Dressed in a red floral skirt and white shirt and pink sweater, Seraphine Uwiduhaye struck me as a very cheerful and pleasant person to be around.
Given her age, and what she has been through, she didn’t seem uneasy about narrating her painful ordeal.
After being diagnosed with chronic inflammation of the tibia bone four years ago, her life seemed to be taking a hefty turn.
10-year-old Uwiduhaye, who lives in one of the most mountainous parts of Rwanda — Musanze District — found it hard to move because her condition wouldn’t allow her to walk easily.
The process was painful for her parents too who sacrificed all they had to help their child.
They sought treatment for months but little was changing. For four months, she was treated without surgery in local hospitals.
Failure of non-surgical treatment resulted in the elimination of the middle part of the tibia bone. As a result, she lost her ability to walk properly and the growth of the leg was affected too. In fact, there was a possibility of amputation.
But even at her tender age, Uwiduhaye held on to hope that all was going to be well. And even though her parents were scared for her life, deep down she knew she wasn’t going to lose her limb.
“I never believed it. I could see my parents worried that my leg would be amputated but deep down, my instinct was that it was not going to happen, and it never did,” she says.
In 2019, she was lucky to meet Sister Agnieszka of the “Order of the Sisters of Angels” in Nyakinama, Musanze District, who along with Afriquia Foundation, managed to offer financial support for her treatment.
Early this year in March, Uwiduhaye flew to Poland to undergo one of the most complicated surgeries. She was admitted to one of the leading Polish Orthopedic hospitals dealing with the treatment of lower limb defects in children.
Dr Symonds Pietrzak, a board member of Afriquia Foundation that fully funded Uwiduhaye’s operation and the one who operated on her, noted that her case is not common in children and was not certain if the surgery would turn out successful for her.
He explained that the prognosis was not so clear and they were not sure if the proximal and distal pieces of the tibia bone were in good condition. Depending on the scars Uwiduhaye had, they were not sure if the piece of fibula would find enough space to be placed in-between.
“But during the operation everything went well and I am very satisfied to see her walk now. Seeing how hopeful and progressive she is, she might be able to play rope-skipping again,” he says.
Pietrzak further said there is no doubt that Uwiduhaye will be able to walk again, she has to wear an orthosis for the next few months.
Uwiduhaye is currently living in a home of nuns in Nyakinama because given her condition, she is not yet able to climb the hills in her home area again.
Her parents visit her at least three times a week. She spends most of her time studying and reading, and also plays with other children at the home.
The youngster reveals that she values her relationship with God, and that’s why she spares some time to meditate and pray with nuns and the other children she stays with.
Considering her second chance to walk again, Uwiduhaye appreciates the effort doctors put to heal patients, which is why she is anticipating to become a doctor in the future to save lives.
Her hobbies are playing and knitting. She can neat tiny skirts and dresses for her dolls, a skill she hopes to use even in the future to earn a living.
“Knitting is fun and it keeps me occupied. The joy that comes with the creativity of making different clothes for my dolls is unexplainable,” Uwiduhaye says.
When school resumes, she is confident that she will be able to go back because she she’ll be able to walk.
Besides, her school is nearby, which makes it easier, she says, and that she is excited to meet her friends again, but also edgy about how her classmates will react when they set their eyes on her.
Although she has experienced mean comments from people about her leg, the youngster has learned to handle her situation. She is willing to narrate her story to her classmates and advise them to never be mean to people living with disabilities, but instead, offer them any kind of support needed.
Her experience has been cruel and agonising, she says, adding that she has learned that hope can minimise body pain and impairments.
“I never lost hope that I would be able to walk again. I think it played a great role in my recovery,” she says.
The 10-year-old can now walk short distances and her doctor approves that she can go back to school as long as she wears her orthosis.
The family is grateful for Afriquia Foundation’s help. The foundation works in Rwanda to improve the technical skills of doctors in hospitals. In June, a group of researchers from Rwanda and Poland developed a new algorithm to diagnose tuberculosis.
Jean Claude Semuto who was part of the team has already started applying the algorithm in Rwandan hospitals and it has proven to be more efficient to the patients.Follow mbabazijoan11