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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, hernias, hydroceles, there wasn’t much to differentiate them. And yet…


After changing clothes, getting my loupes and headlight prepared, and setting up the little Bose speaker for the morning’s music, I found Kay and Sandy, Nyana and Anthony and we all began to round on the inpatients. The first room we came to had seven urology patients, all with catheters. Each man in turn was examined, asked how he was doing and then discussed with the team. Nearly all of the catheters were removed and the plan was to monitor their urine output for the day, knowing that the catheters for some of the older, more ill patents would likely need to be replaced.


Sure enough at one pm, as everything was being packed away and supplies were difficult to find, Candace came to tell me that two men urgently needed catheters. They had been drinking copious amounts of water on the veranda yet had no output. They were extremely uncomfortable. So I gathered my things and found Anthony to help translate and replaced the two foleys. Immense relief followed for the men, as can be imagined.


I was disappointed but realistic, knowing that a few patients were farther along. The bladder and prostate problems were long standing and they just weren’t going to succeed without a catheter.


I apologized and explained the situation to the two men. It shouldn’t surprise me anymore- the grace and appreciation- but it still does. One of the men stood up and wanted to pose for a picture. His crooked teeth a defining and memorable feature, making his English difficult to understand. But as he spoke and as I strained to understand, his words began to reach into my soul.


“I want to thank you for your care.”


“Oh, it’s my pleasure. We are here to help you.”


“Yes but you have traveled far and we are so grateful.”


“Thank you. Again we are the ones that are blessed this week.”


“All of us prayed for you this morning. We prayed for your health, for your happiness and for a safe journey home.”


“You did? All of you?” I looked around the room and all eyes were on me and Anthony. And as I looked into their faces they smiled and as they did that quick upward nod, I felt such warmth, such universal connection. We were all one in that moment. I thanked the man and asked him to pray for the rest of the team. All of the people that had given so much to come and help.


It was a rare and holy moment.


And it was the perfect end to a magical week.


Peace and love,