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The Fight Against Malaria: Scovia’s Story, Uganda

Scovia's story - Fight against Malaria
Scovia received her first malaria diagnosis as a one-year-old baby. She was born healthy, the youngest of three siblings. Scovia’s mother Jane Feku explains her extraordinary and life-changing symptoms, and how the disease has impacted their family.

Jane and Scovia flew with MAF from Arua to Jinja in January 2023, a one-hour flight that saved over ten hours by road.

‘I am so happy now because MAF has helped me walk with my child. She is very happy too. Her new legs will change our lives forever.’

Jane Feku, Scovia’s mother
Scovia with the MAF aircraft.
Scovia [14] lost both her legs to a rare and aggressive strain of malaria when she was four years old. Credit: Damalie Hirwa
Jane, Scovia's mother.
Jane took her first flight with MAF in January 2023 saving a day by road. Credit: Damalie Hirwa

My name is Jane Feku, I am a single mother of three and I work selling local brew for a living. We live in Edioffe village, in the far north of Uganda. Life is busy for me, and I must provide all the basic necessities for my children like food, clothes and try to send them to school.

Scovia was born in 2008 and is my youngest. She was healthy and had both of her legs – her smile was so wonderful. She was very happy when she was a baby.

But when Scovia was a year and three months old, she had a fever. I took her to see a doctor who told us it was malaria. She had some medicine, but she was very sick, and things didn’t get better. I remember she would cry and cry and that would break my heart.

Scovia, 1 year old, after contracting Malaria.
Scovia first contracted malaria when she was a year old. Credit: image provided by family

Her condition continued to get worse, and I noticed my little girl’s toenails beginning to turn black. Then they began rotting. The situation got worse still, and her bones started falling from the joints in her legs as the disease advanced. I believed that maybe she would die. I felt very sad at this time of my life. Being a single mother was so difficult, her father was not cooperative and sometimes I regretted my marriage.

The doctors took a decision that we should amputate her legs to prevent the infection eating up her entire body.

Scovia was four years old when she received her first amputation surgery at Arua hospital. Then she had the second leg removed at another hospital some time later. It was very difficult, but we think that it saved her life and I felt happy and thankful to God.

After the amputations, we lived day to day with a young girl who had a disability. It had a major and negative impact on our whole family, and it was so hard for us all – just trying to provide the basics for everyone. But thankfully none of my other children got very sick – I praise God they didn’t often catch malaria, that was only Scovia.

In January 2023 we met Reverend Pooshani Kanapathipillai in our village. When she heard Scovia’s story, she wanted to help us.

Rev Pooshani contacted doctors in Jinja, and told us the exciting news – she could help Scovia acquire artificial limbs, made especially for her. I felt so happy about this – I never dreamed my daughter would be able to walk by herself to school.

In January 2023 we flew to Jinja on a small plane brought to us by MAF. Rev. Pooshani has been flying with MAF for over 10 years and told us it is safe and MAF have excellent pilots. Our pilot was Andrew.

It was my first time on the aeroplane, it was very fast, so easy and better than the long, bumpy road. It would have taken more than a day to travel to Jinja without MAF. I was happy on the flight, but Scovia felt a bit scared.

Mother and daighter, heading to the airport.
Scovia arrived in Jinja in January 2023 to receive new prosthetic limbs at St James Orthopaedic & Surgical Centre. Credit: Damalie Hirwa

My daughter will lose a school term of grade four this year to make way for treatment at St James Orthopaedic Centre in Jinja. The process will involve her meeting her new legs and getting trained how to use them. I have been staying with her and watching her learn. We are both very happy.

Scovia is an active girl who loves playing football with her friends. Artificial limbs are miracle for her – we never dreamed of a possibility that she would walk. I am so thankful to all the people who have helped us, plus my whole family who have given me support.

I am so happy now because MAF has helped me walk with my child. She is very happy too, and she can’t wait to get back to school – she loves to learn. Her new legs will change our lives forever.

Scovia receiving prosthetic limbs.
Before receiving prosthetic limbs, Scovia received further surgery which took many weeks to heal. Credit: Jane Feku
Scovia climbed from MAF’s aircraft with her new limbs in April 2023, ready to return home and start a new life. (credit: Damalie Hirwa)
Scovia climbed from MAF’s aircraft with her new limbs in April 2023, ready to return home and start a new life. (credit: Damalie Hirwa)

Symmetrical peripheral gangrene (SPG) is an extremely rare complication of malaria. When it occurs, it progresses extremely rapidly, leading to irreversible gangrene – which requires urgent amputation. The challenge comes in identifying this rare, rapidly-progressing complication, and in administering anticoagulants – medicine that prevent blood clots – which are not usually included in the normal treatment regimes of common malaria.

(Source: Journal of Rheumatic Diseases and Treatment)

A view from the pilot's seat.
Scovia and Jane’s flight from Arua (image below) lasted just one hour but saved ten travelling by road. Credit: Damalie Hirwa

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