Henry is a father of four children and a farmer. He has a farmer’s broad shoulders and strong hands. He grows corn and beans on the upland slopes and rice where land meets water in a swampy wetland.
One hot morning a year and a half ago, Henry woke up, picked up a machete, and set out to work his land. Times were getting tough and he needed to grow more food. He needed more tillable land. He needed more sunshine. He needed to cut down trees. The wood would be used as fuel, and the sunshine that streamed to the ground would grow more food to feed his growing family.
Henry chopped and sweated. The sun burned all around him and his family was hungry. He swung repeatedly. Sweat smeared across his hands. Sweat dripped into his eyes. With each swing of his blade, chunks of wood flew into the dust. A steady thud-thud-thud filled the morning air.
But the sweat, the sun, the exhaustion, the dust… it took its toll. Henry swung the machete, hoping to deal the tree a deadly blow, but he missed. The blade glanced off the tree and sunk deep into Henry’s own leg. Sweat and blood dripped into the dust. The tree leaned, and Henry limped home.
Access to quality medical care is a problem in rural Uganda. Henry cleaned the gash as well as he could. He wrapped the wound and continued to work his fields, but the wound didn’t heal. Infection flamed under the skin and rather than closing up, the wound grew bigger. Henry became dizzy. He couldn’t walk, he couldn’t stand, he couldn’t farm, he couldn’t make it to the doctor.
When things were at their worst, community members sent out a cry for help to family and friends all around. A sister in Kampala heard the news and brought antibiotics that saved Henry back from the brink of death temporarily, but still the infection raged and the wound grew deeper, larger, and continued to threaten not just Henry’s leg, but his life.
When Sole Hope came to Henry’s village to conduct a jigger removal clinic he had heard we were there to treat foot related diseases. Friends helped him reach our clinic where he sat in the shade, utterly spent, waiting for help.
“When we found him he was miserable and totally out of hope,” says Prossy, a Sole Hope nurse. “The next step was amputation, and minus medical care he would surely die.”
Henry returned to Sole Hope’s Outreach House in Jinja where Prossy and the Sole Hope team carefully cleaned the wound. They took him to the hospital where doctors performed a series of biopsies and diagnostic tests. As we waited for the results it was unclear if Henry would keep his leg.
However, with antibiotics, good care, good hygiene, and good nutrition, Henry began to heal. It took nearly a month to treat the infection. Once the infection was gone, Henry went back to the hospital and got a skin graft to close the wound. As the weeks role by, Henry is getting healthy again and his walk is steady. “Now we have full hope for complete healing,” says Prossy.
Henry now looks to the future with hope. He’s making plans for how to provide for his family. On his land, the tree still stands. Scarred but healthy, and Henry laughs at the thought of returning to cut it down. “I will never cut another tree,” he says.