Emily Drateru is just 24 years but she looks so much older.
Her wounds and misery have clearly taken a toll on her life. When she walks, it is with difficulty because of her stiff legs. Crippled by severe burns, Drateru’s body, from the neck down to her thighs, is covered with big, scary scars.
Drateru’s estranged husband is responsible for her predicament. He lit the fire that burnt the mother of his child so severely almost two years ago. The resulting injuries, a doctor who treated her says, have caused her hips to wear out.
“At the moment she will need one hip replaced, but in future she will need another one as well,” said Dr Geoffrey Madewo of Mulago hospital, in a letter dated February 6, 2017.
“The best thing is to use cementless hips. Cementless hips are not offered by Mulago hospital. If you go on the market, you will buy cementless hips for about 7.5 million shillings.”
Drateru can’t raise the required sum; so, she limps on, in pain. Born in the West Nile district of Maracha, Drateru today lives in Kijomoro division, Licci village, Arua municipality. Her troubles began around the age of 16, both her parents having died.
At this tender age, Drateru went to live with her uncle who she says ended up molesting her. She escaped from her predatory uncle and sought refuge in Arua town, in search of housework.
After things didn’t go on well here either, Drateru decided to join her brother in Lugazi town, along Kampala-Jinja road, where the two worked in a sugarcane plantation.
In Lugazi, Drateru found not just work but love as well, with a man she had met through her brother. Before long, she was pregnant with his baby. The man then took her to his home in Hoima, where their love story would turn sour after she gave birth.
Her man had turned into a monster who refused or failed to take care not just of his woman but his child too. Drateru says this man mistreated her in unspeakable ways, battering and hurling insults at her, among other forms of abuse.
“He used to say that I was uneducated and he couldn’t have a wife who was not learned. One day he chased me and my child out of the house, we slept on the verandah; people pleaded with me to leave but I refused,” Drateru narrates.
She endured the abuse because she had nowhere to go and no money to fend for her child.
“He finally threw me out of his home and I went to Arua Park in Kampala where I spent cold nights with my child. We used to cover ourselves with boxes; whenever it rained, it poured on us,” Drateru says, fighting back tears.
Tormented by the harsh street life, Drateru told herself that she could seek help for her child from the now estranged father. As if it was meant to be her fate, these thoughts came around the time the man phoned her, saying he wanted to see his child.
Drateru left Arua Park and headed for Hoima. But the anticipated reunion didn’t go according to her script as upon arrival at his house, the man showered her with a combustible substance believed to be petrol, and set her on fire.
“He was inside and as soon as I entered, he poured something on me. I only saw fire on my chest. He burnt me,” Drateru recounts her ordeal.
She was taken to a hospital in Hoima to nurse her burns and later transferred to Mulago hospital where she spent a full year on treatment.
All this time, Drateru was all by herself in the absence of a family member to help her out. She spent most of her time in hospital lying on her back due to the intense pain she had.
Persistent backache and pain in her left leg were her biggest complaints. To date, the leg is so stiff that it can hardly be separated from the right one, leaving her walking slowly and awkwardly like a cripple.
Meanwhile, when it was time to discharge her, Drateru had no money to pay the bills that had accumulated for a year or so at Mulago. She was left with no alternative but to have the father of her child released from police custody in return for help.
According to Drateru, he was the only person who could help her out. Yet after walking scot free, the man didn’t offer any financial assistance; he only took his child who is now living with his sister.
Instead, a well-wisher whose attention was drawn by a grown woman walking on her fours in the Mulago hospital compound approached Drateru for her story and took her to a TV station, which aired her story early this year.
She also took her to her home in Lubaga after she was discharged, supporting her with some money for physiotherapy that doctors had recommended.
Commenting on Drateru’s plight, Dr Madewo said: “We found that the lady didn’t have a problem with her back. It was her hips that were wearing out, plus the sockets of the hip joint.” Thus the doctors recommended physiotherapy and an operation to replace her hip joint.
It’s been two years now since Drateru last received medical attention, so we approached Madewo again, who expressed surprise that she was yet to be operated on. Dr Madewo told us he is worried her situation could take a turn for worse if she doesn’t get the operation sooner.
According to Dr Madewo, all Drateru needs is Shs 7.5m to enable her live a normal and productive life. To assist Drateru, contact the writer on 0704195472 or use the email address below.