DAY 1 – August 14th:
Our mission began at the London Heathrow airport on Saturday August 13th. Jet-lagged from our trips from Toronto, Florida, Texas, and Poland, some remained in the airport while others day-tripped into London before the connecting flight. The anticipation grew upon the arrival of Dr. Isador Lieberman (Spine Surgeon) and Ngozi Akotaobi (Physical Therapist), who created and delivered our 2011 Uganda Spine Surgery Mission shirts which we wore proudly.
The team had doubled in size since the previous year. Hugs were shared among veterans and handshakes among rookies, and we were all excited to reach our destination.
The team in London.
For others, the mission had already began. Dr. Mark Kayanja (Surgeon), the motivation for the first Uganda Spine Mission 5 years ago, arrived on Monday August 8th. He was joined by Amy (RN) and Dr. Selvon St. Clair (Surgeon) on Tuesday, after a day of unanticipated passport problems. Together, Dr. Kayanja, Amy and Dr. St. Clair saw over 30 patients in the clinic and performed three surgeries. The surgeries included: 1) a T10-L1 posterior fusion for 20-year old male who fell from a mango tree 6 weeks prior, 2) the removal of an abscess causing kyphosis (hunched posture) in a 9-year old girl suspected of having tuberculosis of the spine, and 3) repair around an irritated nerve in the lower back of a 39-year old woman with back pain and numbness of her leg. They scheduled four more surgeries in preparation for our arrival so we could hit the ground running and maximize our impact during the mission.
We landed in Entebbe at 7a.m. local time exhausted from consecutive overnight flights only to learn that the airline had misplaced two bags: those of our fearless leader, Dr. Izzy Lieberman.
We were enthusiastically greeted by our driver, stuffed two vans with our luggage and supplies and drove to Kampala. It was a familiar drive for the vets and eye-opening for the rookies, as we all snapped shots of the diverse scenery of lush landscapes and busy town markets. We arrived at our accommodations, bunked up and unpacked.
We met at 12:30pm to discuss our plan for the week. Two surgeries had been scheduled at Mulago, Kampala’s general hospital and another two at Case, a private hospital nearby. We also planned a clinic for 15 children at Mulago who were traveling to Kamapala to see us. We discussed some of the challenges to be overcome, including licensing and new regulations about moving our critical equipment between hospitals. With a team of 13, we divided into two groups so we could work at Case and Mulago simultaneously, for the first time.
We like to call this the situation room!
After the meeting, we went grocery shopping and returned home for a much-needed nap. Later in the evening we ate dinner at the nearby Serena Hotel, where we shared thoughts and laughs in anticipation for the days to come.
We had the pleasure of meeting a few wonderful individuals. In the Heathrow terminal our shirts were recognized by Elizabeth Iverson, an Italian dentist who moved to Uganda in 2009 to treat children born with cleft palates. She lives there with her family now and had much to share about humanitarianism, her experiences and the culture of the Ugandan peoples. We were joined at dinner by Brooke Stern, and her colleague Nick, from an organization called Supportive Opportunities for Ugandans to Learn (S.O.U.L.) based out of New York. Brooke had read about our mission online and wished to meet up with us in Kampala. She was an impressive young nurse who started and grew this organization. She has now reached many Ugandans, raising school fees for 250 children and supporting an additional 300 women in cooperative programs such as fish-farming and subsistence farming.
Brooke, Ngozi & Nick
We look forward to the many more remarkable individuals we will encounter over the next two weeks.
Quote of the Day:
“I’m gonna have to re-adjust my malaria meter.”