Friday, February 15, 2013

Uganda part II

Wifi is tricky here so had to publish the last entry without finishing it. Obviously it's been more than 5 days here! One week now and we are closing in on finishing.  After driving through Jinja we had lunch at a small restaurant where monkeys were playing in the trees. So crazy to be surrounded by this.  We then head to the source of the Nile River.  The Nile is fairly tame ( at least the part we saw) because the built a dam for electricity a few years ago.  The has hurt the areas tourism for white water rafting the class 5 rapids that used to be here.  After our sightseeing I was very anxious to get to the hospital to take care of some patients.  Unfortunately the air conditioning had broken in the operating room so they were not able to complete surgeries that day.  We were all so disappointed. When the one thing that we came to do here didn't happen it was very disheartening.

About the hospital... It's Mulago Hosptial and is huge.  Almost 2000 beds - compared to UVA's 600 beds.  Although the general floor has 10 beds or so in a large open ward, so the square footage may not be so different.  The group that I am with has been coming for many years.  The cardiologist that heads the group is amazing.  He has had a vision not just to come repair hearts but to build the heart center's program so that they can do it on their own.  The Hospital recently built a new OR and cath lab.  They are doing caths on their own and some simple heart repairs. Our doctors are here teaching more complex cases as well las screening patients for future surgeries or the possibility of coming to the US to have their surgery done.  As nurses we are teaching the Ugandan nursing e about heart defects, taking care of post op patients, etc.  Some of the Ugandan nurses have even traveled out of country for further schooling and have come so far in their ability to take care of heart patients.

The families are so grateful to receive free surgeries for their children.  As with most developing countries there is no health insurance.  When a patient is in the hospital it's basically pay as you go. We took over care of a baby who had been here for a month. Prior to being in our care the nurses would tell the mom how much it would cost and was she able to pay? So hard to imagine. If you don't have the money you don't get the care. Period. Your child doesn't get the care. Period. As screwed up as the health insurance system is in the states at least you know that if you get hit by a car you can go to the hospital and they cannot refuse to help you. The Ugandan people are generally soft spoken and kind. Despite the chaos on the roads and the multitude of beeping horns it seems more "Hey, watch out so you don't get hit or hit me" vs the US version of "get our of my e'ffin way you bleep bleep bleep!" I've not seen any patients in the waiting room outraged at the waiting. Nobody screaming or yelling into their cell phones. There is no "keeping up with the Jones's". It has felt very refreshing. We are on our last day of surgery. We haven't done as many cases as they had hoped, but for those mama's whose children we did operate on, we have saved their world. I am so humbled and grateful to be a part of this process.

Uganda part I

I can't believe that I have been in Uganda for 5 days now. My time is almost halfway done. Every few hours I have to pinch myself and say " I am in Africa". I feel blessed beyond belief that I am so lucky to have this opportunity.  I went to Peru for a medical mission back in 1999 and said then that it is something that I would have to do again. I didn't think it would take me 14 years, but I guess I've been a little busy!

This is such a beautiful country and the people are very friendly. I can definitely feel the British influence especially at their insistence for taking tea regardless of what is going on around them! We spent about 7 hours setting up on Saturday. By far the best part was playing with the kids while they waited to have their ECHOs done. Smiling for the camera and saying "cheese!" is universal language! We went to a couple of the markets.  They make such beautiful things and are so grateful for purchases.  I haven't let them down there! On Sunday we had a conference with our team and the Ugandan team to look at the patients that we intend to do procedures. More market shopping and a swim in the pool. There is such a great group of people here from the US. Most have been here before and are quite fun to hang with.

