Uganda Love This

Amy Scheel

“Home” sweet “home”

“Welcome to Entebbe” is announced over the intercom as I awake from my jetlagged induced sleep. I take a deep breath, exhale, and look over at Alyssa who, in her unplanned yet matching sweatshirt, does the same thing mentally preparing for the weeks ahead. Don’t get me wrong-we are both excited to be here. After working in Uganda for an extended period of time however, we both know what challenges life in Uganda can bring, and fortunately (at least in my opinion) don’t possess the same naïvety as the 20+ missionaries sitting behind us in matching t-shirts ready to engage in a life changing week of orphanage tourism…. Silently we smile at each other as if acknowledging the flicker of doubt the other just experienced, gather our things and disembark the plane.  

As far as Ugandan arrivals go, ours went seamlessly. We were 2 of the first people off the plane, through immigration in 10 minutes, found ALL of our bags in a timely manner, weren’t required to unpack and explain the contents of our bags, and our driver was on time. I’ve flown into Uganda more than 10 times and can honestly say that this has only happened once before.

Nicolas greets me with a “Hello Doctor Emy” even though we’ve had multiple conversations about how this is currently far from the truth. We cover our usual conversation topics “How is Trump?”, “When is George Bush coming back?”, the current political situation in Uganda and his all-time favorite; the weather. Before long, we are greeted by John at the Case House and have a delectable dinner of his famous popcorn.

I wake up at 6 after what feels like 30 minutes of sleep to prepare final notes for my meeting with ITW and start to wonder how I will get to said meeting, as it is over 20 minutes away. I go out on a limb and call James, a driver I have not used in over a year. He pulls into the driveway about 30 minutes later, greets me with the biggest hug, and just like that we are driving down the road blaring “Single Ladies” by Beyoncé.

At the ITW office I had the pleasure of meeting with Allan, Collins, Henrietor and Olivia to discuss the wrap-up of the pregnancy project. It’s hard to believe that it has been TWO years since the initial training for the project began and that the project will be completely finished in a few short months.

On Friday I went to UHI to meet with Isaac about the upcoming community project and was easily reminded of one of the reasons I love being here so much-everyone is so friendly! Alyssa and I waited in the hallway for the M&E to finish and were greeted by old friends from finance, IT and cath. We even had the opportunity to say hi to Twalib through the Cath lab doors as he prepared for his second case of the day, Hokie scrub cap in tow!

 Following our Friday afternoon meetings, we packed the car and headed “home” to Gulu. On Saturday morning we held the July Support Group and it was the breath of fresh air we both needed. I love the kiddos in this group more than I can possibly express and we always have such a fun time together. While the group is about the children being together and building relationships with one another, we still like to have a central lesson that the group revolves around. This group’s theme was “what I want to be when I grow up” and the responses were amusing to say the least. Alyssa created a power point of common occupations and had the kids raise their hands for what they wanted to be. Afterwards they all drew a picture of themselves at their future jobs and presented to the class. We had a mix of engineers, policemen and nurses. I couldn’t help but laugh at the intricate drawing of Obama one of the children drew titled “I want to be ruler of the world”. Phillip held up a white piece of paper that said in perfect English “I want to be president but can’t draw that.” Sounds like something I would have done when I was younger.

Patricia wants to be a doctor when she grows up (and a policewoman and president..) Dream  big!

Patricia wants to be a doctor when she grows up (and a policewoman and president..) Dream big!

All in all, it was a productive few days and I can’t wait to dive into the work week tomorrow. More to come.

Never a dull moment

Never a dull moment

Gulu Sunsets never disappoint

Gulu Sunsets never disappoint

A Roller Coaster Ride

I’ve heard the words before. “One of the kids collapsed after their injection.” I hoped for the best but prepared for the worst. I dropped everything in my hands and trailed behind Twalib as he sprinted to the room next door. There we found one of our RHD kids on the bed, unresponsive. I ran towards the kit that we had prepared last year after a similar event. Rose began pushing drugs, adrenaline, atropine-anything to get his heart to start again. Twalib began oxygen as I started chest compressions, thankful for my CPR certification. That may however, have been the only thing I was grateful for that day. At 12:30pm, 25 minutes after initiating CPR, Robin was pronounced dead.

 

I looked around the room at Jenipher, Rose, Twalib and Alyssa, the people I am lucky to call my family in Uganda, and couldn’t help but feel a wave of emotion at the pure look of defeat and exhaustion as everyone sat on the floor, dripping in sweat. Why was this happening again? No one did anything wrong. He received the same treatment that he had been receiving for the last 8 months. To make matter worse, Robin had traveled to the clinic by himself that day and none of the 3 phone numbers we had for him were going through. Thus we began the 3-hour search to locate his family in a village over an hour away from Gulu. We can hypothesize all we want about the cause of death but we will never be 100% certain about what happened, which makes everything worse. What I do know is that the amazing care that Twalib and our nurses gave him for the 8 months he was with us allowed him to live a stable and comfortable life for the remaining months of his devastatingly short 16 years of life.

 

At 6pm, his entire family showed up to clinic to retrieve his body and take him to the village for a proper burial. There is no way to describe the scene of a mother collapsing on the ground as she hears about the death of her child, although I’m sure those of you that work in the medical field have experienced this too many times yourselves. While I sit here and hope that I never have to go through that again, as I continue to pursue a (momentarily delayed) career in the medical field, I realize that this may be inevitable. Something about RHD being a preventable disease though continues to make this sting more. While a little broken, our team will continue the fight against RHD, remembering Robin, Jennifer, Regan and all of the other children who have lost their lives to this cruel disease, in the hopes that we can prevent this outcome for another child.

 

I have been meaning to write about the wildly productive trip that I had with Craig as we visited the ITW sites, screened 10’s of kids in Gulu for congenital heart defects and RHD, and officially launched the training phase of the Lira project but Robin was the only thing that I kept coming back to as I searched for what I wanted to say. Pictures will have to do.

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Samaritan’s Purse team in Gulu

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Echo training in Lira

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Always a good day when Opio comes to visit

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Chris, Ben, Alyssa and I on Lake Mburo!

