Uganda Love This

Amy Scheel

Month: October 2015

Are you blind?

Hey friends,

Long time no talk. Not too much to report from across the globe. The last two weeks have been very routine and mainly consisted of seeing patients in the clinic. We have gotten to the point where we have enrolled most of the children that have known RHD, so our registry enrollment has slowed down tremendously (for now). It will pick back up again in January and February when a lot of these children return for their 6-month follow-up visits. This has fortunately left a lot of time for me to practice my echo skills. Whenever a new pediatric patient comes in, Twalib lets me take all of the pictures (the ones I know how to do) and then comes to review them, critique them and more often than not, take better pictures. I know perfecting this skill won’t happen over night (or even by the time I leave) but I am very blessed to be able to have the opportunity to learn. I have met so many medical students throughout my time here, most of which say they have never performed an echo or even held an echo probe for that matter. The fact that I have the opportunity to learn this skill before I even enter medical school (fingers crossed) is truly amazing.

 

Spending time in the clinic I get to interact with a lot of patients, most of which don’t speak English. I would like to think that one of my strengths is cultural competency and the ability to interact with all different types of people, even if I can’t speak their language. With that being said…I must painfully admit that I don’t think I won any cultural awareness awards last week….last Wednesday an older patient walked through the door, tripped over a bench, and then when he went to shake Twalib’s hand was facing in the complete wrong direction. Assuming (never assume people, never) he didn’t speak English, I turned to Twalib and asked “ Is this guy blind?” The patient then turns in my direction and goes “ Yes dear, I am.” Foot in mouth Amy, foot in mouth. After I picked my jaw back up off the floor, I turned to the man and apologized for my outburst. The funny thing is that if this were to happen in the U.S, I probably would have offended someone so badly that they wouldn’t want me in the room while they were being examined. Here, this man completely laughed it off and said “ why are you apologizing, its true.” Ugandans, especially Acholi’s, are genuinely some of the most open and brutally honest people I have ever met. For example-yesterday on a boda-boda (sorry mom it was about to pour), I was only 2 minutes into my ride when I knew the full name of my driver, his HIV positive status, where to find him at the hospital on certain days of the month, and the name of the clinical trial he was participating in. Like I said, I like to meet new people. There is pretty much nothing in terms of medical care that is kept private and I can promise you there is nothing that resembles a HIPPA law here.

 

Tomorrow, we will be working with Samaritan’s Purse to hopefully match some of our children for surgery. They are currently looking for VSD’s, ASD’s and TOF’s, all under 5 years, which unfortunately excludes a lot of the children we have with congenital heart defects. If we can match even one child and link them to surgery then the day will be considered a success. A lot of these families simply can’t afford the transport down to Kampala ($7) to even be screened, so we are very fortunate that Samaritan’s Purse was willing to make the trek up to Gulu.

 

For those of you that don’t know, my plans recently changed and I will officially be heading home this weekend for medical school interviews! I am very excited to a. be one step closer to my dream and b. see my family and friends! I will only be home for 2 weeks before returning back to Uganda on November 14th. I still can’t believe that I have been here for almost 5 months this time and that it is already time to interview. I’m sure it feels like yesterday that I was complaining about having secondary applications to fill out. That’s all for now. See you soon America!

 

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Most of our crew was out of town this weekend so us stragglers decided to throw our very own “Gulu Homecoming” celebration, in honor of Virginia Tech homecoming this past weekend (wonder whose idea that was…)

 

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Storms have become a regular part of the day in Gulu. I got half way home yesterday when it started to pour so a lovely woman called to me and opened up the back of her small store so I could wait it out. 