Monday was our first day in the hospital. I was going in late and spending the morning touring the countryside.  Feeling way too much like this was a vacation instead of a medical mission.  We drove to Jinja.  Actually someone drove us.  Driving style here is as crazy as in China but with a lot less people.  We rented 4-wheelers to drive out to see the Nile. We drove through the beautiful countryside but basically through a bunch of "villages". Children were running out of their mud huts, some had brick homes.  They would come out yelling, waving, wanting their picture taken.  It was interesting that the area around their huts were completely manicured.  The dirt perfectly tamped down, no trash. We saw women cutting the grass with machetes. Despite such limited means they seemed to take pride in their surroundings. So different than in the US. We stopped in front of one house that had this beautiful flowering tree.  These children came out and took flowered from the tree and gave them to us. It was such a beautiful gesture.  I just felt so... American.  Here I was, riding a  4wheeler right past their homes. What I paid for the hour I could have clothed and fed many of these Children.  It felt so ridiculously extravagant and frivolous. I just wanted to hand over all of my money to these kids.... Just to give them anything I had.  On the other hand, if I wasn't American there is a pretty good chance that I wouldn't have the means to even be here helping kids.  And that is what I needed to do.  I felt that I had to go to the hospital NOW to do what I came to do in Uganda.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Moose with a muffin... mom with a mission

This is what my kitchen table looks like right now.  Paper chains for each of the girls to countdown the days until I come home, organizing Sierra's school work for the next week'ish, papers to come with me, papers to say home.  Oh, yeah, and knitting.  Because I decided that now is the perfect time to learn to knit.  Duh!  

I feel a bit like I did before we went to China.  I feel like a squirrel on crack.  Or a moose with a muffin.  Depending on what room I'm in or what bag I open, I'm reminded of something else that I need to do or to pack, someone else that I need to call or get something from or take something to.  Before tomorrow.  Before 10am tomorrow.  Oye.

I've spend the majority of the last week preparing things to make sure the kids are set before I leave.  Schedules to all of the wonderful people who will be taking care of them, phone numbers of all possible sitters/back-up care for Brad, Valentine's Day stuff, etc, etc, etc.  I've been trying to compensate for the guilt that I feel about leaving my family for 11 days.  Ridiculous, I know.  It's not like I'm going to a spa for a week (although how A-W-E-S-O-M-E would that be?!).  It's a medical mission for crying out loud!  I've been struggling with this since I was invited to go to Uganda a month ago.  Taking so much time away from my family to do something that I want to do.  Oh, the mommy-guilt!  Today, though, a friend gave me a send of note.  She wrote:

mis-sion-ary (noun)
someone who leave their family for a short time
so that others may be with their families for eternity

It brought me back and helped me feel centered about the journey ahead.  I am so lucky and honored to help these children who wouldn't have this chance to have heart surgeries without this group.  How can I feel guilty about that?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Tucking Cadence in

When we were waiting to go to China and bring Cadence home I put together a care package for her.  My mom sewed a small lovey to send and we made a larger blanket to have at home when Cadence got there.  I wanted her to see something familiar when she saw her bed for the first time.  When we met Cadence the orphanage workers returned the disposable camera as well as the photo album that we included in the care package.  I don't know if Cadence ever saw any of the other items that we put in there.  I do know that she didn't display a particular fondness for the blanket that my mom and I made.  Actually, when Cadence came home from China she didn't care for any blankets except for the one that she chewed on.  She refused to be covered by anything when she slept... for two years!  I know that some orphanages don't have much (or any) heat.  In order to make sure that the children stay warm they would sometimes dress them in four or five layers.  I'm thinking that she may have never slept covered with a blanket or sheet.  We have always doubled up her pajamas in hopes that she'd stay warm enough.  Finally, though, Cadence has let us cover her with a blanket at night.  Don't we always want to know that our children are cozy and tucked in?  A couple of weeks ago I dug out the blanket that my mom and I made for her.  She loves it!  She excitedly talks about how I made it when she was in China and waited for her to use it when she came home!  Almost three years ago I held the blanket in my hands anticipating tucking her in with it... I just didn't know that I'd have to wait two and half years.  Better late than never!