For the past five years, Martin Karangwa has been living uncomfortably with a lump in his lower abdomen due to hernia disease.
Karangwa says he started feeling the pain but he could not realise what he was suffering from. He consulted doctors but they could not diagnose the disease for the first time.
He was given painkillers but the situation worsened. He decided to go back to the district health centre. It was then that he was diagnosed with hernia.
“I was told that the only option was to operate on me but I had to wait for appointment from referral hospitals,” said the 51-year-old from Murama Sector in Kayonza District.
“I have been experiencing excruciating pain everyday and hardly could I bend over. Sometimes I would feel very weak, had fever and pressure and felt something burning in my lower abdomen. I like singing but it was hard for me to do so and I could run short of breath,” he added.
He says he had little hope to end the seemingly endless pain until he was called to the Central University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK) to be operated on.
He is among about 300 patients who were selected to be operated on.
This is part of the Rwanda Legacy of Hope initiative that targets to freely operate on about 300 patients with complex cases like hernia and various Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) diseases.
The operations are being conducted by visiting medics from UK and Germany along with their Rwandan counterparts.
Karangwa says he is excited as he has been wondering how he would be treated.
“I am overwhelmed with joy. I hope that after this operation I will be fine and that the pain will be over. I am forever indebted to the Ministry of Health and the visiting medics for the treatment,” he says.
“I hope after few weeks I will be fine and I am optimistic that I will bounce back and gain energy to start working for my family as I used to.”
Karangwa is not the only patient who received the operation.
Alex Ntanyungu has been fighting to let the air out and in for the past two years due the fact that his airways were always inflamed making it hard for him to breath.
“I have had difficulties in breathing through the nose. I only breathe through the mouth. Besides, I have internal pains and this has been a challenge. Now that I am ready for operation, I am sure I will be fine soon and that the pain will be no more,” says Ntanyungu on a wheelchair awaiting to be ushered into the theatre.
Dr Faustin Ntirenganya, the head of surgeons at CHUK, said the visiting medical experts are helping the hospital and the country in general offer treatment to many patients who had not been able to receive treatment due to the shortage of specialised surgeons in the country.
“We have many pending cases of patients who have been waiting for operations for long due to shortage of surgeons. These medics help in reducing the number of people who need treatment by offering them modern treatment in hernia and ENTs,” he said.
“Before we established a partnership with Rwanda Legacy of Hope, we found it hard to attend to many patients but whenever such experts come, we organise outreach programmes and now medics are upcountry to operate on more people,” he added.
The partnership between the Ministry of Health and Rwanda Legacy of Hope started in 2012 and since then, between 30 and 40 patients have been operated on in each of the six hospitals where they operate
Experts come with a variety of equipment which they leave in the country for future usage.
Last year, they came with equipment, worth Rwf70 million, while this year they came with equipment worth Rwf80 million.
Currently, the team is working with hospitals such as Remera-Rukoma, Gahini, Kirinda, Nyamata, Kigeme, Kibogora and CHUK.