On one of my trips to Lufwanyama I visited the X family. The family consisted of Mr X, his wife, their 11 children and a gentleman who the family had adopted called James. James had downs syndrome, he was short and thin but always neatly dressed, tucked in shirt, belt and all. He was full of fun and laughter and having grown up at Catholic Mission with the white fathers, James, knew the good life. After the fathers left, James started staying with his new family. He loved to drink tea with bread, which I always took for him when I visited.
On this particular day I found James with tears in his eyes quietly seated with the family outside the house. When I asked what was wrong, they informed me that two nights before, he had fallen and broken his leg. To my surprise they had kept him at home for two whole days without getting any medical attention for him. I could not imagine what kind of pain he was in and that he had been experiencing it for more than 48 hours, surrounded by able bodied men.
Having providing money for transportation, I expected the guardian to go with James to the hospital, but to my surprise, he did not, instead he sent his son. Being an emergency as it was, James was transferred to a bigger hospital in my city, alone as the man's son had refused to ride along with him. I rushed to the hospital to see James and found him in a ward looking lost and agitated because none of the nurses were able to understand his slurred speech. After seeing me he calmed down and much to the nurses’ surprise started talking to me, narrating the entire incident among other stories.
James femur had been broken straight through and this had happened after a drinking spree with his friend. They had fought and his friend pushed him, resulting in James landing hard on a rock. He had to have surgery and screws inserted in his leg. I visited him a couple of times before I had to travel outside the country and he was doing well. A few weeks later, I received news that James had passed away. It broke my heart to think of what had led to his death and that it could have been avoided.
I wonder if James had developed any vocational skills what he would have contributed to the community and had his full potential been realized, what he could have achieved. I think what kind of people sit and watch someone in excruciating pain and do nothing. I wonder why we do not have more activities for Children/ Youth with special needs.
The only answers I have is, people need education, vocational skills, productive social activities, need to change their habits, their lifestyles and above all need to be taught all these things in their youth so that they can exercise good judgement as they grow older.
We will strive to educate the children, end early child marriages, empower the youth and do the best we can to ensure that such stories do not become the norm.