The story of Michael Okello.
KUMI COMMUNITY FOUNDATION
23 August 2020
Travelling through the bushlands about fifteen years ago and on a standard field working day, we saw a small boy leading two enormous, yoked oxen dragging a plough. We pulled up and he ran to greet us with large strides and with legs akimbo to reveal the cause of his small stature in spite of his obvious bodily strength. He had been born with a condition known as amelia (limb reduction or absence). He managed well on his spindly stumps but agreed that a pair of lower legs would make life easier so this is how Michael Okello came into our lives.
In the Kumi Hospital Orthopaedic Workshop, two prostheses were made for him and I remember them being applied and him immediately running off to kick a ball and grinning broadly; (replacing the lower part of his legs when he had already gained his balance is not so difficult as with a totally new experience of a new leg). But limbs do not last forever, the youngsters grow and the legs may need replacement or repair. Michael certainly gave them a tough time and had a knack to know how to find us. One day, a tap on my shoulder when passing through a trading station made me turn and there was Michael with his happy disposition and broken feet in need of repair. A couple of years ago, he returned to the hospital for us to see his home-made repair. A friend had attached blocks of wood to the lower limbs and these acted as perfectly good balancing agents. We agreed to fund the replacement but he never turned up at the workshop and so his own adaptation must have been adequate for his way of life. Then in 2018, he turned up at the hospital Guest House which is definitely out of bounds for hospital patients or there would be a daily queue! Perhaps this was a social call due to our long association? It was good to see his cheerful self but I decided he could continue with his blocks if he failed to keep his appointment.
Michael, a total orphan, lived with his grandfather, a peasant farmer, and had his own small mud hut empty of all worldly belongings so we provided him with a mattress and mosquito net. They worked on the land as a team with Michael doing more of the heavy work as the grandfather weakened with age. They survived by working on their distant neighbours’ land to provide a small income. Education did not come into the equation as he was a free spirit who would never have kept up his attendance if he had the desire to read or write and so Michael remains uneducated which seems to be appropriate for his situation whatever your opinion may be!