KAMPALA – Last night while walking through the streets of Soroti City, I met Mr Joseph Epodoi. He is the surgeon who, last year, led a medical team that separated conjoined twins at Soroti Regional Referral Hospital. Please note: a surgeon with a masters is referred to as Mr, not Dr.
The siamese twins were born on March 21, 2000 in Amuria Health Center Four by caesarean. Did you know a Health Center Four in Amuria, a remote district bordering Karamoja can handle caesarean cases? Well it did.
One twin was born dead. The case was transferred to Soroti Regional Referral Hospital where Epodoi was worked for the last 20 years. He assessed the case and because they had never done such surgery before, he referred it to Mulago, which is the national referral hospital.
Mulago Hospital judged the case medically impossible and discharged the twins for palliative care – meaning they go home and wait for the death of the second twin as well. So the parents came back to Soroti Hospital.
However Epodoi felt he could take the risk and try to separate them, since the option left was to just let the second kid die. So on arrival (and this was four days since the birth and one kid was decomposing while the other licking its leaps and opening its eyes).
Epodoi concluded from this that at least the conjoined twins were not sharing the heart, otherwise even the second one would have died. So he mobilized our team of 15 people including anesthesiologist, pediatricians, general surgeons and intensive care nurses. On the 5th day since the twins were born, they did a successful separation.
They even reduced the operation time from 15 hours to four hours. They got tissue from the dead kid to patch up the cut place of the living one. These live parts on the dead kid were close to the living one and that is why they had not died yet.
Now the child is in the village and fine. The mother was in S2 graduate (23 years old) and was now doing a tailoring course. The father is driver and cannot be traced. So it is the maternal grand father who was coordinating the kid’s medical emergency.
The doctors then opened an account in equity bank for charitable people to help donate money to the poor mother to assist the child. There has been little contributions to the account.
The lesson from this story is simple but powerful. That is spite of all the problems our medical services face, our country has made incredible progress in improving medical care for our citizens – even the poorest among us. That is how a Health Center Four in Amuria is able to handle Caesarian cases, and Soroti Hospital able to handle this case.
The author; Andrew Mwenda is a veteran journalists and owner of The Independent Magazine