Featured Storyteller

UGANDA: Saving Lives With A Smartphone App

nyamwizaagnes
Posted May 13, 2019 from Uganda

Before, Agnes Nyamwiza didn’t know how to turn on a computer. Now, she’s building an app for women to access the health information that could have prevented her sister’s death.

“I decided to fight cervical cancer using what I had, and that was my computer and my smartphone.

Until I reached university, I had never seen or touched a computer. And I had not owned or known how to use a smartphone. The whole world of technology was nowhere near me.

Once at university, I had to take a course on ICT. At this point, I did not even know how to switch on a computer! Thanks to the support of my friends, I slowly learned the basics that helped me pass exams. The course was a challenge, though. It required me to use a computer, and yet my parents could not afford one. In order to improve my editing and typing skills, and also earn some income, I started to help fellow students in typing and editing their research reports and other coursework using the university computers.

The university introduced me to the use of technology, and it has now become something I can’t live without. After my course ended, I bought myself a computer. It became my best friend and a source of income, entertainment, information, and knowledge. Whenever I had a problem or a question, I ran to the computer. I got information from Google and used social media and many other online resources to look for whatever information I wanted.

Later I opened a stationery shop where I installed computers and printers, and here I helped students access computer services like the Internet, typing, editing, printing, and photocopying. For those students who arrived at university just as I had—without any technology skills—I provided education on how to use a computer.

Then in November 2017, my elder sister Ann called from my village back home to tell me she was dying. I decided to travel back to the village to check on her. When I arrived, I found her in pain. She told me she had been receiving treatment from the local clinics but had had no change in her condition. I spent the night in her house and around 11 p.m. heard her groaning in her room. I went to her door and knocked, and it was my brother-in-law who opened it. He looked worried and told me, “This is what we have been going through for some time now.” I asked him what the doctors had told him exactly, and he told me they had said she had fibroids.

I moved to my sister’s bed. She was clearly in a lot of pain; she was weak and could hardly utter a word. I held her hand, made a short prayer, and asked her what was paining her. She explained that she had pain in her back and abdomen, her legs were swollen and paining too, she had heavy bleeding even when she was not on her period, and all this had made her lose a lot of weight. I sat with her there for over three hours not saying anything only holding her back. Her husband sat there too, on a chair close to the bed, looking helpless. Eventually, my sister quieted, and I noticed she had somehow fallen asleep amidst her pain. I slowly pulled my hand off her back and tiptoed to my room.

Lying on my bed, I couldn’t sleep thinking of how Ann was. I got on my phone and started searching, feeding into my browser all the symptoms she had told me. I found information suggesting she could be suffering from uterine fibroids, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), or even cervical cancer.

In the morning I talked to my brother-in-law about the possibility of taking Ann to be examined at a competent hospital. He said he didn’t have enough money. I called my mother and told her the situation. Mom said she would talk to Dad about them contributing to Ann’s hospital bill. That afternoon my father called Ann’s husband and informed him that he had transferred money to his account so that he could take Ann to the hospital.

Early the next morning the three of us left for the hospital. Tests were taken and Ann was admitted to the hospital as we waited for her test results. Later that night the doctor called Ann’s husband to his office and informed him that they would continue with more tests the next day. The next day it was confirmed that Ann had cervical cancer. It was in its advanced stage and she would have to undergo surgery.

The surgery was carried out successfully, and afterward, I went back home. Ann was later discharged, and then she and her husband also went home. I kept praying for Ann every day to be healed. After three months, she passed on; she had succumbed to cervical cancer.

In my home village, no one had ever been tested for cervical cancer before. In fact, most of us at home had never even heard of cervical cancer, and then just like that, it had snatched Ann from us.

After a month, I decided to go to the hospital to get tested for cervical cancer myself. It was difficult; I trembled until I got my results. Thank God they were negative. I kept thinking about how if Ann and her husband had known about this test earlier, she wouldn’t have died.

It was then that I decided to fight cervical cancer using what I had, and that was my computer and my smartphone.

Today I am working on building a mobile app that will help women access information about cervical cancer and screening and vaccination services. The app will also connect them with health centers and clinics where they can receive these services and get treatment. Many women today in Uganda have access to smartphones. I want to train them on how they can use this technology to learn about their health and how to prevent illness and address health issues that may arise.

Additionally, I am using social media to spread awareness about cervical cancer and am happy that, through Facebook, I’m reaching many young women who are at higher risk of getting this disease.

