Blog: Bringing Hope to the Hopeless - Dr Elizabeth Namukwaya

6th March 2019

Mercy (not her real name) is an elderly lady who was referred to our palliative care unit because she had severe uncontrolled pain. She was diagnosed with breast cancer 1 year prior to the time we had seen her and only managed to come to hospital for treatment 3 out of the 6 times that had been planned for her because she could not meet the transport expenses to hospital. She lived far from the hospital, did not have a job, and although she had children she was estranged from them. She had not seen them for two years and she lived alone. Our team was asked to be part of Mercy's care to control her pain which was very severe and would make her scream out loud on the ward. She could not sleep all night, was fatigued and could not walk as the pain became worse on any slight movement. She was a devout born again Christian and when we first saw her she was crying out to Jesus to help her and also kept on referring to her being attacked by satan causing this pain. Our team assessed her and managed her pain and our team of volunteers offered her practical support that included getting her to different areas where she needed to have her tests, xrays and scans done on a wheel chair. With our patient comfort fund (donations to our team to help patients who cannot meet basic needs) the team bought her food and other essential utilities. The volunteers also recognised that she needed a spiritual community, they supported her spiritual needs by regularly visiting her, talking and listening to her and praying with her. Her pain was almost completely controlled in a week’s time, she became independent and was able to do activities of daily living without support. She said to our team ‘Jesus has answered my prayers by bringing you to me. Even if my children do not support me or visit me I have got you as my children now. I have always dreamt of the day I would be able to walk again without pain hindering me and now I have got what I prayed for, I can sleep now and I can even laugh’  She was later started on chemotherapy and discharged. She has come back twice now for chemotherapy walking without any support. She always contacts us when she comes to hospital and she feels she is also obliged to bring hope to other patients when she comes to the ward. She told us that we brought hope to her when she became free of suffering and now she devotes her time to give hope to other patients on the ward by supporting them and giving them psychological and spiritual support.

Bringing Hope to the Hopeless - Dr Elizabeth Namukwaya

Liz Namukwaya (left) with her friends and colleagues, Grace and Elizabeth