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Thanks for the lollipops Milot’s!! The kids love them and I am officially not the “scary white lady” anymore

Raindrops are falling on my head

On Sunday morning I was boldly reminded why I could never live in Uganda long(er) term-public transportation. Now before I left Gulu to spend the weekend in Jinja with 10 of my friends, I knew getting up to Lira on Sunday would be a logistical nightmare. It would require hours on a bus, but I wasn’t about to miss out on a good time. SO on Sunday morning I woke up at 6:30am to hop on a “matatu” headed for Kampala. In my sleepy state I made the very bad decision of sitting in the first row. Even though there were about 8 open seats in the back of the van, I was joined by 5 fellow travelers on a seat made for 3. In addition, the woman sitting next to me was bringing a bag full of fresh fish to family members…As Nemo, Dory and I headed for Kampala, the baby that was sitting on the lap of the mother behind me decided to vomit. Fast forward 1 minute and I had a baby in my lap, clothes that smelled like I had just gone deep-sea fishing and I driver that was honking his horn every 30 seconds looking for additional passengers.

 

After 2.5 hours we arrived in Kampala where I met Twalib at the UHI. To my dismay we hopped back on to a Matatu and headed for the bus park. When we arrived we asked around for buses leaving for Lira and were informed of one leaving at 2pm. It was 10:45am at the time. There is not much to do around the bus park and not exactly where a foreigner wants to be hanging out so Twalib and I bought our tickets and hopped on the bus. I proceeded to sweat out the adult beverages that I had enjoyed the night before while Twalib read me excerpts from his book about Donald Trump. I cannot tell you why but Twalib is simply fascinated by Trump and continues to ask me if the American people are dumb enough to vote for him. I think I’m scared to honestly answer that question. As time went on vendors came onto the bus selling everything from purses and phone chargers to pots and pans. I happened to be the only non-Ugandan on this bus so every time they passed me they first stared and then said “C’mon Mzungu you buy my things.” For those of you into one stop Christmas shopping, the Ugandan bus system definitely has it all.

 

Finally 2pm arrived and we were on our way. About an hour into the trip, the sky turned black and shortly after started to downpour. SURPRISE! My window was jammed. I never thought I would need a rain jacket in a vehicle before but somehow things are starting to surprise me less and less. An hour after this unfortunate occurrence we stopped at a local gas station. At these stops people usually hop off to use the restroom and buy refreshments. Since Twalib and I both had bags we took turns getting off the bus-I went first. When I returned Twalib hopped off and I soon realized the bus was leaving….and he wasn’t on it. I stood up yelling that we forgot someone yet all I received in return were a few stares. I continued yelling until finally about 2 minutes down the road we pulled over to the shoulder. I looked out the window to see Twalib running full speed after the bus in the pouring rain waving his arms. I honestly can’t stop laughing just thinking about it . The rest of the trip was long but compared to the beginning of the trip, thankfully uneventful.

 

We arrived in Lira around 8pm and met up with Steve, a resident from Case Western who came over to help us launch phase 1 of our project. This week has gone very smooth and I think we are both happy with how everything has turned out. In short, this project entails us first mapping the current flow of patients with suspected cardiac disease at Lira Regional Referral Hospital. We then plan to train medical personnel in echocardiography to bring cardiac diagnoses and appropriate treatment to the people of Lira, instead of them being referred to other parts of the country, which is the current protocol. This week has been full of meetings, important discussions and relationship building with the local staff. I am extremely happy with the positive response our presence and this project has received and I am super excited to watch it grow over the next few months. Ready to wrap things up and head back to Gulu tomorrow evening!

 

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honorary members of Lira Rotary Club

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trying to make inventory fun

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hospital selfies

Get well soon Pam!

This week has been like most weeks I have had in Uganda-filled with many ups and downs. I returned to Gulu to a house without power and my room ransacked by our (ex) cleaning lady. Mentally preparing myself for the week ahead on Sunday afternoon, my roommates and I got the worst possible news. The type of news that just makes your stomach drop. Pam, a friend who recently moved to Lira with the Peace Corp, was sleeping when 3 burglars broke into her house and stabbed her and her roommate multiple times before stealing all of their electronics. They were both air transported to South Africa where they underwent multiple life-saving surgeries. Pam was extubated yesterday and although she has a long way to go, she is stable for now. I have mentioned this before but I have not once felt unsafe in this country or that my life was at risk. Sure I have been uncomfortable but that’s a part of traveling and experiencing a new place and new culture. You hear of something like this happening every now and then but it doesn’t really hit home until it’s someone that you are close to and in contact with. Am I scared now? No. Am I being overly cautious and aware of my surroundings at all times? Absolutely. All I can do now is pray for her to have a speedy recovery so that she can get back to the US where she’ll be surrounded by her supportive family and friends.

