Uganda Love This

Amy Scheel

Month: November 2015

Thankful and thankful again

This past week has been amazing for so many reasons and in true holiday fashion, reminded me how thankful I am to be living and working in such an incredible place. On Monday and Tuesday Twalib saw patients and I picked up where I left off with my echo training and also acted as his scribe. Twalib and I ended up going to dinner on Monday night because we realized that we have very little time together before I head home. Per usual our topics varied, ranging from me going to med school to if turkey tastes better than chicken. Twalib has a lot on his plate right now since he is taking a MBA course and is also on Faculty at Gulu, which means he has to prepare and administer end of semester exams. Unfortunately this means that he will only be seeing patients 3 days in December.


On Tuesday I was probably the happiest girl on the planet when Opio walked in the door. He is doing wonderfully and Twalib couldn’t be more pleased with his progress. He looks like a completely different person and his energy is seriously contagious. He has been living with his Uncle in town since his surgery because life in the village can be rather tough. Our hope is that he will continue to live in Gulu so that we can send him to a school in town, where he will be much better off. I have met with one head teacher already and have another meeting with one this afternoon. I am more than ready for him to be back with kids his own age and can’t wait for him to actually have the opportunity to play-its been almost 3 years!



Opio looking so good!


On Wednesday I spent the day with the nurses organizing patient files from when I was away and working on the logistics of the rheumatic heart disease support group that we will be launching come January. At night I went to dinner with my friend Katie, who is sadly headed home today. She is one of the sweetest and most genuine people I know and she has been instrumental in our search for the RHD children that we lost to follow up. She is a teacher at a local school and not exactly sure how she managed it but she is practically fluent in Acholi. The good news is that she will be coming back in the middle of January and has agreed to help me run the next support group!


On Thursday I attended the first annual Gulu 5K Turkey Trot. There were over 90 people who ran the race and it was such a good time. We thought people starred at us before, but a bunch of mzungus doing an organized run, now that is a sight. Every time I go on a run here a boda- boda stops me and goes “you stop that, Ill take you.” The idea of physical exercise is simply foreign to most Acholi people. The person that won however, was a Ugandan marathon runner who ran a sub 15 minute race….I can promise you none of my friends or I were even close to that time BUT we still had an absolute blast. Multiple local vendors ended up coming to the Trot to sell some homemade items so I also got some Christmas shopping done. All of my roommates ended up going into work in the afternoon so I spent a majority of the afternoon hanging out with my friends Brandon, Adam and Robbie. At night we headed to the Iron Donkey for a Thanksgiving feast. Unfortunately we did not have any turkey so local chicken had to take its place. For me (and most people) Thanksgiving is about enjoying time with the people around you and this one was no exception. I do wish that Gulu electricity had cooperated a bit more to allow me to Skype with my family however. Love you guys-sorry it didn’t work out.


Turkey trot: pictured me, carolina and Goose


Turkey Trotters


Goose before….

On Friday the Gulu electricity continued to mess up my plans, so my day of anticipated working was cut short since my computer only lasted about 30 minutes. At night (when power finally came back), 2 of my roommates and I got into the holiday spirit by watching Elf and creating a makeshift fireplace to hang our stockings.

On Saturday 20 of us headed out to a soccer field in the village to play flag football -our very own Turkey bowl. We ended up playing for over 3 hours and we were not ready to stop when we finally called time. The unfortunate side to this is that we all got completely fried by the sun and have nothing to show for our morning of athleticism but weird tan lines and cuts and bruises. On Saturday night we had over 25 people at our house for an epic Friendsgiving. We sacrificed our pet Turkey “Goose” and everyone brought over a dish that reminded him or her of thanksgiving at home. I have to say, given the rather limited food options here, people got pretty creative. Definitely one of my favorites nights thus far and I can’t say it enough-I’m so thankful to be surrounded by such compassionate, passionate and supportive people.


Goose after….


Attempted thanksgiving selfie

Tomorrow I will be making the trek down to Mubendi to help run a workshop on RHD for the Village Health Team in Kasaymba. I’m praying that the trip will take less than 10 hours but I won’t hold my breath. Hope you all have a great week!