Over the last week, we have been continuing the follow up process for all of the children with RHD that are in care at the clinic as most of them are due for follow up. In addition, last weekend we held support group #7, which was my last group before heading home. I could continue the “gloomy theme” of this blog post by saying that it was sad to attend my last support group (for now) but to be honest it was so much fun that there was no time for that! In the spirit of the Olympics we held an Olympic themed support group and it was by far my favorite one to date. We split the kids into 4 teams and had them compete in a series of events including a water balloon toss, handball and RHD trivia. If you want to see pure happiness just give a child a water balloon and tell them they get to throw it at their friend-I promise your instructions will be received with the biggest ear to ear smile. At the end of the “games” each child received a homemade Olympic medal- I promise it was just coincidence that team USA walked home with the gold while team Uganda came in 4th….Very excited to see what Alyssa will do with the group over the next year and can’t wait to be able to attend a group in the future!

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balloon toss!

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team uganda spelling ” rheumatic heart disease”

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Teams Uganda, China, Brazil and USA

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Fingers crossed that next time I see this one he’ll have a brand new Mitral Valve.

 

I simply can’t wrap my head around the fact that I will be leaving Uganda in 2 weeks and to be honest it probably won’t hit me until I get back. Until then I will continue to enjoy the crazy ups and downs that encompass this experience and cherish my last days here. See you soon, America.

Mount Kilimanjaro

 

There’s something so primordial about seeing something tall, not knowing what’s at the top and needing to see for yourself. Sure I could get on Google images but when the alternative is hiking in a low oxygen environment and getting so sunburned that your entire face peels off, who wouldn’t choose the latter?! On June 27th I started my Kilimanjaro adventure and it was hands down my most memorable travel experience to date. So memorable in fact that I must have briefly forgotten my blog existed…let’s go ahead and blame the altitude.

Now I wouldn’t say that I was a trekking company’s ideal hiker as I arrived at 10pm the night before the hike, sleep deprived, needing to rent basically every piece of equipment and coming off a 4-day fight with a parasite for which I definitely lost. I guess it’s karma since I told Alyssa that getting sick in your first month is a rite of passage…..guess who has been illness free the entire time she’s been here? Yea, not me.

I would like to take credit for choosing Trek2Kili, our amazing tour company and the breathtakingly beautiful Machame route for our journey, but I have to give Lisa all the credit. She did all of the research and I just tagged along. Azizi, the company owner said he’s never had anyone who joined a trek so last minute….nothing like a little spontaneity right? It’s not like it’s hard or anything…..

Lisa and I set off on the first morning from the Machame gate with our guide Goodlove (no I’m not making that up) and our two group mates Jeff and Chen. We chose the 6-day route instead of the 7 or 8 day routes because we wanted to see how hard we could push ourselves. Totally kidding-it was cheaper.

I don’t think I can accurately describe in words how amazing every aspect of my experience was but I will do my best (with the help of some pictures of course). I think my favorite part about hiking Kilimanjaro was that every day you ended up at a camp with a stunning view of the mountain on one side and the clouds beneath you on the other. As cliché as it may sound, it truly was about the entire journey, not just the summit day. Something about being outside all day, surrounded by nature, having no communication with the rest of the world, and being so exhausted that you fall asleep the second you hit the “pillow” (also known as a sweatshirt) is so wildly refreshing.

Day 1-Machame Gate to Machame Camp (9,400ft), 11km

On day one we stayed together and enjoyed a slow pace as we made our way through the rainforest. As we approached Machame Camp we got our first view of the peak as we rose above the clouds.

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The whole Trek2Kili crew the morning we set off

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Chen, me, Jeff and Lisa at Machame Gate

 

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Arriving at Machame Camp, Day 1

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Our first clear view of the summit

Day 2-Machame Camp to Shira Camp (12,500 ft). 5 km

While 5km may not seem like a lot, this day was straight up hill and we could all definitely “feel the burn” when we made it to the top. Jeff and I ended up hiking this day together as we hiked around the same pace-a trend that continued for the remainder of the trip. Shira Camp was hands down my favorite camp from the entire trek and when you see the pictures you can see why!

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Thankful that I met such a great friend on the mountain!

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Breathtaking views at Shira Camp

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Day 3– Shira Camp to Baranco Camp (13,000 ft) 10km

On day 3 we hiked up to the “Lava Tower” at 15,000 feet and then descended back down to Baranco camp at 13,000ft. This day is when they see who is handling the altitude change. This camp was definitely one of the coldest as it was tucked into the mountain and didn’t receive much sunlight.

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On the top of Lava Tower

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Arriving at the Lava Tower

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View from Barranco Camp

Day 4– Baranco Camp to Barafu Camp (15,000 ft) 9km

On day 4 we hiked for about 7 hours, including scaling the infamous “ Baranco wall”. There was a big push for us to get to camp as quickly as we could (without overdoing it) because we were to start ascending to the summit at midnight!

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Scaling Baranco wall!

Scaling Baranco wall!

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Goodlove and I taking in our first good view of the Barafu

 

Day 5– Barafu Camp to Summit Peak to Mweka Camp (19, 345 ft), 17km

At 12:30am Jeff, Goodlove and I started our ascent to Uhuru peak, the highest point on Kilimanjaro. Unfortunately Lisa was extremely ill and was unable to summit. For those of you with medical background knowledge her resting heart rate was 140bpm and her sats were 75%…..definitely would have been a bad idea to continue on.

I’ve heard people say that summit day is more of a mental challenge than a physical one but I didn’t believe it until I experienced it myself. When we started our trip up all I could think about was how cold I was. As we climbed over the first ridge, we looked up to see headlamps for as long as the eye could see-so high that I kept thinking “that will never be us”. I began to confuse stars for headlamps as I stared at the seemingly impossible feat in front of me. I followed Goodlove as Jeff, beginning to feel the effects of the increasing altitude trailed a few steps behind me. I will never forget when I turned around and asked him if he needed a break and the only thing he could find the strength to say was “words”. I took that as a yes. After 5 hours of hiking we had reached Stella’s point, where we found fellow hikers laying on the ground connected to oxygen tanks. Our other guide, Hussein had started 2 hours earlier with Chen and brought the only oxygen cylinder with him. When I asked what would happen if Jeff and I needed oxygen he replied “make sure you don’t.” Comforting.

 

45 minutes after reaching Stella’s point we arrived at Uhuru peak, the highest point on Mount Kilimanjaro, just in time for sunrise. There is no way for me to describe the overwhelming feeling of accomplishment that left me so fulfilled as I stepped up to take my photo with the infamous Uhuru peak sign. We were fortunate enough to summit on a sunny and clear day, which allowed us to stay at the top for 30 minutes before descending down the mountain. With glaciers on one side and the sun rising behind Mwahenzi, it was the most spectacular sight I have ever seen.

All smiles at the top

All smiles at the top!

