Occasionally in life, especially when advocating for a fellow human being, one must go to the extreme. In such cases, medical practitioners often wonder if they are too entrenched or intertwined in their patients’ suffering and health. The lines become blurred. Where does the patient-provider relationship end? Where does the boundary lie in intervention with the well-being of others? Defining the limits for when to ‘hold on’ and when to ‘let go’ can be a challenge. Noeline, a shy, barefoot, soft-spoken eight-year-old girl, entered the lives of Engeye staff last year, and pushed them to this edge.
As many know, Noeline came to the Engeye Health Clinic on July 12, 2011, feverish and clearly ill. They came to understand that over the preceding several months she had been developing a large, fungating growth that protruded from her vagina. Based on a subsequent biopsy, it was determined to be rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft tissue tumor, growing from her vaginal wall. By the time she reached Engeye Clinic, the mass was painful, pushing on her other organs, and it was infected. Simply put, eight-year old Noeline had cancer, in the worst possible way.
But thanks to generous donations from donors, Engeye was able to raise the necessary $2,000 USD, allowing Noeline to receive chemotherapy critical to treating her tumor. After six rounds of chemotherapy and months of emotional and physical exhaustion, Engeye thought they had Noeline’s cancer beat. Her mass was significantly smaller and for the first time in years, she had the energy to consider school, to haul water from the well like other little girls her age, and to laugh and smile – in short, she was able to live the life of a healthy little girl.
But last week, Noeline returned to Engeye Clinic fatigued. Her nasty mass has returned . . . and it is enlarging. A CT scan confirmed that her tumor has returned. If future care were utterly futile, Engeye would offer condolences with lumps in their throats, and advocate for comfort care during her final days. But a final, second round of dual chemotherapy with immediate subsequent surgical resection is not a pipedream. In fact, this is often how this particular cancer is treated in the U.S.
Engeye wants to offer Noeline one last shot at life. If nothing is done, she will undoubtedly die. On the other hand, with this second treatment attempt, there is a chance that she will live a long, productive life. But Engeye needs your help. No doubt this will be another uphill battle, but it is one worth fighting. If Noeline were one of our daughters, nieces, cousins or next door neighbors, we would not give up. Especially for only $3,000 USD.
Putting in such an effort to save just one life doesn’t always make sense. The rational mind would suggest that Noeline’s care is “ill-advised”, that such funds “would be far better spent in any number of ways that would benefit so many more people.” This may be true.
Engeye is ever conscious of the need to focus on the majority of the population; public health efforts geared toward basic vaccinations, primary care and clean water, and therefore, this is exactly where their principal efforts are currently centered. But sometimes they become intertwined in one patient’s care as they are working on the larger goals, and it doesn’t feel right to give up on that individual. To Engeye, it doesn’t feel right to give up on Noeline. Engeye must realize the sea of need and focus their efforts there, but they cannot forget that the sea is comprised of individual drops of water.
Please help The Engeye Team raise $3,000 USD as soon as possible to help secure emergency treatment for Noeline. Her Ugandan oncologists and surgeons are on board and she and her mother are currently in Kampala awaiting her final attempt at life-saving treatment. This is a very time-sensitive plea and we need to act swiftly.
Thank you for stepping forward and giving Noeline another chance for life.
Engeye realizes this is an outlying project that does not follow their regular allocation of funds, which generally benefit large groups of people and the clinic as a whole. Because this is a unique project, in that it only benefits one person, similar to the Save Susan project, they do not feel it is ethical to use general donor or general clinic funds. The Save Noeline project will only use funds that are specifically earmarked for Noeline's care.
About the Engeye Health Clinic
Engeye, a U.S. and Ugandan NGO based in Uganda, was created in 2006 by a dedicated group of medical students to address the disparity in basic health, education and environmental needs of rural Ugandan villagers. The Engeye Health Clinic provides care for a region in Uganda that is voiceless, despite its substantial need, and that otherwise would not have access to healthcare. The Engeye Scholars program was born to assist the schools in Ddegeya Village. Education is highly valued in Uganda and we believe education is part of the key to eliminating poverty. Through scholarships, the children of Ddegeya Village have the opportunity to attend boarding school, which delays child bearing, empowers women and provides newfound hope. For more information, visit: www.engeye.org and www.engeyescholars.org