Christine Matama has documented her 14 years’ experience of fighting Eczema.
In her book: Heroic Struggle: Coping with Chronic illnesses – Personal Eczema Experiences, Matama narrates a tough journey of how she has been able to beat the odds and stay alive.
Matama, who holds a Master’s Degree in Public Health, describes Eczema as an immunodeficiency disorder or disease. An immunodeficiency disorder happens when the immune system’s ability to fight off infectious diseases and cancers is compromised or completely absent, and as a result, a number of infections take on the body.
The 93-page-book is written in seven chapters with each chapter talking about her experience in dealing with the illness.
In Chapter One, the author takes us through her childhood, education and when she became ill.
It all started shortly after she completed her senior six in 2003, and started staying with her parents in Fort Portal- her birthplace.
In 2004, Matama, who was 19 years old at the time, joined university, a place where she thought the realization of her dreams would begin.
During her first year, she notes that she developed a pimple-like swelling on the left side of her face. But she did not bother, thinking it was a hormonal change and that it would soon disappear.
“With time, I lost my chocolate brown colour and my tender smooth skin! I had thought that when I get out of the teenage age I would kiss the pimple goodbye, I was wrong,” she writes. Sooner after that pimple, that’s when she was diagnosed with a strange disease- Eczema.
She tells us that she immediately felt frustrated because she thought that she wouldn’t complete her university education.
But misfortunes do not come singly, so says an old adage. Matama would later develop another pimple on her right cheek and shortly after, her scalp wasn’t spared either, and the infection ravaged her whole body. She tells us how she struggled to visit a number of dermatologists, including the renowned Dr Fred Kambugu of Kampala skin Clinic but all in vain.
The author tells us that different doctors prescribed different tablets and creams but to no avail. She states over 50 different types of creams, ointments and other drugs save for the all sorts of Chinese and Japanese herbs that she used without any change, and the situation was only deteriorating.
Her whole body then cracked, developed wounds and puss started oozing out of her skin.
“As the skin dried up, dandruff-like particles would shed off, covering the entire bed and the bedroom floor… If you stepped in our house barefoot, you would carry away parts of my skin particles,” Matama writes.
As a result, she also developed other health conditions like hypersensitive skin, allergic conjunctivitis (eye inflammation) pneumonia, hay fever, fish allergies, vitamin deficiencies, anaemia, and bacterial, viral, and fungal infections. At this time, the author tells us that amidst lack of health insurance, her health costs soared to close to USD 1,000 (about 3.7million shillings) per month.
But after undergoing numerous clinical tests, keeping a food journal and monitoring her food, including avoiding dairy products for three months under the close supervision of a doctor, and with all the drugs she had used, Matama started seeing some slight improvement.
The author indicates that with pain and scratching becoming the order of the day, she now went head to complete her studies amidst stigma and all sorts of comments about her appearance from classmates and village mates.
In February 2008, she graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Guidance and Counselling.
In the Subsequent chapters, Matama elaborates on Eczema at a glance, chronic illnesses in Africa and why they are persistent, chronic illnesses and supporting others, how to take care of the elderly and those with chronic illnesses, chronic illnesses in children and what one should do to avoid chronic illnesses.
Matama tells the readers that her findings during all this time indicate that most of the chronic illnesses can be avoided by eating a healthy diet, being physically active every day, getting vaccinated, doing away with any form of tobacco, avoiding or minimizing alcohol, management of stress and having enough rest, practicing safe sex, having regular medical check-ups, and breastfeeding children till the age of two years.
Despite evoking tears, this book is very important as it elaborates on what a person who has seen it all went through and managed to cheat death.
While launching the book at St Andrews Church of Uganda in Rwengoma, Fort Portal, on Easter I got the chance to meet Matama and she looked to have greatly improved and in a much better state now. But she says the reactions and itching at times resurface though they are no longer serious and disappear after a short time.
Currently, Matama works with Joint Clinical Research Center – JCRC in Kampala.
Book title: Heroic Struggle: Coping with Chronic illnesses – Personal Eczema Experiences Author: Christine Matama Publisher: Fountain Publishers
Pages: 93 pages
Price: 20,000 shillings
Available at: God’s Grace Stationery in Fort Portal and Aristoc in Kampala.