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Thankful for these fools

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I was clearly naïve thinking that coming down from the mountain would be easier than going up. I basically ran down from the peak upon descent because I was so ready to give my legs (and lungs) a break. I remember getting back to camp and being so exhausted that I actually failed to open my tent and fell asleep outside of it. 30 minutes later I heard a big thud, looked up and saw Jeff had done the exact same thing, executed equally as graceless. We knew we had 1 hour to rest before they would be waking us up to continue 4 miles down the mountain to our next camp. When I woke up I remember thinking “there is no way I can do this”. Everything hurt and all I could think about was sleep. The boots I had rented had torn my feet up so bad that I had blisters that covered both of my heels. If anyone has read or seen “Wild” I felt like Cheryl when she gets so frustrated with her boots that she chucks them off the mountain, although I did exhibit a little more self-control. Continuing the Kilimanjaro “mental game” we packed up our stuff and trekked onward. With every step down I could feel my lungs cheer as they filled with fresh, oxygen saturated air-the polar opposite of my aching feet as they reminded me of the harsh, yet rewarding expedition they had taken me on, with each throbbing step.

 

When we arrived at Mweka camp I gave Lisa the biggest hug, happy that she was safe and feeling much better after coming down a few thousand feet. We shared stories, laughed over our final tent dinner and fell asleep around 8pm, excited to wake up the next morning and finish the remaining portion of our journey. I think the conversation topics for the 4-hour trip down the mountain that morning alternated between how great a shower would feel and how good a cold beer was going to taste. A few short hours later we experienced both and I must say it was a magical encounter. 

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The entire crew on our last morning!

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Leaving the park

I still haven’t grasped my Kilimanjaro experience in its entirety and while I have shared parts of it here, this is just a small glimpse of my time on the mountain. I have never felt more alive than I did while hiking Kilimanjaro and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat (if my wallet allowed). I consider myself the luckiest girl in the world to have had this experience and to have been able to share it with so many amazing friends, new and old. For anyone that loves the outdoors and a good physical challenge then I recommend this without hesitation!

 

As they say on the mountain:

Wageni, mwakaribishwa, Kilimanjaro, hakuna matata!

 

 

 

Go with the flow

Hey everyone-

I promised I would be back! My time home was very refreshing and I’m so happy I was able to be there for my brother’s big day. Still a little confused about the “compassion” award he won, as I don’t think threatening to leave me during carpool or attempting to drown me in the pool when I was younger classifies as that, but nonetheless I couldn’t be more proud (or happy that he didn’t choose OB/GYN).

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Because there aren’t enough Dr. Scheels in the family…

My trip back to Uganda was a little different this time as it was the first time I wasn’t traveling alone. Alyssa has officially joined our Ugandan team and traveled back with me for her first African experience. Super excited about our adventure, we decided to have a celebratory dinner in the airport and lazily strolled to the line boarding the plane. They then told Alyssa that her ticket had been cancelled and that there was no chance of her getting on the plane….After a long chat with her travel agent and KLM having to call headquarters to “re-open” the flight, we were on our way (and next to each other to boot). Never a dull moment…..and possibly some foreshadowing of how the next few weeks would pan out…

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“Please let me on this flight”

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Exhausted by all the excitement

After 24 hours we finally arrived in Uganda (2 hours late since someone mysteriously didn’t get off the plane in Rwanda) but Alyssa’s luggage however, did not. While a bit premature, I’m pretty sure that was the moment I knew she would be okay in Uganda. “The plane is super delayed? Who cares” “My luggage was lost? Can I borrow some shampoo?” You have to learn to go with the flow in Uganda for NOTHING ever goes as planned and right now I can say she is passing with flying colors.

Upon our arrival to Kampala we met up with a large crew from Gulu to celebrate Grace’s birthday before heading to Jinja. Alyssa and I decided to go rafting on the Nile on Friday since most of the group had already gone. While I think almost drowning your new coworker in the Nile might be considered hazing…we had an absolute blast and the group of people in our raft couldn’t have been any more enterntaining. We were both too cheap to buy the extremely overpriced photos but I can paint you a nice picture- Alyssa, me, 2 older men that could barely swim, and our new friends JiWon and Nick, all falling out of the boat with mouthfuls of water….multiple times….We spent the entire day on the water before heading to Nile River Camp to meet up with the 18 person crew that we had from Gulu.

We spent the weekend relaxing at the pool, enjoying each other’s company and eating some great food. About half of the people that came to Jinja left or are leaving this month so it was one final time for us all to be together. I’ve spent the last year with these people, experiencing with them all the good (and bad) that Gulu and Uganda has to offer. I’m very sad to see most of them go but I’m so fortunate for the many amazing memories and friendships I have formed…. and the free places to stay all over the world. I’ve said it over and over again but this experience wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for the inspiring and supportive volunteer community in Gulu.

Going to miss these goons

Going to miss these goons

After Jinja we headed back to Gulu in what ended up being a 10-hour car ride. We arrived in the dark so Alyssa didn’t get to truly experience all of the beautiful scenes on the way up North. She finally met her puppy Zazu and experienced her first night in the Gulu heat. The next day we headed to the hospital and I couldn’t have been more excited to see my nurses smiling faces. They truly have become family to me over the last year and going to clinic is such a comforting feeling. I was, however, quickly reminded that life here has continued without me and the many lapses in healthcare are still ever present. As I caught up with the nurses they were joking how the hospital cleaning lady was mad that our patients drop crumbs outside our clinic while they eat waiting to be seen. I joked by saying “ah its probably Lakica, she gets more on the ground than she gets in her mouth”. All of sudden Rose just looked at her feet and with tears in her eyes she informed me that Lakica had passed away while I was at home. She had a tet spell on a public bus and was not able to reach help in time. I spent time at home advocating for Lakica’s surgery and genuinely believe that she would have been operated on in the coming year. I’ve strongly advocated for 3 patients while I’ve been in Gulu and wasn’t fast enough to save 2 of the 3. This one hurt, a lot; but serves as a reminder for how we need to keep trying. We’ll get it right.

Rest easy sweet girl

Rest easy sweet girl

My first day back in clinic with Twalib and Alyssa’s first day seeing patients was eventful to say the least. The first patient laid on the bed, starting seizing and then began expelling “fluids” from every orifice of his body. He finally made it to the lawn where he began seizing again. We had to carry him to the ward because no other health professionals could be found. Like I said, Alyssa just went with it and had both his arms in her hands. After we had him stabilized we returned to the clinic to attend to the 38 patients that had lined up to see Twalib. As we began the echo of the first patient, our trusty echo machine died on us. Sure it could have broken in May so Andrea or my mom could have brought a new one, or while I was home so I could bring a replacement but nope- the very first day I’m back. We then started using Vscans (handheld echos) but the quality/effectiveness for anyone that is not RHD is not very good. This will unfortunately be our practice until we get a replacement in July.