Planes, puke & reasons I’m not done here yet

Every time I am about to leave Gulu, whether it’s for a vacation with my mom, a work trip or to go home to the States, something major always happens that reinforces that I must return. This time–Barbara. Barbara is a 22-year-old RHD patient who, 3 weeks ago, was struggling to survive. The day before I left in October, our nurses informed me that she had been admitted to the ward. When Twalib and I arrived at her bedside every part of her body was swollen, including her face and neck. Her legs were so large that she could not walk and she was rolling back in forth crying because the pain was too much to bear. To make matters worse, one of the intern doctors sent her for a $7 abdominal ultrasound to check her liver, even though if he had just looked at her medical papers he would have known that this was not necessary. She had not received her injections for the past 3 months because she could not afford the transport to the hospital, let alone a $7 scan. When I checked on her the morning I left Gulu she was begging to be sent home so that she could die there. Her mother hadn’t fed her or given her water in 24 hours because she had “given up on her.” It’s moments like these that my heart actually breaks for the people of Uganda- more specifically the Acholi people suffering from preventable RHD. How can your own mom give up on you? How can something so simple as access to food and water be the reason you don’t want to live anymore? The nurses and I put some money together to ensure that she would be fed throughout her time at the hospital but to be honest, I don’t know what has happened to her while I was away. The part that’s worse- there are hundreds of children in this country in the exact same position as Barbara.


My two weeks home were amazing and I had the opportunity to catch up with so many of my friends and family. I also had the chance to interview at some remarkable medical schools and would be honored if I were given the opportunity to attend any one of them. I would be lying, however, if I said I didn’t miss Uganda while I was home. I’m sure there will come a time when I’m ready to be home for good, but I can honestly say that I am very far away from that (sorry Mommom).


Getting on the plane I was both anxious for the next 30 hours of travel time, especially with current events, and excited to be back in Uganda. I was hoping to minimalize my jetlag as much as possible and told myself I would sleep on the second plane and keep myself awake for the third. After having dinner and a lovely glass of wine I was all ready for an epic nap, which is totally an art at 36,000 ft by the way, when I heard a huge clunk at my feet. The woman next to me had passed out and then to my dismay began to puke all over the aisle…and my shoes. Mom you keep asking what I want for Christmas well, my shoes have seen better days. To make matters worse she did not speak any English so none of the flight attendants, or myself for that matter, could ask her what she needed from us. It ended up being a horrible case of motion sickness but I can promise you any passenger within smelling range of row 31, did not have an enjoyable flight.


I landed in Uganda on Sunday night and immediately met up with the Imaging the World team, whom I adore. We spent the entire week traveling around the country to visit the sites that we will be launching our RHD maternal outcomes project in come January. Trips with ITW are never short of laughs and stories and I was happy to spend the week amongst such great company. The trip definitely gave me a good sense of where we stand in terms of successfully launching the project and I can’t wait to officially get started in less than 2 months.


Sister Angela and Kristen explaining the importance of ultrasound during pregnancy

On Thursday afternoon I headed back to Gulu and I could not have been more excited. Besides being pulled over for speeding (yes even when I’m not driving they find me…) and a huge thunderstorm, I made it back in one piece. I honestly love the people I live with and the community in Gulu, which is definitely one of the reasons that I am so content here. It was a great feeling being able to unpack some things and not be living out of a suitcase. It didn’t really hit me until I looked at my calendar today how soon I will be “re-returning” to the U.S. 3 weeks from today I will be headed back down to Kampala to get ready for my flight! Very bummed that I will not be home to spend Thanksgiving with my family but I am extremely lucky to have so many amazing people to spend it with here. Remember Dad and Paul-don’t let mom cook ANYTHING.



happy to be back with my Gulu family

Can’t wait to be back in the clinic with Twalib and the nurses tomorrow. Feels like it has been months. Hope everyone has a great week and an amazing Thanksgiving!

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