Being 75 years old is challenging in all culture. However, being 75 years old in Uganda and having a chronic disability, presents with unique challenges. Henry and I meet one afternoon walking back from the Amahoro goat barn. Henry was standing atop a roadside berm with his two very short home fabricated canes attempting to carry a bundle of 10′ long sticks used as fuel for cooking. Fearing his possible demise attempting to descend the steep berm with his sticks, I offered to help him carry his bundle of sticks. Being a proud Ugandan man, his initial response was negative. However, with reflection, he reconsidered and everyone was soon safely standing on the packed rugged roadway. Following along carrying his bundle of sticks, his difficulty in walking was immediately apparent. His walking was with major discrepancy in the lengths of his legs. The left leg was approximately 4″ too short. As a physical therapist, knowing the sequelae of such a mobility deficient in a rural village in Uganda, I invited him to the community outreach health clinic being held in one day’s time. Henry nodded in understanding, his bundle of sticks were left at the base of his tree.
Fortuitous to Henry’s needs for safer mobility, at a local street market, a pair of African canes caught my eye. With quick negotiation, the merchant was carefully wrapping the new canes in the finest of Ugandan newspaper. Proudly clutching my new find, I rejoined the Amahoro crew for the day’s duties.
The next day shone bright. Not knowing if Henry would appear at the community medical clinic, the anticipation if he would accept my gift to him, we set off for the community of Matugga and the community medical clinic. Shortly after arrival, Henry came walking up the steep ramp to the clinic. My heart soared with joy! With warm greetings of welcome, Henry settled into a chair for a much needed rest having walked from his home to the clinic. Anxious to offer my gift to him, I gently placed the prized, newspaper clad canes on his lap. He readily tugged at the newspaper exposing the two African style, hand carved wood canes. Tears of joy immediately weld up and overflowed his eyes. My heart leapt for joy! Soon Henry was motoring along with his new canes standing tall, proud Ugandan man. Henry sat so proudly throughout the festivities of the day, enjoyed lunch with everyone. As the day wound down, Henry decided to begin his journey home. Not sure of his safety walking home with his new canes, he accepted my offer to walk with him to his home. He walked so proudly down the rugged road to his home, striding long and strong. He walked twice as fast and now stood nearly erect. Upon arrival at his home, he proudly showed off his garden and his hand constructed brick house. He immediately sat on his favorite stoop cuddling his new canes.
In my 45 years as a Physical Therapist, I have never been more proud of changing a special life for long term safety in mobility. Henry’s melt your heart smile will always be in my heart.