Profile of Bianga
9 October 2001
Bianga had been ill for ten months. She had become too weak to work in the fields near her home in Omugo, Uganda, fetch water, or care for her six-year-old son, Lino. At first, Bianga found herself sleeping all day long but lying wide awake at night. Her behavior changed: she would run out into the street, shouting loudly at the sky. At this point, her husband left her. Bianga and her son went to live with Bianga's elderly mother in her small hut. With no one in the family earning money and unable to produce their own food, they were penniless. Lino became malnourished. Finally, in despair, Bianga's mother took her to the hospital to see if something could be done. The doctor discovered that she was suffering from sleeping sickness and had already reached the stage at which the parasite invades the brain. She was admitted directly to the treatment center where she was given a course of melarsoprol. Although the treatment was painful, she began to feel better. After the 20-day course, she was able to return home and pick up her life again. After a month, Bianga began behaving strangely again, and Lino brought her to the hospital. It was discovered that she had gone into relapse. Her ankle had to be tied to the bed to prevent her from running away and getting lost. Bianga received another course of melarsoprol, but this time her condition did not show much improvement. With no other treatment available and little hope for recovery, she was sent home. For Bianga, some of the treatments that are only now becoming available arrived too late.