Kampala — The State Minister for Primary Healthcare, Dr Joyce Moriku, has revealed that unknown people poisoned her, resulting in her hospitalisation in Nairobi, Kenya, for two months.
In an exclusive interview last Thursday, the first-time minister who returned to Uganda on February 8, told this newspaper that toxicological investigations confirmed the presence of arsenic poison in her body.
"I was poisoned using arsenic poison; a heavy metal substance," she said, adding: "When I was first admitted at Mulago National Referral Hospital, the doctors suspected mere food poisoning but eventually, the toxicological investigations done here in Uganda indicated that there were foreign substances in my body."
Additional tests done in South African laboratories yielded similar results, according to doctors familiar with the medical investigations.
According to the World Health Organisation, arsenic is a natural component of the earth's crust that in its inorganic form is highly toxic.
People are exposed to elevated levels of inorganic arsenic through ingestion of contaminated food and water or tobacco, according to the UN health agency.
Dr Moriku, who doubles as the Woman Member of Parliament for Moyo District, narrated that her sickness began on November 8, last year.
It manifested in severe diarrhoea coupled with continuous vomiting, she said.
"I was first admitted at Mulago's Assessment Centre, but I left after three days after showing some signs of recovery," the minister said.
Her admission at the time coincided with the onset of last year's three-week strike by doctors, whose leaders the government publicly rebuked and threatened to arrest and prosecute.
Dr Moriku's condition had around this time worsened, presenting with severe vomiting and excruciating abdominal pains. She was booked this time at the International Hospital Kampala's Intensive Care Unit for nine days.
Dr Odubu, a senior consultant surgeon, had handled the minister's case at Mulago hospital alongside Dr William Worodria, a senior consultant in Internal Medicine, and senior consultant gastroenterologists Poticiano Ocama and Prof Magid Kagimu.
The same team continued to handle the minister at IHK, with support of the team there.
At Platinum Hospital, the minister said despite being put on drips, her bladder remained empty, suggesting a problem with her kidneys.
She underwent several tests, including endoscopy which indicated that some part of the digestive system had an inflammation.
A person who consumes arsenic poison presents with acute symptoms which include diarrhoea, vomiting, and vomiting blood, blood in the urine, cramping muscles, hair loss, stomach pain and convulsions.
Investigations, the minister said, are underway to establish where the poisoning happened.
The minister's husband, Dr Felix Kaducu, who joined mid-way during the interview, revealed that his wife slipped into a coma while still at Platinum Hospital in Wandegeya in Kampala before being transferred to IHK and later airlifted to Aga Khan Hospital on December 7, 2017.
Dr Kaducu said at one time doctors suspected that it was a bacterial infection.
Blood and microbiological test turned out negative for bacterial infection.
A knowledgeable source told this newspaper that Prof Kagimu, who had suffered arsenic poisoning, was the first to suspect the minister was poisoned before toxicological examination confirmed the same.
Currently undergoing physiotherapy, Dr Moriku said she is thankful to God for giving her a second chance in life.
"The clinical diagnosis indicated acute respiratory distress syndrome but several laboratory tests were done. If you look at the results the cause of her condition could not have been an infection, but there were elements of a foreign substance in the body," Dr Kaducu said.
About arsenic poison
According to WHO, arsenic is a natural component of the earth's crust and is widely distributed throughout the environment in the air, water and land. It is highly toxic in its inorganic form. People are exposed to elevated levels of inorganic arsenic through ingestion of contaminated food and water. Diagnosis is by testing the urine, blood, or hair and body organs arsenic poison affects include lungs, skin, kidneys, and liver.