As is habit, the first thing I did last Saturday morning was pick up my phone and open my social media networks to find out what had happened as I slept. Scrolling down, and ignoring a lot of nonsensical headlines, I came upon a post that made my day.
Someone posted ‘#SaveMutabaziUPDATE: Good morning!!! I would like to inform you that Vianney has gone to India this morning, thanks to all your generous support!!!’
Here is some background on the #SaveMutabazi online campaign: Late last year, married father of two Vianney Mutabazi was diagnosed locally with Hepatitis B, a diagnosis that was confirmed in India. A liver biopsy revealed severe cirrhosis, for you see, he had been unknowingly living with the disease for close to twenty years.
Specialists confirmed that the only way they could save his life was if he had a liver transplant not later than December 2014.
Because Rwandan doctors and hospitals could not handle this life-saving operation, he would have to have the operation at the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences in India. But he would have to raise a hefty $58,000.
I don’t know about you, but if I were asked to raise that amount of money in a year or die, I’d just give up and hope I didn’t suffer too much pain as I got close to meeting my Maker.
Or hope that my medical insurance could cover the cost of the life-saving operation. Or barring that, hoping that the Ministry of Health could come through for me.
Well, in his case the medical insurance he was on didn’t cover the procedure and neither could the Health ministry fund the operation. However, instead of throwing up his hands in the air and surrendering to fate, his friends used the power of social media, traditional media and good old canvassing to try to raise the thousands of dollars needed.
Through the campaign that they dubbed ‘#SaveMutabazi’, they raised $42,000 by last week, enough to send him to India and save his life. Amen to that!
However, Mutabazi’s predicament got me thinking. Though his life was saved through the generous donations of the Rwandan community, why did it have to come to that? Where was the medical insurance? Why weren’t our doctors able to perform this surgery?
Let me start with some of our local medical insurance schemes. What is the point of paying monthly premiums to some of these companies when they’ll leave you to your own devices if you get a seriously life-threatening illness?
And secondly, why don’t they tell us, in no uncertain terms, that they can’t cover certain medical issues? I mean, isn’t it socially responsible to use mass media to inform people about the pros and cons of their products? After all, they aren’t selling potatoes; they are dealing with people’s lives. The burden of ‘information’ shouldn’t be on the customers; rather, it should be on the insurance provider.
It was only after learning about Mutabazi’s issue that I actually asked my human resource manager what kind of coverage I was receiving.
Perhaps I’m the dummy, but I honestly did not know that my personal insurer, RAMA, would leave me hanging high and dry if I needed to seek assistance abroad. I naively thought it would help pay for any necessary treatment I needed to stay alive.
Lastly, I have a question that the Health ministry must answer. How in the world are we unable to have doctors who can perform a liver transplant? They aren’t exactly cutting edge anymore.
We really should be able to have a team that can perform such surgeries in our biggest referral hospitals.
The writer is an editor at The New Times.