A Ugandan mother's relationship with Christ is rekindled as she searches for a way to save her daughter’s life
“Why me?” Vera asked herself.
Her 6-month old daughter, Irene, had developed a high fever. Vera took her to the hospital where she works as a midwife, expecting to receive medicine and return home. But as the doctor took a long time to examine her girl’s chest, Vera became anxious.
“I asked her if everything was OK,” Vera said. “This is when I got the biggest shock of my life! It was a long day, and I will never forget the confusion and pain I felt in my heart after hearing the news from the doctor.”
The doctor told Vera that Irene had a heart murmur, which likely indicated a heart defect. She referred Irene to a hospital in Uganda’s capital where the doctors would be able to conduct more tests.
“I felt the whole room spinning,” Vera said. “I didn’t know whether to cry or not or whether to believe it or not. Maybe the doctor could be wrong. Until the tests are done, there is hope!”
But Vera wasn’t able to sleep that night. The next morning, she woke early to take a bus into Kampala. After the cardiologist performed the tests, he confirmed her fears—Irene had a heart defect. The doctor told Vera to begin saving a large amount of money so that Irene could receive surgery.
“I remember tears just flowing down my cheeks,” Vera said. “I stared into the air having all these questions to God. I have delivered many healthy babies, and just when I have my own, it is all wrong. Why? I don’t earn much. How will I handle this? I thought that I was being punished for having the child out of wedlock sometimes.”
The doctor gave Vera medicine to give Irene while they saved for the surgery. But Vera knew she and Irene’s father, John, could never save the amount of money that was needed. Irene got sick with coughs and fevers often, and each time, Vera feared for the baby’s life. She wasn’t able to walk for long distances or play with her friends. She had to squat often to catch her breath.
“She could not run or play for a long time because her breathing was heavy, and she would show signs of agitation from what she felt in her chest,” John said. “At night, her mother and I would sit up and watch her sleep out of fear that she might just die because her breathing was a struggle, and it just worried us so much. It became very stressful because there is not much we could do about this problem.”
A Heart Surgery Changes Lives
When Irene was 3 years old, Vera was introduced to the Children’s Heart Project, which brings kids from around the world to North America for life-saving heart surgery. After Irene was assessed, Samaritan’s Purse staff members put her on a waiting list. She was accepted for surgery in Maine.
Vera had never left Uganda, but she was excited for the opportunity. John was sad that his wife and oldest daughter were leaving the country.
“But I was confident because I knew it was a good thing for our daughter, Irene, to have surgery,” he said. “I waited in anticipation to hear anything about them; I prayed every day and remained strong in the Lord. I had to be strong for baby Ruth [the couple’s second child]. My family and Vera’s family stood with us in prayer.”
While Vera was in the U.S., her Christian host family helped her rekindle her relationship with Christ. She had been a Christian since she was a child, but when she and John decided to start a family before getting married, she felt guilty and unworthy of God’s love. She stopped attending church and drifted away from the relationship she had with Him.
Irene’s surgery was successful, and after a short period of recovery, she returned home. Since then, her confidence has increased. She talks more and has so much energy. Now she plays all day, which she was never able to do before her surgery. She is able to help her mother with some household chores, including caring for her baby sister, Ruth.
Since Irene’s parents no longer have to spend all of their money on her medications, they can now afford school fees for her. She is now attending kindergarten.
“Now life is so much better in a less complicated way,” Vera said. “Every day is a beautiful day, and I am thankful to God for seeing me through that problem. I always apologize to God for not trusting Him right from the start. I should not have blamed Him. My family and I will give the Lord praise and serve Him.”
Since Vera now feels close to God again, she wants to make her marriage legal by getting married in church. She and her husband have begun taking their daughters to church regularly again and have received encouragement from their Samaritan’s Purse friends.
After Irene returned home, staff members from Samaritan’s Purse visited her home to check on her health. While Irene played outside with her friends and sister, the adults in the home heard the Gospel. Irene’s grandmother, aunt, and uncle all became believers that day and began attending church with John and Vera. Some of their family members practice witchcraft, but Vera and her saved family members are praying that they will come to know the Lord too.