing funds for our children who are sick or injured. Not only is Joseph now free from pain his epilepsy is also under control.”

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