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!