On Saturday I held the 6th and final support group (for the research pilot) and was thrilled to see how many of the kids came out for the final one (and how many had come to every single one). I’m still working on the data but for the most part it seems very positive. While I’ve been apart of multiple amazing projects while I’ve been here, this is the first project that has truly been in my hands, allowing me to use some creativity as I designed the plan for each session. I’m so happy that my hard work seems to have paid off for the kids were begging us to continue the groups and I have been able to see a lot of friendships within the group grow. In a country where feelings are considered taboo, I’m glad these children are able to support each other as they face the many challenges associated with a positive diagnosis. We even made them a video of pictures and clips from the support group, which had them all laughing, and smiling (especially at the photos of Twalib dancing). I’m super excited to be able to continue the groups, especially with Alyssa’s help and next time I’ll know I need to bring a first aid kit…but I won’t go into the details of that little misfortune.

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Heart healthy fun

On Sunday night, my roommates and I were curled up on the couch catching up on the Bachelorette (yes, it’s possible to stream trashy TV in Uganda) when we started hearing what at first, sounded like fireworks. It was in fact gunfire and it continued for roughly 25 minutes. My house is a mile away from where it started but it felt so much closer. Long story short a “group” (also termed thugs by the local newspaper) wanted to break a “friend” out of prison and showed up to the police station with AK47’s (which they had stolen from the military armory weeks prior) and opened fired. It soon became a running battle in the streets of Gulu before everything was shut down 30 minutes later. While this group wasn’t targeting civilians, I’m not going to sit here and say it wasn’t scary-it was. At the same time it appears that the threat has been managed and I don’t feel any less safe than I did a week ago. There has definitely been more gun violence in the USA in the past year than there has been here in the last 4. This event did however force us all to think about plans if this were to happen again, which is ultimately a good thing. Most organizations were on curfew all week to see how everything played out and Travis, Austin and Arthur spent the night at our house so we could all be together. Alyssa and I ended up leaving for Kampala on Thursday morning and we are planning to be here all week. The good food, hot showers, gym and constant electricity have been really rough on us but somehow we are surviving. I will be taking Alyssa to the ITW sites for the first time this week and I’m very excited to see our teams at Kasambya and Nawanyago. June has flown by!

Through my mom’s eyes

Hi everyone,

I’m back!! Sorry for the longest delay to date but I promise I have lots of exciting (“exciting”) things to fill you in on-bear with me! I have been back in Uganda for 2 weeks as of today and I promise that I will have a recap for you all very soon. Look forward to a post full of power outages, broken machines and bullets (already told my parents so I feel like that’s okay to say now…). Maybe after you read it you’ll understand why it has been a little hectic here.

My trip with my mom was absolutely amazing and I am so blessed that I was able to share this experience with her. Because she is so amazing she even wrote a recap of our trip together for me so I could remember all of the details. I’m not sure how but we managed to not take a single photo together the entire trip….there’s a first time for everything…..Below is an abridged version of Uganda through my mother’s eyes (don’t worry I cut out the embarrassing stuff). Thank you so much Mom! You being here meant more than you will ever know. 

 

My dearest Amy,

I look at your blog daily and have noticed that it has been awhile since your last post. Now that I have seen you in action in Uganda, it is easy to see why this may not be your first priority. I have never considered myself a “helicopter” parent but I could not resist the temptation to jump in so that everyone would know about my amazing week in Uganda.

I left what you call “the land of good coffee and reliable internet” voluntarily on a Sunday night with my colleague, Andrea. As most readers of the blog already know, Andrea is Amy’s mentor for her RHD projects in Uganda. As a mother I could not have picked a better mentor for my daughter. Andrea is the complete package: smart, energetic, and productive with a great personality and a sense of humor. She also has her priorities right – meaning her family always comes first.

We arrived in Entebbe and were taken to the Case Western House in Kampala where I finally got to see you, my “Emmy”. It had been five months since I last saw you and I think this was the longest I have ever been apart from you but nonetheless you looked great and happy. After a quick dinner of beans and rice, it was bedtime since we had an early morning- we stayed up talking anyway….

Tuesday we woke up early and started the several hours long drive to Kasambya. Like all of our travels that week, we were in a van driven expertly by Picho. For this leg of the journey, there were eight of us in the van plus our luggage and supplies for the clinics- a little tight and definitely your father’s idea of a nightmare….

The purpose of the visit to Kasambya was to see if there were ways to identify more pregnant women with rheumatic heart disease and figure out ways to follow them up after delivery. Rheumatic heart disease is often not well tolerated in pregnancy and often the women will be sicker after delivery than they were pre-pregnancy. Each pregnancy brings more risk and this can be devastating in a country where most women have many pregnancies and birth control is the exception not the rule. It’s hard to believe that the burden of this disease remains so high in the developing world after we have seen it nearly eradicated in the US.

At Kasambya, I was amazed at how easily you related to the people there. You met with the Village Health Team leaders to explain the purpose of the study. You treated everyone with respect and answered their questions thoroughly. I don’t have your way with words and am not sure I can accurately describe the clinic. I have been in a lot of rough and rudimentary places but this is one of the worst I have seen. The outhouses were concrete walls surrounding a hole in the ground mere feet from the clinic where women were in labor and delivering. They had no roofs and were frequented by all sorts of insects that I could not identify and I did not stay long enough to try. Birds that looked somewhat like a stork, appropriate I guess, were everywhere as were many other animals as the children ran around mostly barefoot- reminding me that improved living conditions and clean water is what is most needed in many places. We left the clinic and headed back to our two star hotel where we enjoyed dinner and attempted to sleep admist the birthday party that occurred into the wee hours of the morning.

The next morning we finished up at Kasambya, once again loaded the van, and headed to Jinja. After arriving in Jinja and checking in we had a delightful dinner at the Jinja Sailing Club sitting next to the Nile. For this part of our journey we were joined by Rob from “Gift of Life” an organization that helps fund cardiac surgery teams to operate in many parts of the world that would otherwise not have access to open heart surgery. Along with Rob was Grace who is the head of the program here in Uganda. She is also the first patient that had surgery through the organization …..over 40 years ago. They traveled with us to Lira and Gulu- fortunately they had their own car……..the van was already a little tight.

