Several Have Consciously Sacrificed Their Lives as Victims of the Virus

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

GULU, APR. 2, 2001 (ZENIT.org).- The tombs of religious and lay missionaries
in St. Mary´s Lacor Hospital in Gulu, Uganda, have become the most eloquent
testimonies of the work carried out by men and women who struggle against
disease, especially AIDS and the Ebola virus.

One of the burial mounds in the Hospital´s cemetery, directed by the
Combonian missionaries, has a photograph of Lucille Corti, a promising
Canadian surgeon, who arrived in Uganda in 1961, and married Italian Piero
Corti. She carried out thousands of operations, trained hundreds of native
surgeons, and was infected with AIDS during an operation in the early 80s,
but continued to work until April, 1996, a few months before her death.

To her right, is Matthew Lukwiya´s new tomb, who died on December 1 of last
year. This Ugandan, who was head of the department and Lacor´s health
director, was educated in Lucille Corti´s school. He became director of the
Hospital, and a victim of the Ebola virus transmitted by his patients. Around
his tomb, are the remains of 14 of the Hospital´s workers, who lost their
lives caring for Ebola victims.

Thanks to the work in this Hospital, on February 28 the victory over Ebola
was announced officially. Since October of 2000, the Ebola virus caused the
death of 169 people. Among the anonymous heroes, who gave their lives along
with Dr. Lukwiya to help those who were sick with the virus, are Pierina
Asienzo and Dorothy Akweyo, two Ugandan religious of the Little Sisters of
Mary Immaculate, who became infected, knowing full well the risk they were
running. They died in November of last year.

Gulu, one of the poorest regions of Uganda, has not benefited from the
country´s modest progress in recent years, because of the insecurity
engendered by an endemic guerrilla. In this area devoid of resources, St.
Mary´s Lacor Hospital is an oasis of 463 beds, receiving 18,000 patients a
year, to be treated in 10 departments, with clinical services, surgery, and
special analyses. The Hospital also boasts 6 schools for the formation of
nurses, technicians, lab assistants, anaesthetists, etc.

St. Mary´s Lacor might now become the source of salvation for all the African
population, thanks to trustworthy data collected during the Ebola epidemic,
which will be critical either in preventing the virus or in handling another
epidemic. The data is also being used to research a vaccination.

«We are used to moving to the most remote places because of our work,»
English scientist Stuart Nichol said, who is in charge of the storm-troops of
Atlanta´s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which took turns
in Gulu, throughout the period of the epidemic. The great surprise was to
find a 5-star hospital and «adequate and sufficient» lab in this remote
corner of the planet.

The CDC, a public institution of the U.S. health system, is the most
important world structure in the struggle against epidemics. It has been
concerned with Ebola since its first manifestation in 1975. However, it never
had the opportunity to collect as much data as it has in Gulu. As a result,
St. Mary´s Lacor Hospital has been chosen as an operations center, because of
the high quality of its health facilities.

«We have been working for some time to find a vaccination against Ebola; now
we will be able to make more rapid progress, but the most serious problem is
not technical but economic. Millions of dollars must be invested to produce a
new vaccine. It is a terrible sickness, but it strikes sporadically only in
very poor countries. It does not seem to be the target for investing money,
because profits are not anticipated,» Nichol explained.

At present, the Hospital is looking for someone to succeed Dr. Matthew
Lukwiya. He will be a Ugandan doctor, «one of the many we have trained here,
who have gone to work later in other Ugandan hospitals or abroad. No one can
impose a candidate from above. Providence sent us Matthew, and
cannot have forgotten us,» Piero Corti said, who is still active at 75, and,
although in mourning, does not allow himself to be overwhelmed by grief.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation