Revolutionizing Spine Care…Changing Lives

Uganda Spine Surgery Mission 2017 – Day 1 and 1.5

Day 1 and 1/2: Arrival in Uganda

Whenever you travel, there’s always the concern about baggage; Did it all make it on the right flight? Did it arrive? Was it searched? Can I retrieve it? It’s a little different on a mission trip such as this, in the sense that these questions make you a little more worried; Are the sterile items in the bins open and contaminated? Did my bags with my supplies make it? Did they remove something?
We arrived in Entebbe in the evening, and after retrieving visas, making sure we were all together, the crew headed to retrieve our bags and bins of supplies. The crew, this year, consists of two teams over two weeks. Week 1 consists of Dr. Isador Lieberman from Texas Back Institute in Texas, Dr. Steve Gorlick, from Toronto, Canada, Dr. Tiffany Grace Perry from Los Angeles, California, and Dr. Meng Huang, a 5th-year neurosurgery resident at Houston Methodist. In addition, we have Kari Zagar, the neuromonitor, Sherri LaCivita, the scrub technician, Brian Failla, hardware rep from Globus Medical and myself, Adam Woodward, a premed student.
We slowly see personal bags come out, and the bins all set to the side. While two remain to guard the bags we had on us, some went to retrieve the bins, and others the personal belongings. Once all were grabbed and counted, we realized we were missing 3 bags; one of the extra medical supplies Dr. Huang brought, and Dr. Perry’s bags, containing all of her clothes, scrubs, and some other personal belongings. After some inquiries and searching, it was determined that their bags never made it on the plane, but we could easily adjust to the situation.
With that in mind, we found the van that would be taking us to Mbarara, packed our bags inside, filed in and began the long trek from Entebbe to Mbarara.

The following morning, after some much-needed sleep, we left the Lake Side Hotel to the hospital, with the intent of unpacking what seemed like countless boxes of medical, both newly brought and remaining from previous years. The arrival was nice; old friends were met once again, and new friends made. We met and spoke with Normun, head of the operating room, who then kindly showed us where we’d be storing all the supplies. After discussing a few rules, we went to work on the task of unloading and sorting supplies, in addition to setting up trays of with tools to be sterilized. But, as the saying goes, “work hard, play hard”, we found ways to laugh during the work. While wrapping tools to be sterilized, Dr. Gorlick was called over to help wrap, to which he chuckled, “Don’t worry guys, I’m the bondage king!”. It was hard to continue through the laughter for a few minutes.

We finished up the necessary work and went to the town to get some water and some fresh clothes for Dr. Perry. Mbarara is filled with life; people bustling through the busy town, the shops filled with people, all buying and selling goods. We found some of what we were searching for, went to another shop, and returned to relax.
And after a long day, what’s better than a game of Jenga with a bunch of friends? Sure, tensions were high and no one touched the table during the games, but it was extremely enjoyable for all parties involved; especially when Dr. Meng was struggling to find a good block to pull, so he jokingly said: “I’m going to need my loops for this…” The laughing was so bad, he almost lost the game then and there.

Dinner rolled around, and as per tradition, the fried fish was ordered and was absolutely amazing. Warm and flaky on the inside, but crunchy and flavorful on the outside.
At the end of dinner, we all recounted what we learned through the day, and the thing that stuck out to me the most was that nothing goes to waste here. Tying the tools to be sterilized, gauze was tied together and used and will be reused to tie more together when necessary. It was very different than in the US when most things are disposable in a hospital.

Thus, ended our first day and a half.

Quote of the Day: “Yes, we arrived in Entebbe… I’m sure they have a Victoria’s Secret here…” Tiffany Grace Perry, July 1, 2017

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