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Kampala Bomb Blast Survivor Bedridden for Eight Years

Today, he still recalls a sudden loud explosion hovering over the rugby grounds. He thought it was failed fireworks, But when the second explosion went off, he struggled to breathe. He could not walk, his neighbour was wailing, hundreds were scampering for their lives. This is the moment it dawned on him that the grounds were under attack. The explosion has ripped through the park, killing scores of revellers.
38-year-old Benjamin Ojara, Kampala Bomb Blast Survivor has been bedridden for eight years
‘With God all things are possible,' is the artistic portrait decked with a Bible verse from the Mark 10:27 that welcomes you in a room where 38-year-old Benjamin Ojara has been confined for the last eight years.

Ojara has been bedridden since the attack on the Kyadondo Rugby Grounds in July 2010. More than 70 Ugandan merrymakers, who had converged to watch the finals of the World Cup, lost their lives in the attack by suspected al-Shabaab militias. Several others sustained injuries.

The trained electrical and telecom technician from Kyambogo University had just been employed by Emmaus Foundation as a technician. On the fateful day, Ojara returned to Kampala from Comboni Sisters Missionary at Aboke in Apac district where he had been assigned to complete a technical installation.

Ojara narrates that he joined the craze to watch the finals of the World Cup match between Spain and the Netherlands, but his usual hangout was filled to capacity. It's then that he boarded a taxi to Lugogo, where hundreds of other Ugandans had converged to watch the match on a projected screen.

Today, he still recalls a sudden loud explosion hovering over the rugby grounds. He thought it was failed fireworks, But when the second explosion went off, he struggled to breathe. He could not walk, his neighbour was wailing, hundreds were scampering for their lives. This is the moment it dawned on him that the grounds were under attack. The explosion has ripped through the park, killing scores of revellers.

The Medical Journey

Later, when Ojara was taken to the emergency ward at Mulago Hospital he never had visible injuries but a critical check and X-ray scans established that a bomb splinter, the size of a pin had penetrated through his neck from the left to the right side shattering the seventh cervical spine.

Ojara's father, John Wilfred Opia, a retired teacher says a hole was drilled in the cage of his spine and ribs to ascertain any further complications. Medics later recommended that an MRI scan is conducted from the skull through his torso to the hips.  However, since Mulago Hospital lacked an MRI scanner then the victim was referred to Kampala Hospital in Kololo.

At Kampala Hospital, medics recommended that a traction be conducted to pull the patient's spinal cord and he stayed composed on the traction device for two weeks before a surgery could be conducted. 

Benjamin was later referred back to Mulago Hospital where the surgery was conducted and was later sent to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). He stayed for close to two months. His condition continued to deteriorate and in the process lost almost 25 Kgs.

Ojara's Ordeal Continued

While at the regular ward for patients with spinal complications at Mulago Hospital, Ojara says he felt persistent blister burns in his lungs whenever doctor's connected him to a respirator making him unable to sneeze or cough.

He recalls when he turned violent as he always struggled to disconnect tubes connected to an aspirator unit and pump that suctions and extract cough mucus. At one point, Ojara recalls falling off the bed, an incident that implored health workers to cage him to the bed for some time.

His overstay and lying in one position made him develop a big wound on his sacrum. The wound never healed. Instead, it worsened imploring medics to recommend for a skin grafting and surgery.

It was at this point that his caretaker Louis Ford, the Director of Tender Trust Orphanage in Kitgum district intervened. Ford ensured that Ojara is referred to International Hospital Kampala (IHK) to ensure the wound that had developed on his back is treated.

At the International Hospital Kampala (IHK), medical officials suspended the idea of skin surgery since the process was too expensive and Ojara lacked adequate skin cover that could be grafted on his body to be transplanted to heal the worsening wound on his back.

Ojara's caretakers quit following threats

After spending close to seven months, Ojara's hope of life diminished since his father was being threatened by his supervisor that he risked losing his job as a Deputy Head-teacher over the persistent absenteeism from duty. Also, Ojara's brother feared to lose his marriage since both he and the father were away attending to the patient.

Ojara advised them to save their jobs and marriage respectively. He asked the hospital management to discharge him and be referred to Kitgum, where he would be closer to his relatives. 

In June 2011, Ojara was discharged from the International Hospital Kampala (IHK) and headed to the Tender Trust Orphanage Centre in Lemo Cell, Pager division of Kitgum Municipality. Louis Ford, Donors and international friends have continued to take care of him, meeting his basic, financial, medical and emotional needs.

Tender Trust has employed two full-time caretakers; one working during the day and another at night, to ensure that Benjamin is closely monitored. The two caretakers are tasked with changing the patient's clothing, urinal bags, diapers and disposable pants, monitoring his sleeping positions after every 30 minutes, and providing him meals on a daily basis.

the With a tracheotomy (a device meant to help patients extract cough spit and saliva since they can't sneeze, cough or spit) attached on his throat, Ojara says he has to bear the burden to procure tracheotomy tubes which cost 95,000 Shillings every after every two weeks. Medics recommend that the tubes should be used for only two weeks and disposed of to avoid chest infections.

A low power wheelchair was donated to him to help him in mobility within the compound. But Benjamin needs an all-terrain wheelchair which is not only expensive but the cost of purchasing it and shipping it into the country is almost the same cost as a car.

In 2014 Ojara initiated an online and electronic crowdfunding campaign to help him raise the funds. But the initiative has never yielded positive results. Again in 2017, Ojara created another online donation campaign but the initiative has since not realized adequate funds.

 

Ojara explains that since he came to Tender Trust Orphanage Centre seven years ago he has only gone out of the compound thrice.   His wife with whom he had two daughters deserted him over the condition. His daughters are in P.4 and P.6 respectively.

Government intervention After the bomb blast, the government offered 3.5 million Shillings to Ojara as the cost of treatment. But this was a drop in the ocean. The money wasn't enough to cater for his medical bills, upkeep and basic necessities.

Ojara now wants to be compensated and wants the government to equally offer support not only to survivors of the 2010 bomb blast but also consider support for all the persons with physical disability.