 

On Monday I headed to the hospital to catch up with the nurses and go over everything that they have been up to since I have been gone. Somehow seeing them always puts me at ease. They were able to track down 7 more of our patients who were in need of follow up, which I was really happy about. It may not seem like much but these are the kids that had changed schools and had no phone numbers. The nurses went to practically every school in the district looking for these children.

 

On Monday night Carolina and I performed our weekly workouts in the front yard, using textbooks as weights, before heading over to Brandon’s for dinner. Luckily for us Brandon is currently finding his “inner chef” and wants to experiment by cooking us dinner whenever he has time. I can honestly say I have absolutely no problem with this. In addition, as easy as it is to just curl up at the end of the day, it is so nice to share a meal with others and talk about your day.

 

On Tuesday we dealt with some rather unhappy patients who came to the hospital to see Twalib. We had tried to contact them to let them know that he would no longer be around and that we would need to reschedule their appointments but most of them did not provide phone numbers. The roughly 15 patients we had scheduled for Tuesday were then piled onto the 20 patients that were already scheduled for Wednesday. On Tuesday night all of us headed to Comboni’s, the local Italian pizza place, to celebrate Carolina’s 26th Birthday! Carolina is probably one of the sweetest people I have met while living here and she is the best roommate I could ask for. Her sense of adventure and love for life always brightens my day and everyone else’s around her.

 

As you probably already guessed, Wednesday was an extremely busy day. We saw patients from 8:15-4:30 straight, trying to account for the backlog that accumulated while Twalib and I were away. One of these patients was Opio, which as always, made me the happiest girl in the world. Every time I see him he looks better and better with an even bigger smile on his face. This time he walked right in the room and practically leaped onto the echo bed without any assistance. Before it was a process to even get him on the bed due to all of his abdominal swelling. As usual his biggest problem right now is that he is bored but he is fully preparing to start 4th grade in January by reading all of his siblings school materials.

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This morning I met with the nurses to go over everything for next week since I will be away working in Lira. They are more than capable of handling everything in my absence but I wanted to make sure that they are prepared to help Twalib as much as they can since he has roughly 25 patients scheduled each clinic day next week. We have all been working together long enough that what we have going just works and I feel horrible leaving them. At the same time working in the clinic is not the main reason I am here and the Lira project launch next week will keep me plenty busy.

 

Tonight I will be heading to Kampala with my roommates. From there we will head to Jinja for the weekend before I head to Lira with Twalib on Sunday afternoon. With everything that happened with Pam, I think we are all on edge and just want to get away for the weekend. In addition, tomorrow is Ugandan Independence Day so everyone has the day off. The National celebration is being held in Gulu this year, which means there are already 1000’s of soldiers lining the street in preparation for the President’s arrival tomorrow morning. In other words, it’s time to get the heck out of dodge.

Trip of a lifetime

Hello everyone!

I am officially back in Uganda after the most amazing vacation with my mom. Our vacation started out in typical Amy/Janet fashion with my mom missing her flight, me leaving my passport on the plane, having no money for my visa because my mom had US dollars and the immigration office holding all of my belongings as collateral until I left the airport and found an ATM…minus these minor and later comical mishaps, everything about this trip was perfect. I do not think I can do the trip justice so I will just include some photos of our favorite parts/memories from the trip! We started out in Serengeti National Park and then headed over to Zanzibar for a few days to soak up the sun. If you are thinking about coming to Africa to Safari, of all the places I have been, the Serengeti takes the cake!

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daily lunch view 

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Sunset at camp

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wildebeest migration! one of the coolest things I have ever seen

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beautiful Zanzibar!

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IMG_3218Thanks for everything mom! I love you!

I have been working in Kampala since Tuesday and will be heading back to Gulu tomorrow morning. Never thought I would say this but I cant wait! I’m so excited to see all of my roommates and get back into a routine. I hope everyone has had a great week!

 

 

 

 

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