After receiving messages from both of my parents asking if I’m alive, I figured it was time for a blog post. I apologize for the delay but things have been super busy here with project launches and traveling! Since my last blog post was from the airport, I’ll start there where I left off.
With 30+ hours on a plane by myself, I had a lot of time to reflect on this past year but also a lot of time to let my mind wander. After calculating that I have been on 27 airplanes this year (who knows how many hours that adds up to) I thought I’d share some of the lessons I’ve learned as a seasoned airport goer.
- The last name Scheel has Dutch roots. No matter what I say when going through security in Amsterdam I will always be greeted in Dutch first, followed by a stare from a disappointed security officer when I tell him I can’t understand him and that I have no Dutch ancestors.
- Scheel means “those who are cross eyed” in Dutch. Lovely.
- You should probably try to get your Visa more than 3 days before departure…..Thanks to everyone who made that happen. Nothing like a little excitement.
- Business class is a magical land.
- If you have to Google the meaning of items on the dinner menu for the aforementioned business class then you probably don’t belong….
- Leaving your passport on the plane and having to go down the up escalator weaving in and out of de-boarding passengers is highly embarrassing.
Once arriving in Uganda things took off right from the start. A day and half after arriving we officially launched a study that will assess the impact of RHD on maternal outcomes at two Health Centre III’s in Uganda. We started the week at Kasambya and finished in Nawanyago. Although some of us were a little skeptical at the beginning, I have to say that I don’t think the first week at the sites could have gone much better. The research nurses, whom I will be working with closely over the next few months, have been absolutely wonderful and you can really tell how invested they are in this project. I will be heading down to both of the sites next week and can’t wait to see all of the amazing work they have been doing!
After officially finishing the launch at both sites on Thursday afternoon, I headed back to Kampala with Dr. Sable to meet the 3 Residents from Children’s (who are absolutely wonderful) that are in Uganda for 3 weeks. On Saturday we screened over 20 children with congenital heart disease with Samaritan’s Purse. A lot of these patients were good surgical candidates and some even made the trek down from Gulu-fingers crossed that these kiddos will be placed for surgery! Unfortunately we did have one kid come in who had severe RHD w/ triple valve involvement, something I have personally never seen before. Although I work with RHD patients daily it still really affects me, especially knowing how preventable it is. It was even harder trying to watch the family understand that this is something that is not going to go away and that the child will need to be on medication for the rest of his life.
After an amazingly long and productive week, the Residents, Twalib and I headed back to Gulu on Sunday afternoon. I honestly can’t even express how great it felt to be able to have all of my stuff in one place and be back “home” with all of my roommates. I was quickly reminded on Monday morning, however, what being back in Gulu means-unreliable electricity. Our power has been out for over 4 days making it virtually impossible to do anything from home in terms of work. Throw in 2 days of no water and a shower with a bucket of rain water and I truly felt like I was camping.
This week I spent a majority of my time with the nurses and Twalib in the cardiac clinic. Although we hadn’t scheduled patients for Monday or Tuesday we still had a lot of walk-ins, which kept us busy. Every afternoon has been devoted to support group training and meetings and I am super excited for our group tomorrow! Things are finally coming together and I really think that this is going to be something special. When we called the kids to remind them yesterday, all of them had remembered the date and said they were looking forward to it, which is always comforting. Now all I have to do is cross my fingers that they show up around the same time. Noon in Uganda means anywhere between 12-3…….I’ll be sure to let you know how it goes! Have a great weekend everybody! PS-Mom and Dad-I’m alive.