Uganda Christian University and Karen Drake are the main reasons we were privileged to go to Uganda. Dr. Drake set up a Masters Nursing program at UCU – those students visit us for a month, we go to Uganda for a month – all to learn from each others nursing practice. My group: Hannah, Hannah, Hillary, Andrea, Ashley, Anna, Naomi, BJ and me – started our time here. We spent time with Ugandan undergrad and masters students, walking around town, meeting Naomi’s friends (she was here for a semester) and a day in labor and delivery at Mulago, the national referral hospital.
To some, Mulago was a nightmare. A violation to everything nurses are drilled on in sterile technique, patient respect, and quality of care in the United States. And I’m sure for some of the women, it was a nightmare. Entering the operating room for a C-section is a great shame for a Ugandan woman – they take pride in being strong, enduring pain, and bringing forth children alone. So when a young mother in obstructed labor is pushed into a concrete room with metal tables and glaring lights all around, maybe it is a nightmare.
We were not allowed to provide actual procedures and care for patients – we had difficulty even gaining access to the hospital thanks to the archaic system of communication. However, what I hope we were able to do was provide a caring and holistic presence in this efficient yet factory-like hospital. People lined the halls waiting for treatment and women labored all alone until the last five minutes on metal tables covered in a black plastic tarp. Expected to bring their own basins, towels, food, water, and clothes, the women were given no (and may not have even accepted any) pain medication. Goodbye epidurals. We are too dependent on them anyway – the good thing was, healthy Ugandan mothers were out of the hospital well recovered in much less than 24 hours – USA moms with drugs and monitoring off the wall are often in the hospital for two days.
Was the hospital lacking justice and competent care? Maybe. But I feel it was more an overloaded system trying its best to provide some affordable care to the country; much of the ‘lack of caring’ I believe was cultural.
Our group loved each other, and this next photo expresses that oh so well…
We went crazy playing spoons with students at UCU…
Outside of personal interaction with people, I have faced my greatest challenges thinking about a country or social system from inside a car. Riding in an overcrowded Ugandan taxi (a Matatu), the countryside rushed by. From Kampala to the suburbs, small towns to villages, I saw what might be deemed as the ‘simple life’. Now, I am not one to judge whose life is simple, or what that even means. Taking it down a notch from the technology and scheduled overload of the USA was refreshing, yet challenging. What really fulfills us – the time or event – or the people and relationships spent in that time? Who really has a truer faith and makes a greater impact – one adventurous and changing the world, or one living simply in the midst of relationships and letting themselves be changed by the world?