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Revolutionizing Spine Care…Changing Lives

Uganda Spine Mission Day 2

DAY 2 – August 15th:

At 7:30am, two full vans left home for Mulago and Case Hospitals. The plan for the day was ambitious: 4 surgeries and a spine clinic.

As we entered the Mulago government hospital, jaws dropped at the overcrowded, unsanitary, poorly maintained and undersupplied orthopaedic ward and operating room – a stark contrast to hospitals we are accustomed to, but a welcome home to poverty-stricken peoples living in and around Kampala. We were greeted with smiling faces by nurses, administrators and house staff and assumed our positions.

After meeting with Dr. Titus Beyeza (Head of Orthopedics at Mulago) to work out our equipment challenges, Dr. Lieberman and Jordan Silverman (Medical Student/Scribe) went to the clinic where we were joined by Amy and Ngozi. Greeted with a hug from a patient of years past, we met the patients who had been lined up since early morning anticipating our arrival.

We saw 19 patients (8 follow-up and the rest new) with a variety of spinal pathologies, each more complicated than the last. Of these patients, at least 7 would almost definitely require surgery pending their X-ray results. We hoped we would have time to help them all.

Dr. Lieberman examining a patient in clinic at Mulago hospital.

Meanwhile in the O.R., the team performed two successful surgeries, led by the brave Dr. Kirill Ilalov (Spine Surgery Fellow) and Dr. Mark Kayanja. In the morning, they repaired a cervical (C3/C4) neck fracture on a 64 year-old woman who had very limited mobility below her shoulders. The second surgery was for repair of a burst spinal disc in the lower back (L1-L3) of 39 year-old woman.   Dr. Kris Kusza, our Polish anesthesiologist, was surprised by the insufficient equipment.

The operating room at CASE hospital during the surgery of a 63 year old woman with degenerative disc disease.

At Case Hospital, Dr. Selvon St. Clair and Dr. Kris Siemionow (spine surgeons) operated on a 63 year-old lady with degenerative disc disease causing compression of her spinal cord (L3-L5); she had trouble walking and even standing on her own. The reliable and experienced Brian Failla (Equipment Manager) and Sherron Wilson (Nurse) were in charge of organizing and distributing the tools for all surgeries on the mission. Unfortunately the second surgery at Case had to be cancelled because the patient was unstable, with a low haemoglobin level.

We also got to peer into the diverse mysticism and cultural experiences in Uganda. Among our challenging cases of scoliosis (curved spine) and Tuberculosis in the clinic, we saw an acupuncture scar inflicted by the local medic in an attempt to rid the child of the evil spirits suspected of causing such a terrible deformity.

Later, we saw an Israeli flag waving in a windshield in the nearby lot. I approached the driver and his family inquiring about his affiliation. “I love the nation,” he exclaimed. I asked if he was Jewish. “I am Jewish by assimilation.” He shook my hand enthusiastically, and wished us well on our mission.

Looking forward to the rest of our trip.

Quote of the day:

“Case served us lunch today. The rookies ate it.” – Brian Failla

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