Uganda Love This

Amy Scheel

Month: March 2016

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.


Sunset from our Camp!


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.



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.



The girls super excited about their hearts!


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.


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

As for the rest of this week…’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! 


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


Stop 2: Lake Bunyoni, Kabale, Southwest Uganda

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

DSC_4223 DSC_4218



Stop 3: Murchison Falls National Park, Central Uganda

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

DSC_4358                   DSC_4281


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.


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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