The next morning we headed to Nawanyago Health Center III to meet with the village health team there and to follow up some suspicious cases. I met Sister Angela and I agree with you that she is the sweetest Kenyan nun that ever lived although I must confess I have not met many. I got many hugs just for being your mother……….a little different than the reaction I got from the preschool or elementary teachers for being your mother……but I digress.

One of the follow up studies that we did in Nawanyago was on a woman who was 20 weeks pregnant with her third child (having lost the first two). She had supposedly had surgery before for restrictive pericarditis- the same kind of surgery that Opio had. Unfortunately, when we looked it was clear that she had restrictive cardiomyopathy, which means that the muscle was affected. The only real treatment even in the US is a heart transplant- definitely not an option in Uganda. To make matters worse she was in an abnormal heart rhythm where the atria flutters making it even more difficult to get blood into the heart so that it can be pumped out. In the US we would have immediately arranged to shock her into a normal rhythm and given medicine to keep it there. Of course in Nawanyago, we had nothing. She had probably lost her first two pregnancies because of this disease and would likely lose this one and eventually her life because of it. The physician there also explained to me that she will likely lose her husband if she is unable to bear children. I have treated many patients that I could not help as a heart transplant physician but I don’t remember ever feeling quite so useless and powerless. I did get a chuckle from the Ugandan physician when I asked if we could cardiovert her…………….might be possible if we had the machine but then we would not have the medicine we needed to keep her in the right rhythm…………..perhaps all of the critics of the American health care system should do some traveling……..I am not saying that we don’t have some issues but I think we are pretty lucky ….anyways…..

Onto Lira Regional Hospital, the final stop before we got to your home away from home, Gulu. Physically, this may have been the most modern structure that we saw on our journey. Unfortunately, behind the walls, the major gaps in care were very apparent. We saw the pediatric ward with beds packed in one next to the other with less than a foot in between. It was enough to break your heart-because of the volume, you are only considered pediatric until you are 5, not 18 years like here in the states. Most of the diseases are infectious and diarrhea and dehydration remain life-threatening illnesses. We met the hospital administrator, Robert, who was doing as much as possible with what he had available to make things better. This was the first place that I saw residents in training but just like in Gulu, the doctors charged with training them often do not have enough time to care for the volume of patients let alone teach a new generation of physicians. Safe to say they have never heard of resident hour restrictions here……

Finally, on to Gulu! The road was paved and therefore our journey was much shorter than the one you first had to make. There were many interesting things to see along the way. A Petrol truck had turned over and some how word spread and people were running and driving bodas in hoards to come steal the Petrol. The police were parked by the side of the road lazily watching…….We were even stopped on the way to be searched for guns………….luckily, I left mine home (just kidding for those that don’t know me, Amy knows I hate guns). When we arrived in _DSC0894Gulu , it rapidly became clear to me that this was indeed your home now. You knew everyone in town and when we toured the hospital, everyone knew you and respected you. The second day here was the most exciting as I watched support group #5 in action. The kids loved dancing around and learning about heart disease from you. I kept myself busy with my favorite activity…….taking pictures and making up for the restraint I hade shown at the other sites. You then gave them a chance to listen to their hearts and you even picked up an innocent venous hum on a sibling of a patient………..I have many residents that cannot do that and I would like to take credit but cannot- these are skills that you have clearly developed without my help! I also met Opio, his father and his uncle. They had brought his report card with them. We could not communicate very well but I could tell they were bursting with pride at what he had accomplished.

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Everyone at support group 5!

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I got to stay at the 31 Bits house where you are living and it was one of the highlights of my trip. I was not happy to see that you had a helmet since that could only mean you were taking bodas but at least you were protecting your head. Now that I have been there I understand why they are necessary to get around, but after your bus accident and seeing the driving in Uganda, there are some things that a mother just does not need to know……… Saturday night we had all (or most) of your friends over for pizza. This was definitely the highlight of my trip. In the US, there is a lot of talk about the entitled members of your generation. I would like to invite anyone who thinks that all young people feel entitled to spend some time with your friends in Uganda. They are an amazing group of people. First there are the ladies that work for 31 Bits. They are running a jewelry company that employs Ugandan women, many of which experienced firsthand the events of the LRA. Truly an amazing concept, as is the company being run by your friend Molly that refurbishes bikes to help Ugandans have a mode of transportation. Then there are your friends in the medical specialties, OB and emergency medicine to name two, that are spending significant time there trying to make a difference rather the usual 2-3 months. These are all young people giving their time and themselves to make Gulu, Uganda and the world a better place. It was a magical evening.

Then began the long journey home. Fortunately you were coming with me so that you could attend Paul’s medical school graduation! I am sorry that I left you to go to business class but these old bones don’t do coach very well any more…….

I did not see any elephants this time in Africa but there is still one elephant in the room. You continue to wait for that elusive med school acceptance……no matter what happens, just remember to follow your heart and never give up on your dreams. Dad and I just want you to find what you love doing for that is true success. We will always love you and we feel like the luckiest parents in the world to have you and Paul as our children.

Love you to the moon and back,

Mom

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Yea..she’s pretty great

Hurry up Mom!

On the 16th I held support group #4 which was hands down my favorite one thus far. With each group I get to know the children and their personalities better and I must say; these are some special kids. For this group we focused on heart anatomy using a heart model, played games and then had a discussion about “masking feelings” and openly expressing what we feel. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black since I may be one of the most unemotional people I know BUT it was an extremely successful exercise. The kids were required to make masks of their “bravest self”, something they can look at whenever they get sad, scared, upset, etc and remind themselves how strong they really are and how much they have already overcome. One of my absolute favorite kids wrote my name all over his mask (and even spelled it correctly!). When I asked him why he was doing that he said, “Well because you are living in Africa helping kids like me. That’s brave.” Remember how I said I’m not emotional? Yea, that one pulled at the heart strings for sure. All of the kids asked me how long the “fun groups” would continue and it broke my heart knowing that while the groups will hopefully continue after June, I may not be apart of them.

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Support group kiddos and their masks

 

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Sunday after the support group I headed to Lira for the official launch of our project to increase cardiovascular diagnoses at the Regional Hospital. For this phase of the project we are mapping the current processes at the hospital and how patients with cardiovascular symptoms or suspected cardiovascular disease flow through the system, with the hopes of improving that system during the intervention phase with clinical algorithms. This was hands down one of the toughest project launches I have been apart of because, while we could visibly see flaws in their system and the way they treated these patients, our job was to be observers and observers only. While it was not easy, my time there definitely reassured me that we chose the correct location for this project, as I think the benefits are going to be exponential. The week was not void of laughs though as Isaac called me and goes “what category does a patient fall into if they escape from the Hospital and no one can find them?” Africa, oh Africa.

