When GLO first began working in the Masindi district of Uganda to serve epileptic patients in June of 2015, Joseph was 10-years-old and having about five epileptic seizures a day. The seizures were too much for Joseph’s school and teachers to handle. The school told Joseph to not come back to school but to get treatment. Yet there was nowhere for Joseph to receive the type of medical help he needed.
With a lot of help and guidance from the government and the local villagers, GLO had started seeing patients at medical camps. Joseph became a patient. For three years he concentrated on learning how to deal with his epilepsy, taking the medications we provided, and coming to the clinic for health counseling. GLO also counseled Joseph’s home care givers so they would know how to best help him. A Village Health Team from GLO kept in frequent touch with him.
A huge part of the issue dealing with epilepsy in rural Uganda is overcoming fear and a lack of scientific knowledge. Joseph and others live in small villages that are among the poorest and most underserved in the country. The local culture can be a barrier. For example, many villagers believe a child with epilepsy has been cursed. The children are often stigmatized and treated as outcasts. Some families with an epileptic child hid the child because of the shame they believe epilepsy and seizures bring to the family. Other children who have seizures are told they must sleep outside so their seizures won’t disturb the family. Things are changing but slowly.
By 2018 Joseph was 13 years-old and well enough to return to school. His teacher said Joseph started doing remarkably well. At home he began helping with chores instead of being considered a burden. And Joseph was promoted to a higher grade at school.
“Joseph is a nice, quiet boy who is humble,” says GLO Executive Director and Uganda native Jolly Lux. “When his teachers saw how much Joseph’s health had improved they broke out in beaming smiles.”