St. Mary’s Lacor Hospital is a full service facility. There are ICU units, burn units, Operating Rooms and hospital wards scattered in multiple buildings organized around a central courtyard with Bougainvillea trees in full purple bloom. Under these trees on the hard packed red dirt are the caretakers of the patients who are currently in the hospital. In US hospitals, nurses typically do the lion’s share of the care. In Uganda, the nurses primarily dispense medication and attend to more critical patient needs such as dressing changes and wound care. There is not a central kitchen
cooking up food based on a patient’s dietary requirements. The caretakers do the rest. They are parents, children, aunts, uncles and various assorted family members who attend the other needs of the patients. They keep the patient clean, help them to the restroom and bring them food and drinks. These caretakers live in the courtyard while their relatives are in the hospital. They caretakers take up residence and move their household to this 1 acre plot of dirt. They prepare meals, look after the other members of their family and wash their laundry at a central location. They are there rain or shine. Rain, for better or worse, is at a premium here in Uganda. It is collected everywhere in cisterns and tanks of all shapes and sizes.
In the remote clinics, the numbers game is played to perfection. Lyn Shaw and David Dvorak are the Queen of numbers and the King of crowd control. David’s sole responsibility is to keep the masses in line, but he also participated in a marathon game of soccer in the tall grass in front of the clinic. The people begin lining up early in the morning to be assessed by our clinic docs; Jane Jenab, David Dickerson and Don Hodson. The patients are triaged by Lori Stromness, George Harbeson and Jason Jonas.
They take vitals and refer the patients to the doctors who diagnosis and treat in an environment that is less than hospitable. The temps outside are in the 90s and the temps inside the exam rooms usually exceed 80. It is just after 1:30 pm and they have seen 95 patients. Another 200 wait under tents, but not everyone gets a number if they don’t appear early enough in the day. The clinic will stop screening patients at 5:00 in the hopes of finishing the day before darkness sets in at 7:30. Everyone who comes through the clinic gets vitamins and many receive medications that will cure their conditions and in malaria cases, save their lives. There is an extreme outbreak of Malaria in this region according to the WHO and our doctors have treated a number of babies extremely ill with Malaria. They arrive on foot, in vans and via motorbikes which are everywhere. There are little (if any) traffic laws in Uganda. They drive on the left side of the road and motorbikes weave in and out with reckless abandon carrying a driver and sometimes 3-4 passengers if you include the babies slung to the backs of their mamas. It is starting and funny at the same time to see a baby peeking out at you from his mom’s sling as they cruise along on a motorcycle.
Glenda Arganbright, Monica Reinert and Erin Langley lead the art team here in Uganda. Every Medical Mission has an art component to it in keeping with our founder’s mission that medicine is not just healing the body, it is healing the soul and the spirit as well. Today, the art team has helped kids of all ages to make 100+ paper pinwheels and beaded bracelets. The kids colored pics of their homes and family. The team also gave away balloons, stickers, jewelry, toys and candy. They help to calm the kids who wait patiently and give respite to the moms and dads who wait in the hot sun.