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Lira Launch team!

Eric and I doing some "grocery shopping" on the way home from Lira

Eric and I doing some “grocery shopping” on the way home from Lira

After returning from Lira, I spent 2 full weeks with Twalib in clinic. In addition to our normal patient flow and Registry follow-ups, I had the opportunity to proctor medical student Midterms at Lacor with Lisa and Twalib. 2 minutes into the exam the power went out. Every single student continued their work and didn’t even look up from their paper. Lisa and I just looked at each other and started laughing (which finally caused a few people to look up) because we were comparing how different the reaction would have been if that had occurred during one of our exams in college. I’m sure half the class would have refused to take the test without light and felt entitled to a “class room change” or postponement before finishing the test. Learning everyday to enjoy simplicity.

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My girl angel. She is a CHD (TOF) patient of ours that I have known for over a year. The first time we met, she wanted nothing to do with me so this was a very big step. It could be that I’m known as the “lollipop lady” but I’ll take it

Since the test was 2 hours long and I needed something to occupy my time, I decided to take the Multiple-choice portion of the 3rd year medical student test. I surprisingly did fairly well and horrifyingly did better than some of the actual medical students. I only know this because I was given the task of grading all of the multiple-choice sections. I think a lot of my success (and by success I mean I failed with a 50%) comes from the fact that Twalib created a lot of the questions so it was heavy on basic cardiac knowledge. Taking the test made me realize how excited I am to go back to school, whether it’s this year or not. Yep still no news.

 

I think one of the most exciting things that has happened over the past 2 weeks is that I officially became a parent! My roommate Grace and I bought a dog and I couldn’t be more excited. His name is Zazu and while I might be a bit biased, I think he’s the cutest puppy in all of Uganda. I’ve wanted a dog since our last one passed away in October but didn’t like the idea of not knowing whom the dog would go to after I left. With my friend Alyssa coming in June and staying for a significant amount of time I felt comfortable with my elaborate $6 purchase. He is still only 8 weeks old but he is one spunky, personable guy.

Me and my guy, Zazu

Me and my guy, Zazu

This week I have spent time preparing for the trip with ITW next week, which also means MY MOM IS COMING TO UGANDA! While this may not be a vacation or tourism trip, I couldn’t be more excited for her to see what my life has looked like for the last 1.5 years. Dad, you’re next!

Some more beautiful views on my evening run

Some more beautiful views on my evening run

“How was your trip?”

Hey everyone. Guilty again. Sorry for my absence. This time though, for a different reason. When I started this blog my intention was to keep everyone up to date on my life in Uganda, including stories, anecdotes, misfortunes, heartbreak and amazing friendships, revealing a world much different than the one most of us grew up in. After 14 months in Uganda, I think I have finally reached the point where I feel established and at “home.” This causes me to second-guess what I write about, as for me, a lot of these experiences have become a part of my every day life. Oh a mouse just ran over my foot while I was cooking? At least it was a small one. The power has been out for 2 days? Ok-who has candles? There is another child with CHD that has a small chance of being accepted for surgery, even if we try every option possible? Try not to get yourself personally attached this time, Amy. Really try.

Let me take a step back. This is not to say that I am not continuing to cherish my time here, I am-but the viewpoint is most certainly different. This is no longer a trip but a lifestyle. One that continues to challenge me, reward me and allow me to grow into a better version of myself everyday. One of my good friends, John, just left Gulu after 4 amazing years working for a local school. He says his favorite question whenever he goes home is “how was your trip?” Oh you mean the last 3-4 years of my life? They were good! As I prepare for the possibility of leaving in June I can’t help but get excited. The question “Are you ready to leave?” is a bit more complicated than it first appears. Will I be excited if I end up leaving at the end of June? Absolutely. But that will be because I have an acceptance to medical school, which will finally allow me to pursue my dream of becoming a physician. Will I be ready to leave the people I have befriended, the relationships I have formed and the life I have built here? No, but I know that I will involved in Uganda for the rest of my life. I can’t imagine not returning. As for my departure, that’s all up in the air. Stay tuned for Season 2 of “ Amy continues the agonizing wait for a medical school acceptance.” For those who say, “Patience is a virtue”, I’m as virtuous as they come right about now.

“Okay Amy, enough about your inner thoughts what the heck have you been up to for the past 2 weeks?” Well, I returned to Gulu after 2 productive site visits with ITW and like always, felt a sense of “coming home”. I was soon faced with the reality that my roommates had tried to prepare me for. All of the water in the dam that supplies Gulu had dried up leaving those of us with running water, waterless. This meant going to the local bore hole with jerry cans so we could fill toilets, cook, and shower. Now at first this sounded like a nightmare, but I have to admit I really enjoyed the experience. Something about having to do a full body squat with a filled jerrycan really made me appreciate the general plumbing I have taken for granted my entire life and I liked the idea of “working for my water”. Who needs Crossfit-just move to Africa. Part of this is naivety, since it only lasted 8 days. If it were an every day occurrence I probably wouldn’t have this outlook. The good news is that rainy season has officially begun and has slowly brought water to our house and everyone else in Gulu who was suffering from the drought. I use the word suffering for myself lightly, as I know there were many people in the village whose crops were dying because of the drought. When I put it like that, having to shower with a bucket shouldn’t really fall into the realm of suffering at all.

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Ready for the borehole! Most people walk…..yes we are spoiled

 

As for work, Twalib was here for 3 days each of the past 2 weeks, leading to 2 extremely productive weeks. We were able to see over 100 patients, hold a penicillin clinic with 140 attendees and follow up a bunch of people in the Registry. In addition, the medical students received some amazing lectures from Twalib, which I know they have been yearning for. To top off an incredible workweek, my old roommate Alice came to visit from Nairobi, or Nairobbery as she likes to call it. I guess she’s found herself in some unfortunate situations, but I digress. It was so refreshing to have her back and we are all counting down the days until she returns in June. As for this week, in addition to our busy clinic days, I have spent a lot of time getting organized for Support Group 4 on Saturday and the official launch of our Lira project on Monday. A few things still need to come together for Lira, but I am confident that they will.

