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Uganda Spine Surgery Mission 2017 – Day 3

Uganda Spine Surgery Mission 2017 – Day 3

Day 3: I’m Feeling the Pressure

A typical morning; for some, a run. For others, more sleep. Close behind, group breakfast with warm food, and a fresh cup of coffee or tea. Shortly after, we jumped into the van with some bags and headed off.

We arrived at the hospital, and split into two groups once again; Dr. Huang, Dr. Perry, and I (Adam) all traveled to visit our only surgical case on Monday, while the rest remained to prep the operating room (OR, for short). He was put into the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for the night and was doing well, but still had some pain and discomfort. We checked his dressing on his incision, changed it, and headed up to regroup with Dr. Lieberman and the others.
The situation was pre-determined; Dr. Gorlick, Dr. Perry and myself are to head back and meet the patients for the day, while the rest remain in the OR for more surgeries; a scoliosis correction and fusion on one girl, Medius, a decompression on a gentleman by the name of Godson, and a TB cleaning and spinal reconstruction on another gentleman by the name of Julius. We accepted, slightly disappointed not to be in the OR, but happy to still meet and try and do what we came here for; to help everyone and make a difference.

Similar to the previous day, every patient came in with different stories, and many patients shared similar conditions. And with every patient, came Dr. Perry examining them and their films, me rapidly typing everything into a chart, and Dr. Gorlick once again filling in the gaps I missed and completing the most important task; handing out lollipops. Thanks to Sister Rose, for bringing both Dr. Perry and I the most delicious, homemade samosas and bread. It became frustrating, seeing so many patients and feeling like you’re not helping them as much as you want to or as much as you could. With this feeling, after the 40 patient mark being the halfway point, we took a break and returned to the Doctor’s Lounge for a short time. We all knew that the rest were doing their surgical cases for the day. During our time in the clinic, Brian, who remained with Dr. Lieberman, heard a loud tear but was so entrenched in his work he didn’t bother to investigate. Later that afternoon between cases, he realized his paper scrubs tore open, providing an unencumbered view of his fruit of the looms.

Quote of the day provided by Brian: “eyes up ladies”

Imagine walking into a room to a man whose clothes look like they’re being held together by masking tape and a whole lotta hope.

It was a huge laugh for everyone who saw this, including Dr. Perry, who noticed it.

Once we regrouped, we talked about what we saw, what we’d like to do, and how we could speed up the process as we’d already spent roughly 5 hours on only 40 of the 80 patients, and the day was wearing out. What about being less thorough? No, we could miss something. Being faster? No, everyone deserves the same care. Running another room?
Hmm. That may work.
We went back to clinic, food in hand, to prevent us from any chance of hunger frustration, or “hanger”. Dr. Gorlick, and another orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Kinsitu, each took a room, and we all began seeing patients. If there was any doubt from either of the other rooms, they came in, chatted briefly with Dr. Perry, came to an agreement, and resumed their patient meetings and consultations.

Meanwhile, back in the OR, they were having their own fun. With spine surgeries, you have a “Neuromonitor”, who, through a series of needles and wires carefully placed into the arms and legs, makes sure that when correction of the main problem takes place, no nerves or the spinal cord are damage and there’s no loss of motor function. In the first fusion, they had to be extremely careful, as over correction caused the monitoring signals to fade meaning a possible decrease in function. But, thanks to Kari, this was all avoided. Their decompression went well, but the other TB case was messy; the infection was far worse than expected but still cleanable, so they began the long task of cleaning his vertebrae.

Both teams finished in the early evening, and were hungry, we returned to the hotel to a warm buffet of fish, pasta, chicken, and a few other things are cooked and ready for us thanks to Dr. Gorlick’s idea of calling the order of a buffet ahead of time. And let me tell you, there is nothing better than a long day of work, and returning to a warm, delicious dinner all ready to be eaten.

Texas Back Institute