Mulago doctor: How we struggled with Rosemary


Rosemary’s requiem mass


Mulago hospital surgeon, Dr. Paula, yesterday gave a moving account of former NTV news anchor, Rosemary Nankabirwa’s battle against cancer and how doctors fought to save her life.

Dr Paula made the revelations at a requiem mass held at a fully packed Christ the King Church in Kampala.

The mass was also attended by MP Betty Anywar, army spokesperson, Lt Col Paddy Ankunda, and SSP Polly Namaye, the deputy police spokesperson, among others.

The doctor’s tale:

Rosemary was handled by Lifelink upon arrival from the United Kingdom.

They gave me a call on 8th of January 2015 and said this was getting complicated, we think only you can handle.

I saw Rosemary at 5pm on 8th January 2015.


Rhoda (Rosemary’s best friend) speaking


She was in great pain. I asked, how did you move from the terminal to the plane? How did you move from your seat. She said, “I walked.” She was a strong girl.

Clinically I was able to tell she had cushing disease. CT scan showed masses. I scheduled her surgery on 19th January 2015. She did not turn up. I was getting jittery.

On the 20th of January 2015, her mother and brother came in. I explained the gravity of the matter and asked why she was not coming in.

On 21st January she was admitted on 6C. We put 4 units of blood and I briefed my surgical team. Pain management and physiotherapy was done.


On 27th January 2015, I went to her room. I found Rosemary praying with her mother. I led a team of 4 surgeons, 10 anaetheosologists led by Dr. Alupo and Dr. Ssemanda and 2 Nurses led by Nurse Nabukenya.

We found a big golden yellow adrenal mass of (12×9×10) cm . The normal adrenal gland is about 2 centimetres. It was pushing the spleen up, the kidney up and the intestines down.

We found another golden yellow mass in the liver.


Sarah Kagingo (M) was also in attendance


I knew we were headed for problems. Surgery began at 8 am and ended at 2pm. We took her to ICU where she spent 7 days from 21st Jan to 27th January 2015.

I showed the tissue to Mama Rosemary and told her we were sending it to the laboratory and that will educate us and teach us on what to do. We sent tissue to three labs; Mulago medical school, Lancet that sends samples to South Africa and another which works with the U.S.

Investigations found that she had cancer, adrenalcortical carcinoma stage 4, with spread to the Liver and ungs.

I presented the case to our multidisciplinary meeting. It is a cancer that does not respond to treatment. We had consultations with Dr. Walusansa of the cancer institute, agreed she needed palliative care. We gave the first dose of chemotherapy.


People laying wreaths


Initially, she tolerated but later gave way. Adrenal glands had shut down, next was the kidneys and other organs.

For 3 years I saw Rosemary in the media, that was not her face. She had cushing disease.

When I asked her, she said in the United Kingdom “they were treating my backache.”

Our adrenal unit was created in 2003. Was the treatment appropriate? We did our best.

Note: Rosemary who died of cancer on Sunday in the Kenyan capital Nairobi will be buried today, Wednesday at her family’s ancestral home in Masaka.

Article adopted from Ms Sarah Kagingo’s Facebook account. She participated in carwash fundraiser for Rosemary at Serena hotel and attended the requiem mass.


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