The following pictures are from 2 runs that I have taken in the last 2 weeks. My friends from high school and I decided that we might as well add another line to the list of bad decisions we have made as group and signed up for the Nashville Marathon in November. In my opinion, this is the worst decision yet, although our parents probably have a different opinion. To be able to finish a run and shower before work I have to leave a little before the sun comes up which has allowed me to embrace Gulu’s beauty from a different standpoint. Carolina and I also got caught in one of the first big storms of the year but we didn’t see it coming….at all. We were about 2 miles out when it hit and had no option but to keep heading home. We could’ve filled a bucket with the amount of water we dumped from our shoes.

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Worth the 5:45 wake up call

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2 girls running in the first place is a sight here. 2 girls continuing to run in the pouring rain is borderline sinful

xoxo,

Emmy

Emmy and Emmy hit the road

Hey everyone-

I hope you all had a great Easter holiday! Last week I worked in Gulu from Monday to Wednesday then headed down to Kampala on Thursday with Travis and Carolina. We were going on day 3 without power when I left, so I wasn’t too heartbroken to take a mini-vacation. Trav and Carolina were heading down to Lake Bunyoni on Friday for Easter and I headed to Jinja to meet up with Lindsay, Katie and Katy. Jinja is located about 2 hours outside of Kampala and is home to “the source of the Nile River.” While I’ve spent a few hours here and there in Jinja, I’ve never spent time exploring. I’m super glad I did because it is such a beautiful town and I had such an incredible weekend with incredible people! We stayed at Nile River Camp, situated on top of a hill, which provides for the most amazing views of the Nile, especially at Sunset. I’m sure it has great views at sunrise too, but lets be real, we all know I wasn’t up that early.

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Sunset from our Camp!

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The crew!

Most of our weekend was spent lounging by the pool or by the river with a refreshing beverage from time to time, in addition to laughs and great conversations. We all don’t get to spend as much time as we would like together in Gulu, so this trip made up for lost time. One of Katie’s friends from Peace Corps, Mary Claire, ended up coming down from Tororo which was also great-she’s a hoot and a half and had us all laughing the entire weekend. On Sunday we ended up leaving our camp and moved to a backpackers hostel in town so we could explore the “downtown” area. Most restaurants in town were closed so we ended up at the Jinja “Sailing” Club for easter lunch. Not too sure why it’s called the sailing club since, as far as I could see, there was one lone wooden canoe…Anyway, we were enjoying some delicious sandwiches and the live band that they had for the occasion when they announced that the easter egg hunt would be happening soon. My friends had to tell me to sit back down because I got really excited…I’ve always loved holidays. Add a tradition with a little competition in it and I’m your girl. Unfortunately this Easter egg hunt had an age cap of 10 (erroneous!) so we watched as kids ran around searching for hardboiled eggs that had been colored in with sharpie. The announcer kept saying over and over “ the eggs are not poisonous. I repeat the eggs are not poisonous. You can eat them as soon as you find them.” And just like that, a bunch of Ugandan kids were sitting in the grass eating hard-boiled eggs with huge grins on their faces. It was one of those moments that remind you how simple happiness can be.

 

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Did I mention the rope swing!?

On Monday I said goodbye to my friends as they started the long trek back to Gulu. I ended up staying the night in Jinja so I could head to Nawanyago on Tuesday morning to check in with the ITW team there. On Tuesday morning I woke up with a small feeling of dread, as I got ready for the day. I love this project and our team at Nawanyago, but there is only one way to get there from Jinja and that is by Matatu (public taxi). I’ve been pretty turned off by public transportation in Uganda (I guess a head on bus collision will do that) but I know that it is a part of traveling and understanding a different culture. As I rolled up to the taxi park, I prepped myself for the haggling to begin. I was greeted with “Mzungu how are you so beautiful. Ah it is amazing. Look at your hair.” Eh to be honest, I’ve had worse mornings. As I continued deeper into the park, many conductors approached me about taking their matatu. I finally told them that I wanted whichever one was leaving first. You see they don’t leave until they are full so sometimes you can sit up to an hour waiting for enough passengers to load. I then felt someone pulling on my arm saying that he needed one more passenger before he would set off. Perfect. Sold. When I see this “ready” matatu, all I can think is “one more passenger? Are you joking? You need to take about 4 people out so there is enough oxygen in there!” Anyways he proceeds to point to where I am supposed to “sit”, which is essentially on a 70 yr old woman’s lap. He tells her to move over, which accomplishes about an inch of room, and then I smoosh myself on in there. Okay, okay Amy this is fine. It’s only 40 minutes. What could happen? Someone steals your passport? Oh wait; you accomplished that milestone last week. Well to top it off the conductor then comes and essentially sits on my lap because he has to collect everyone’s money by the door. At that point I was audibly laughing because it’s one of those moments where you just think, “How did I get here?” The good news is that if, God forbid the matatu would have rolled, there is no way neither grandma or I were going to move an inch. AND she even she even gave me tips on how not to get ripped off when riding matatus. Not trying to make this a daily routine, but I appreciate her sound advice.

On Wednesday morning I met up with Emmy to head back to Nawanyago for day two. All in all, our time at Nawanyago was very productive and I am very happy with how this outreach went- Henrietor and Sister Angela are extremely organized which makes my job very easy. We spent the morning seeing patients, talking to the Village Health team, and reconciling some data before making the trip back to Kampala. I think one of my favorite parts about these outreaches is getting to spend time with Emmy. He has been without a doubt, one of the most amazing research mentors to me ( I’m lucky to have a few : )). He does have to bring me back to earth sometimes and remind me that I’m 24 and that I have a long way to go before I help cure Uganda of all its health problems BUT I appreciate that quality of his too. 

Today Emmy, Twalib and I will be interviewing nurses for the Gulu Clinic at the Heart Institute and tomorrow Emmy and I will be leaving bright and early for our Kasambya outreach. The adventures of Emmy and Emmy continue. 

Who needs electricity anyways?

Hi everyone-

I hope you all are having a great week-I know I sure am. My workweek technically started on Saturday for support group 3, although I wouldn’t really consider this work-it’s fun for me too! We had 37 kids show up which I was/am very excited about. The first 2 groups were held when school was out so a lot of the kids were still in town. Now that school has started we have lost a few to boarding schools, but all in all I’m very happy with the turnout from this group. The main educational focus of group this week was basic heart anatomy. A lot of these children know they have a “heart problem” but have absolutely no idea what that actually means. To start I held a photo up of the human heart and asked what it was. Most of the students had NO IDEA that it was a human heart. We ended up doing a coloring activity outlining blood flow through the heart and emphasizing that the heart has chambers and valves. At the end of the day the students were asked what they learned and I was thrilled to see that so many kids put “that the mitral and aortic valves are affected by RHD”. We actually had 6 kids show up this week after going to group because they either missed their injections and “didn’t want their valves to get worse” or because they simply wanted us to echo them again so that they could see their valves in person. I think the nurses may have been a little annoyed by the extra work but I was pretty excited to see that the kids are enjoying learning about their condition.