Had my sister had access to the information I now share with other Ugandan women, she might still be alive today. I don’t want another woman to go through what my sister did when preventative care and treatment exist for cervical cancer. With the help of information and communication technology, I will continue to fight against cervical cancer and for women’s health.


STORY AWARDS

This story was published as part of the World Pulse Story Awards program. We believe every woman has a story to share, and that the world will be a better place when women are heard. Share your story with us, and you could receive added visibility, or even be our next Featured Storyteller! Learn more.

Comments 24

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Lisbeth
May 13
May 13

This is a sad story about your sister. Sorry for your lost and Congrats on your featured story.

nyamwizaagnes
May 18
May 18

Thank you Sis. Salifu for your Kindness. I really appreciate

Jill Langhus
May 14
May 14

Hi Agnes,

Congrats on winning the story award for your inspiring story and initiative! Keep up the good work:-)

nyamwizaagnes
May 18
May 18

Hi sister Jill Langlus,
Thank you so much for appreciating. I am happy that world pulse gave me space to share my story and now it can reach more people.

Jill Langhus
May 19
May 19

You're very welcome, dear! Yes! Many people will be inspired by your story now:-)

Seka
May 15
May 15

Wow sis Agnes! very big congratulations for your featured story!

nyamwizaagnes
May 18
May 18

Thank you sister Seka, it's from sisters like you that i was inspired to share my story.

ELIZABETH ZIRO
May 15
May 15

You are a gem! Keep on keeping on.

nyamwizaagnes
May 18
May 18

Thanks dear Elizabeth

maeann
May 15
May 15

Congratulations and thank you for sharing your story...

Theresa Takafuma
May 15
May 15

Congratulations on your Story Award. Thank you for all the work you did and continue doing.
Lots of love

nyamwizaagnes
May 18
May 18

Thanks so much sister Theresa, I am happy that publishing my story will help someone out there to get checked for cervical cancer and learn more about their health.
Lots of love

Rosylyne Nabaala
May 17
May 17

Lots of love sister and congratulations keep it up.

nyamwizaagnes
May 18
May 18

Thank you sister Rosylyne Nabaala.

Shebra
May 17
May 17

A deeply touching story, and an important one. My condolences on the loss of your sister; my admiration and support for your courage and strength in transforming your grief, finding a way to support so many more women! You are wondrous!

nyamwizaagnes
May 18
May 18

Thank you sister Shebra for your kindness.I really appreciate

Sinyuy Geraldine
May 18
May 18

This is excellent dear sister. I am so sorry to hear that you lost your sister, but happy that you are doing everything within your reach to help other women. Well done.

ARREY- ECHI
May 29
May 29

Dear Nyamwizaagnes,
My condolences for the loss of your sister.

As I read through your story, I couldn't help admiring your strength in turning the pain of your loss into a purpose. It is true, we need to be aware of a lot of health issues and technology is helping many of our people have that.

May your work continue to impact lives as your sister's legacy live on.

Congratulations for the story award.

Congratulations, Agnes! I’m so happy you are awarded as a Featured Storyteller! Please update us here. Keep writing.

Wendy Stebbins
May 30
May 30

This story is amazing. This woman Ann is amazing and a hero. Lizbeth you ate an amazing hero and world DOER. I cannot find the words to continue, but I know the ACTIONS to take. I am making a committment right now to forward this article to as many people, men and women, as I can. And to keep this human story in the forfront of my mind, to tell others as appropriate. Thank you for your courage in sharing. How you turned something bad into something so profoundly helpful to the world, is a credit to the person you are inside and your sisters legacy continues. Bravo. Thank you for sharing.

Ubuntu
Wendy Stebbins

Carol D
Aug 27
Aug 27

Hi Agnes,

Thank you for sharing your story and taking steps to help others access better healthcare. You are an inspiration and I know your sister would be proud of your leadership!

M.
Aug 27
Aug 27

Thanks for Sharing Your incredible Story... it s a real Source of Inspiration

DoubleD
Aug 27
Aug 27

Agnes, what a heart felt and touching story that gives an insight in sharing your own personal experience. Inspirational you have made this your mission to help others, please keep up the good work in making a difference.

Juan Manuel Irigaray

I'm so sorry for your loss. Your story and what you're doing with social media and what you want to do to help other womans is really inspiring.