Uganda 2017 – Feels the Same

Sunday night in Gulu, Uganda. The room in the surgical ward at Lacor hospital is small and stuffy. There's just enough space for a bed against each wall, two metal chairs and a small desk. The metal shuttered window against the south wall lets in mosquitoes but no air movement. My white shirt is sticking to me as we screen patient after patient. One of our team members takes vitals, another fills out forms and organizes the surgery schedule and a local intern and the patient's attendant help with translation. This means that there are six people in the room at a time, all ...

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Uganda 2017 – A Chance At Life

The wailing of babies filled the hospital pre-op area, but it was a good thing.   Medical Missions Foundation was giving some of most fragile little people in Gulu, Uganda a tremendous gift: a fighting chance to live.   The team performed surgeries on 20 babies during their 5 days in Gulu for a variety of health problems, including lesions, burns, congenital anomalies and urological issues. Four of the babies weighed less than 6.5 pounds.   Baby Emmy captured the hearts of the entire team.  At two weeks old he was a tiny 4.6 pounds and had ...

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Uganda 2017 – Now What

Well, we're home, now what? All of my built-in friends are gone. When I wake up in the morning there's no one to talk to. There's no one at coffee that I can sit with and simply watch the changing colors of the sunrise. There are no smiling children on the streets to wave at on the way to work.   There's no one who needs me between surgeries. No one grabbing me to go screen a patient. It's very quiet here today as I sit and wait for the next one to start. I can talk to the family, dictate, greet the next patient and still have too much time to think.  ...

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Uganda 2017 – We Are One

And then sometimes something unexpected happens. It was Friday morning. With only four short surgeries on the schedule, the end had nearly arrived. Truly it had been a fairly uneventful week in my room. Busy but rewarding, difficult and yet always unique, we hadn’t had any major disasters or difficult cases. We were a well-oiled machine, but as strange as it sounds I was melancholy about it all.   I wasn’t even sure we were making a difference. I hadn’t really bonded with any of the patients. Most of the surgeries blended together. Prostate surgery, ...

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Uganda 2017 – Finding The Bond

When the buses pulled in to the Cwero clinic at 9 o’clock, the clinic site was already packed with people, some had been there since 2:00 in the morning.   Among the hundreds waiting for a chance to be seen by the medical team, a young woman struck up a conversation in perfect English.   Her name is Juliet. She’s 25 years old and the mother of 2 beautiful children: 4-year old Matilda and 2-year old Mitch Lawrence.   Her life has not been easy by any measure. Her mother and father died of HIV when she was 18 years old, “little by ...

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Uganda 2017 – Nobody Said It Would Be Easy

Seasoned Medical Missions Foundation volunteers will tell you this work isn’t all butterflies and rainbows.   It can be grueling work. And heartbreaking as well. Today I visited all the locations where we are working.   And I felt the frustration myself.   One woman who has a massive growth on her jaw can’t have it removed because the local hospital doesn’t have proper aftercare to help her survive. A one week old baby born with a congenital malformation that couldn’t be corrected by our team. In fact, there’s probably no ...

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Uganda 2017 – Dream Big

On Wednesday there were fewer patients to screen and my surgery schedule was nearly full. Kate, Lisa, and Marlene had turnover down to less than fifteen minutes. Wake up the patient, wash the instruments, bring the next patient in and put him to sleep, position his legs in the stirrups… it was truly remarkable. Because of the efficiency we had just enough time to squeeze in a field trip.   At three o’clock, Carla, Candace, and the people from my room met at the bottom of the stairs and piled into the tiny car that Corey had borrowed to drive us to the Gulu ...

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Uganda 2017 – It’s the Love that Fuels Us

It was before six and only Jeremy, Katharine and I were at the long, golden cloth covered tables in the hotel courtyard. Jolly Joe was already proudly making coffee with his new bright red espresso machine and I was watching the sky lighten and change, the beautiful cool morning offset the urge to catch a few more minutes of sleep.   An hour later the entire team had eaten and most were loaded onto buses heading for clinics and the two hospitals. A short ride later through town and then onto the newly paved Jura road that runs between the port at Kenya and up ...

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Uganda 2017 – Hearts Are In Two Places

I’m often asked why I support international aid efforts when we have need at home in the United States.   Given the fact I’m in a group of nearly 80 medical volunteers in Uganda as hurricane recovery efforts in Houston and Florida are underway, I’ll likely be asked that question again.   My answer will include a story about a little boy named Jeffrey.   His mom walked more than an hour with the 2 year old in her arms to a remote clinic staffed by the Medical Missions team. Little Jeffrey fell into a fire while his mother, Grace, was ...

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Uganda 2017 – Lean On Me

Monday is the most chaotic day. We finish setting up the operating rooms and somehow, magically, begin our first case by nine. Every year is different and the night prior all I had seen were elderly men with catheters who needed prostate surgery. So Monday we had eleven TURPs and one hydrocele scheduled.   Years ago I worked out how to have safe and effective irrigation for prostate surgery. It had to be isotonic, conduct electricity and be easy to carry. Of the choices, glycine requires the least volume by weight, so one 450 gram bottle will make thirty liters ...

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