 

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The girls super excited about their hearts!

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Rose and I teaching about blood flow through the heart

 

On Sunday night Twalib arrived in Gulu around 7pm and we went through all of the patient echos and ECGs from the previous week so that he could have reports for them the following morning. He has been on a pretty tight schedule, only coming once a week, so we see the patients without him and then have them come back early Monday morning for their official diagnosis. This week we will officially be back on a normal schedule, seeing patients Monday-Wednesday. I like this because it is a lot less hectic, which gives Twalib time to teach the medical students (and me). This week the nurses and I used volunteers from the children’s ward to echo for practice and I was shocked to see that many of them have cardiac issues. Twalib will obviously make the final diagnosis but we believe we found a pericardial effusion, VSD and someone with severe pulmonary hypertension. While it’s devastating to see kids that are suffering from malaria and now possible cardiac issues, I’m happy that they were there for us to echo so we can place them in care. I’ve decided that we should just echo every child that we see-seems doable and sustainable, right?

 

On Tuesday I had the privilege of visiting Opio at school! That’s right- he has officially started school after 2.5 years of not being able to attend due to illness. The morning started with a tour of the school (which is really amazing) followed by a visit with Opio and time for a few pictures. He started out super excited and then suddenly started crying. Luckily my friend Eric who speaks Acholi had taken me to the school and ended up talking to Opio with the headteacher for an hour and a half trying to calm him down. Long story short Opio was very upset that he had been placed in P1 instead of P2. He felt that he had let his family and I down by not being smart enough to pick off where he left off. Seeing him so distraught honestly broke my heart. While everyone in his life is super proud of him, it’s very hard to explain to a 9 year old how much he has already overcome and how happy we are that he is alive today to receive an education, regardless of what class he is in. By the time we left he was smiling again and gave Eric and I a hug before we left. He then turned to Eric and said in Acholi “ I think I was just hungry.” I seriously love this kid.

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Opio and I would like to say thank you to everyone who has supported his journey!

As for the rest of this week…..it’s just one of those weeks where my roommates and I are constantly reminded that we are in fact living in a developing country and with that comes a few obstacles. I can count on one hand the number of hours that we have had power this week. This morning the power finally came back, ending our 90 hour blackout streak…lets just say that cheers were heard from all over. Now, normally this wouldn’t bother us so much but it just so happens to also be 95 degrees out. I think we have all averaged about 3 hours of sleep because it is just so unbearably hot out and the lack of fans just makes it an even worse reality. In addition, when power goes out for this long that means that every person trying to charge a laptop or phone goes to one of three restaurants with a generator and competes for the outlets…I had to ask someone to let me plug my phone into their computer the other day so that it wouldn’t die on a conference call…….luckily for me, she was super sweet and we actually ended up talking for about an hour after the call because she was super interested in what I’m doing here.

 

Last night Carolina, Travis, Brandon and I cooked out on the grill and enjoyed a drink on the front porch (in the dark). Minus the mosquitos, 9-10pm is probably the most refreshing time to be outside these days. Tonight a bunch of us will be heading to “Elephante” which is a new restaurant in Gulu. Our friends Quinn and Brittany bought out Sankofa a few weeks back and have been remodeling everything, including the layout, décor and menu, for their big grand opening tonight. Super excited to support their new business and see everything that they have done over the past few weeks!

 

I would also like to congratulate Paul for matching at Hopkins for his residency in Internal Medicine yesterday! Super proud of you! And I just love, love trying to fill your impossibly large shoes…….I wish I could have been there to celebrate! 

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Missing my favorite people today

 

2 Scheels, 1 Country

Hey Everyone!

It’s official-Paul wants to move to Uganda!! It’s hard to say but I’m pretty sure it was the 40+hours of power outages and the Gulu food poisoning that really had him convinced. Seriously though, we had an absolute blast and I am so happy that he was able to come visit (you’re next dad)! It is so hard to describe to people what life is like here, even with social media and FaceTime, and I’m so glad he was able to get a glimpse of what my day to day looks like and put a few names to faces. And in case you’re wondering, I am already aware of how lucky I am to have a brother like Paul. While he may make fun of me on a pretty consistent basis and remind me how much smarter he is than me, not everyone can say that their siblings check in with them every week to see what’s new and how you’re doing, let alone fly 8,000 miles across the world to spend a week with you.

 

While I don’t think pictures can actually do our trip justice, I’m going to try.

Stop 1: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, Southwest Uganda

Activity: Gorilla Trekking. Hands down one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. If you ever find yourself in Uganda or Rwanda it is a must see. These animals are absolutely stunning and getting 2 feet away from them is great for any adventure seeker

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Stop 2: Lake Bunyoni, Kabale, Southwest Uganda

Activity: Relaxation, boat tour, beers and scrabble (I lost every time….)

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Stop 3: Murchison Falls National Park, Central Uganda

Activity: Safari, boat ride, hike up Murchison falls and some really good food

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Stop 4: Gulu, Northern Uganda

Activity: Friends, food poisoning, and power outages

Paul unfortunately was sick for the majority of his time in Gulu but he was still able to meet most of my friends and Twalib and the nurses, which was the main purpose of stopping here. He even came to the clinic on Monday and got to see what my day to day looks like. He commented on how chaotic the clinic flow was and how he thinks it would drive him nuts…I thought it was a very organized and fluid day so I think I’ve maybe just been here too long…Paul also got to demonstrate his medical school knowledge when Twalib lead 12 students  to him and said “here, teach them. how about you talk about PDA’s and ECG’s.” And that’s exactly what he did and between you and me, I think he really enjoyed it. I know Paul is smart and was reminded each year growing up when he took home every academic award -like c’mon who enters the physics olympics at age 14….and wins….Despite all of this I’ve never gotten to see him in any type of medical environment before. It was so cool to see how much he clearly loves medicine and how happy he is pursuing this career. Hopefully I’ll get to experience that too, but that’s a conversation for another time.

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Paul teaching some of the med students

I’m now back on a normal schedule and have been trying to get my feet back on the ground after being away (the constant power outages are making that super fun :)). This week I’m organizing all of the registry data that was completed while I was away, preparing for support group 3 and finishing up some miscellaneous things that I should have gotten to a while ago. Super happy to be back and excited to be staying in the same place for the next 2 weeks. Hope everyone is having a great week!

 

 

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