Uganda: I helplessly watched my husband die – Ruth Oryem

Mamos Media

By Edgar R. Batte

Ruth Kavuma- Oryem last spoke to her husband and best friend Richard Rainox Oryem on Thursday January 14. He was on his sickbed and the doctor had just informed them that he was not getting enough food. 

“He was humorous and, he kept joking about anything. He did not want to eat and I told him the doctors were going to have him feed through tubes,” Kavuma recalls.
Ruth and her husband have three children aged eight, six and two years. The memories are still fresh and make her break down.

Oryem lost his battle after a protracted journey that included wrong diagnosis at one of the top hospitals in Kampala. He was given treatment for Covid-19 but later on was discovered to have been struggling with a heart condition. 

He died at the age of 36 years. “He ensured that everybody lived happily irrespective of their status. He never judged anyone. If he did, it was because of my influence,” she eulogises him. 
Ruth was there when her husband took his last breath. “At that moment, my world came to an end. I saw him fight for his life. We had gone through cardiac arrests but he failed to recover from the last one,” she somberly retells.

As she saw her world become dark, she could barely see her world without him. The doctor told her that he had done his best. In that moment, she had seen the medical team do its best.

“I have been with him for 10 years. We made life together. When he died, something came to my mind that it was not only my husband who had died but my best friend,” she recollects.
At the time, she was inconsolable. She could only gather herself a few hours later because she had to be there to offer strength to the children, friends, associates and family. 

If she had to send her husband one message, it would be to appreciate him for living a full life. “It hurts us that he left us. We mostly measure life by material things but that was not him. He didn’t drive his dream car. One Sunday morning, he was living an answered prayer.”

As they cuddled that morning, he told his wife that he was happy to be married to a woman he loves and was so proud of the family they were raising. 
“He hustled, lived a happy life and never complained. He would have Shs50, 000 and lived like a millionaire. He would tell me, ‘Ruthie, come and I take you for lunch, ninamu etaano wano (I have Shs50,000)’ ,” she recounts. 

Their fairy dream
Ruth is an administrator in a company in  Kampala while her husband ran a tours and travel company. The two met at Kyambogo University and both stayed at Good Shepherd Hostel. Whenever Ruth visited her friends, coincidentally Richard came by to say hello or borrow a kettle. One evening she asked about his Friday evening programme.

He would be going for classes, to work, and pass by church; Lugogo Baptist Church before returning to the hostel. She got more curious at the mention of church because she is the daughter of Pastor John and Sarah Kavuma of Bethel Freedom Tabernacle, Namasuba, off Entebbe Road. 
Later, the duo graduated but lost contact for a while.

They met again when Ruth was working at The Surgery. Richard had taken an injured colleague for treatment. After the courtesies, it became their reunion and they exchanged contacts. He introduced her to everyone saying, ‘meet my wife’. 


It did not matter that she always objected, saying they were not wedded. 
“Along the way, I got pregnant and immediately our parents met to pledge our commitment,” she fondly recollects.
The two got married in August 2013.  They had their share of misunderstandings.
For example, when she got pregnant,  they had fights. 

“The elders sat me down saying Richard loved me so deeply and I should not spoil the relationship. At about 25, I had a life ahead of me. I reflected on Richard’s love and he had been consistent for 10 years,” she narrates. Ruth was looking for happiness and she found it with him.

The painful pangs
Waking up on January 10, and seeing her better half complain of fatigue, sent her into a bit of a panic. She rushed him to hospital for a check-up but had to go to work. When she followed up with a phone call, his speech was beginning to slur. Richard said he was shivering but got better then felt bad the next day, and he worsened. 

She checked him into a medical facility in Mukono. His blood pressure had dropped and medics suspected he had Covid-19 and referred him to a bigger facility. 
As the ambulance set off, Richard sat upright and started wailing that his heart was paining. He asked his sister, a nurse, to support his chest. They later discovered that he had a heart attack.
As soon as they arrived at the hospital, they were isolated and  the medics started him on Covid-19 treatment. 

“We lost time and they did not do a CT scan that had been recommended. He groaned all night but there was no doctor close by except a nurse who could not do much.
The next day, the doctor arrived at 10am. Richard was in excruciating pain. The doctor examined him saying he was having a heart attack and kidney issues. 

The physician referred them to the heart institute. They had a bill to clear at the hospital but could not access mobile money because it had been disabled. The couple had cash of Shs300, 000. Richard’s aunt called the hospital administration requesting that they discharge him. 

“Gladly, we were let go and went to Uganda Heart Institute. When we were going to the ambulance, Richard asked to use the washroom and told his brother not to put him in the wheelchair. At the institute, the doctor said Richard was really sick but not in bad shape,” Ruth recalls, adding that they did not think Richard was going to die but “I think the doctors had seen it coming.”

He had insufficient oxygen going to his brain because of low blood pressure. Richard became aggressive. “So they made him dormant. Later on, he asked for water but he asked me to wait. At that time, his eyes flipped and when he opened them, he wore a beautiful smile. He said he was ready to take the water.”
He then asked his wife to call all his brothers so he could talk to them. She obliged. His brother abroad then called on Richard’s phone. 

Then his mother also asked Ruth if she could lend a hand. She told her that it was unnecessary.  She called again and Richard said it was not necessary. He then turned his head, looked at her and told her that she was a good wife. 

“But I responded, I made a vow to stick by him.  I left my sister and my brother in-law watching him and I went to take a nap.”
She wanted to go home to update the children on how dad was doing, and planned  on returning to the hospital in the morning.
As Ruth rested in the car, her sister remained in the lobby doing some work on the laptop. Then she went to Intensive Care Unit (ICU) to check on Richard.  She saw something was not right and told Ruth not to go home.  At about 11pm, she went to sleep because of fatigue.  At 12.30am, her brother knocked on  the car door and told her that the doctor needed to talk to her immediately. The doctor wanted her to consent to shocking him because of the cardiac arrest.

The first cardiac arrest had happened then the second one as they spoke. Before he finished the request, the third one was happening. The nurse came and called her. 
“I went there, and I saw my Richard dying.”


Oryem with his wife and children. Photos | Edgar R Batte

The effect
 Their first born is occasionally withdrawn. “ She was very close to the father and is more understanding. She does not know what to do without her father, none of us has figured out how she will be,” Ruth observes.
For now, the immediate family is supportive. The children play with their cousins and uncles at home, over the weekend.

“Even my friends come and keep us company but for my two-year-old son, I am not sure whether he knows that dad died. I tell them  that dad will never return. They saw his body and witnessed the burial. The rest know that dad is in heaven, but the last born just asks for dad’s pictures,” Ruth adds.

Others say
Chris Tabu, brother of Oryem

From a tender age, Richard was inquisitive, active, compassionate, dreamt big and was a people person. Richard lived a full life! He was always smart and deeply cared for his friends and family. He took pleasure in knowing about people and endeavoured to help and put a smile on the face of all, especially strangers. Richard always called his wife “My Ruthie”.  He loved her, her family, friends and everyone around her so deeply. Together with Ruth, they had three beautiful children who constantly reflect his wit, love, care for people and desire to impact this world. At 36, Richard loved God. Rest in peace my dear model brother, we will forever miss, love and cherish the memories you shared with us.

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