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 place in the country that can help him.
- Street children with various infections and diseases, who worry their medication will be stolen.
- Children who could be helped but there is no more room on the surgery schedule.
As a “layperson”, I’m allowed to be emotional rather than clinical. But even the medical folks get disappointed. “We are here for a short period of time with a limited amount of resources,” said Dr. Mark Hechler, a surgeon. “It’s frustrating when you know you could take care of someone but you can’t finish because they can’t get the care they need afterwards.”
Unfortunately, that’s the reality in Northern Uganda. There is desperate need but not nearly enough resources. Sometimes people don’t get the help they need or deserve. It’s so difficult for me to wrap my head around it.
But the frustration doesn’t mean we give up.
“There are some people you can’t help,” said Hechler. “But there are a whole lot of people you can help and you keep focusing on them.”
Hechler has been working out of a poor and understaffed public hospital. Electricity comes and goes, equipment is lacking, or simply breaks down.
But nobody is giving up. “We’ve traveled this far, I want to do as much good as I can. Everyone on this team feels the same way. We all work together.”
Hechler says there is always a patient or a case that brightens the roughest days: today, he was able to help a baby with a benign tumor that was destroying the child’s nose.
I’m inspired by the people who take their own vacation time and pay their way to come here, even though it’s impossible to accomplish everything they’d like.
“We just keep showing up,” Hechler said. “You find a way to do some good.”