Stories 4 Your Heart
God Must Have Plans For Joanne
Stories from Uganda
by March Hunt
Joanne has had some tough battles in her young life. At the age of 11, she was taking care of herself and three younger children. They were all living in a banana forest in Kinkizi, Uganda. The younger children, she said, were her brother, Owen who was six, and two children she said were cousins, Mercy- age five, and a little boy who did not have a name and no one knew when he was born. We guessed he was about four. Even under those circumstances, as she was scrounging around looking for food for the younger children, Joanne illustrated a dignity, and a determination I a lot of adults do not show here in the USA. She was not feeling sorry for herself, or whining, or saying she was depressed about her circumstances…she was taking care of things, in the world as she knew it, and doing it with dignity.
At the age of 11, Joanne had never been to school, no one had ever read a book to her, she had never slept in a bed, she had never sat at a table to eat a meal, she had never worn shoes. But she was taking care of three younger children.
When I found Joanne and the others, I was with Kelen, Hamlet Mbabazi’s wife and Susan, who worked for CHIFCOD at the time. They translated what other people were saying and we discovered they were orphans. I asked Joanne, through Kelen if she would like some help. She smiled, and I told her I would come back with Hamlet. I told Joanne I promised to come back. It was quite a hike out to the banana forest. The next day, we had organized a group to go out there. Hamlet, the Head Master of Kirma School, a Teacher from Kirma School and a Medical Worker that UCDM’s tea farm pays. As we were hiking up a hill near the banana forest, Joanne came running down the hill to greet us, bare footed, wearing rags, with a big smile on her face.
That was miracle number one, February of 2006. I traveled from Los Angeles, California to one of the most remote spots on the earth, and found Joanne and Owen, Mercy, and little Joseph. (he chose his own name) The children all started boarding school at Kirma, have put on weight, and are very happy…And they talk about their future. Not a future of carrying water up and down hills, Joanne wants to be a lawyer.
Moving on a few years to August of 2009…I go to Kinkizi and see the children almost every day while I am there.. Joanne is getting tall. One of her teachers and Annette, the lady who takes care of them for me, both point out a bump on Joanne’s head. At first they thought it was a bump from playing ball or she just hit her head on something. But the bump would not go away, and seemed to be getting larger.
Miracle Number two, at the Bwindi Medical Center that we have been helping, four Rotary Clubs in Nevada worked together to get an x-Ray Room, (it looks like a box car on a train). It had just arrived a few weeks earlier. I was able to get Joanne to Bwindi for an x-ray. We spoke with a Ugandan Doctor there who examined Joanne and tried to see if fluid would come out of the bump. But no fluid came out. They did the x-ray, and then showed it to me and told me that the bump was “Not Innocent” as they put it. Further help was needed, but from where???
Miracle Number three, Sue Farren, my good friend at Prince of Peace Church, decided to go to Uganda with me. Sue wanted to work on the library at the Great Lakes Regional College, in Kinkizzi. Sue brought a computer for the library. She pre programmed it with Library programs for the new librarian there. While we were still in Kampala, I decided to buy a printer to go with her computer for the library. This printer also had a scanner. Needless to say, there is no Federal Express or even postal service in Kinkizi. I was able to scan the x-rays into my computer.
Miracle Number four, for some reason, before I even knew about Joanne’s bump on her head, I became obsessed with getting the internet hooked up to the College. Trust me, this was no small effort. To make a long story short, it took a lot of effort. But the internet got hooked up and we were able to send e-mails.
Miracle Number five, Simon. Neither Sue nor I knew that there would be a young man from Great Brittan staying at Kelen and Hamlet’s house from Volunteer Uganda. But, Simon became our new best friend. And
Guess What, Both of Simon’s parents are doctors.
So, we were able to scan the x-rays and e-mail them to Simon’s parents in the UK. After they reviewed the x-rays, they thought a specialist should see them and sent them to a friend of their’s, who just happened to be The Tropical Disease Professor at University of London. That is when the possibility of Burketts Lymphoma came up. The “Not Innocent” bump had moved into her skull and if it got into her brain, well, let’s just say, that would not be good. The professor recommended that we get her to a neurosurgeon ASAP. So, Joanne got her first trip to Kampalla. We were taking her to Kampalla, but we did not know where we were taking her, once we got there.
Miracle number six, the Rotary Club “Network”. Even in Uganda, the Rotary Club network is a Valuable tool. I just joined Rotary less than a year ago, and Hamlet and I put the word out upon the Rotarians I had just meet when I first arrived in Uganda, that we needed a Neurosurgeon FAST. In about two hours, they gave Hamlet the name and contact info of one of only three Neurosurgeons’ working in all of Uganda.
Miracle number eight…Sue Farron and Prince of Peace Church. My next obstacle was money. Sue had already returned to the USA. This was Thursday, the Neurosurgeon said Joanne needed surgery right away. The surgery, the hospital, the after care and post op follow up was all about money. This was toward the end of my trip and I was busted. I managed to get $1,250 together from assorted credit cards for the actual surgery. But I needed more than that for everything else. Well, I prayed, and sent out an e-mail. And guess what, prayers were answered and money arrived from half a world away. I think that was one of the most heart felt moments of my life. I get choked up thinking about it still.
Well, the surgery happened on Monday. She was in surgery for about five hours. I’m told the neurosurgeon was in her head for three of those five hours. Joanne is doing great and back at school. She has been back to Kampalla for a check-up and will go back again for more follow up. But she is doing great!
I have heard it said: “There is No such thing as a coincidence.” After all, everyone of these circumstances that had to happen, at the right time, in the right order for Joanne to have her surgery. Oh, not to mention, God must have been in the operating room, too. I truly believe that God has plans for Joanne.