Looking at her profile from the right, she seemed ok, in fact perfect. A tall dark skinned beautiful face. It is only when she turned that one would notice the deformity. Jane lost most of the outer part of her left ear in an #LRA ambush more than 10 years ago.
Jane before surgery
“I was on my way with several people headed to Kitgum town when a few hours into the journey we heard gun shots. I saw a bright light and heard a strong sound. That is when I passed out. I do not recall anything else about the fateful day. I woke up a day after in Gulu regional referral hospital, in excruciating pain. At first i did not recall the incidents of the previous day. But after some time i started to remember and that is when I realised that my ear had been hit off by a bullet. I was thankful to be alive because some of the people we were traveling with had died in the incident.”
To make matters worse, the war robbed Jane of her husband. With only her children to live for, the mother of two says it had become normal for her to exist with the deformity.
“I am a petty trader so there is no way I could have afforded to pay to have surgery. I got used to being like this though I had to stand scorn from other people. But deep down in my heart I kept grudging about the fact that I had a deformed ear. Because of that I had to always cover my head, enclosing both ears so that people don’t see me. I so much desired to have both my ears normal so that I could also walk with my head high, wear earrings and other things.”
The 40 year old mother of two smiles when the doctor tells her she qualifies to be operated on. She does not understand English and relies on the interpreter to make a decision on whether to have the surgery to reconstruct her external ear or not. Both Santa’s ears were injured more than 22 years ago.
“It was one afternoon and I was at home when fighting broke out between the LRA rebels and government forces. I managed to escape, with my five year old child strapped on my back.”
But the bliss of the escape was short lived as moments later she bumped into an LRA ambush.
“They wanted to kill me, thinking I was a government spy. I heard them plotting and arguing until they agreed that the best punishment was to cut off my ears. I was apparently supposed to serve as an example to the rest of the community members who dared to collaborate with the government. During the short captivity I was beaten, tortured and the only thing that kept me going was my baby who I held onto firmly. When they were done with cutting off my ears, they said ‘Go and tell the others what we will do to them’. From then on people used to laugh at me and my ‘half ears’. I would feel bad but I had nothing to do about it. My husband also said I had become too ugly and went to look for other women…”
Santa and Jane are two of the many women who were mobilized and brought to CoRSU (www.corsu.or.ug) for surgery by Watoto Reconstructive Surgery Project. Santa was diagnosed with low type 2 partial bilateral amputation while Jane had unilateral partial amputation. With the other women they were admitted for ear reconstruction that was performed by world re-known Plastic surgeon Dr Françoise Firmin and her team with our in-house doctors.
There was tension all around the hospital as a group of them waited for the doctors to remove the patches they had put on their ears after surgery. The tension turned into jubilation as people gathered to see how these ladies’ ears had been restored. According to Dr. Firmin, they all had successful operations. More than six months later, they are going to have minor surgery to elevate their ears to have good projection. #September will be a special month.
Santa (R), Jane (3rd R) and some of the other ladies at CoRSU, after surgery
As narrated to Phionah Katushabe