Revolutionizing Spine Care…Changing Lives

Uganda Spine Surgery Mission – Day 9


A bit of a rushed breakfast this morning as most of the team was sluggish to get up, beat from the events of yesterday, not to mention the toll of a long week’s work in a foreign country. Although that didn’t stop Dr. Lieberman from his morning run, again joined by local Joshua and now Dr. Burch, team 2 lead surgeon. He also had new shoes, now Dr. Lieberman is double screwed (just like most of his patients).

Both teams crammed into a single van for the hospital, 17 people in total, which is a Uganda Spine Mission record!  We arrived at the hospital and got right to work. Most of team 2 went straight into clinic, with growing lines of potential patients, they’ll have their work cut out for them today, as the eager Ugandans look to the medical team for assistance.

Equipment manager Brian walked some team 2 members through the SPD, the sterilization and processing department. It’s quite a bit different from the way things work back home, as the hospital here lacks much of the equipment, resources and manpower that make sterilization stateside a much more efficient process. Here it is more hands on, and there is a significantly greater risk of contamination or even infection. Knowing the dangers, Brian pointed very forcefully to get his point across.


Meanwhile in the OR room Mary was being prepped for surgery. Mary is an 11 year old girl who lives in an orphanage and suffers from kypho-scoliosis which is a forward hunching collapse of the spine. She had an operation last year, however for whatever reason she failed to fully fuse and consequentially her hardware failed, necessitating re-instrumentation and another fusion. As they were prepping for anaesthesia, power at the hospital went out, which meant Mary was forced to wait on the cold OR table in the intimidating room. Luckily Dr. Lieberman’s son Josh was on hand to do some drawing with her and keep her mind off the impending surgery. Power returned, and the team was able to get Mary asleep and into position for surgery to begin!


Mary pre-op


Mary’s pre-op X-ray


Josh drawing

The surgery, already delayed by the power outage, seemed to be taking longer than anticipated. There was quite a bit of scar tissue surrounding young Mary’s spine, which is challenging to maneuver around. But it’s nothing Dr. Lieberman and the team haven’t seen before, so with due diligence they were able to expose the vertebrate and get the screws and rods in place.


X-ray with screws

The second case was a hardware removal for a very young boy named Ivan that Dr. Lieberman had operated on the previous mission. The last time we saw young Ivan he was unable to walk on his own, and sure enough Ivan came strutting into clinic earlier this week for his yearly check up. Dr. Lieberman said seeing the young boy walk on his own was one of the most rewarding moments of his 10 years coming to Uganda… despite the boy breaking out into tears upon seeing the Muzungo Doctor who hurt me last year!

Having grown quite a bit now, Dr. Lieberman found it best suited to remove the corrective hardware and allow Ivan to continue growing au naturale. The operation was quite simple in comparison to some of our other corrective cases, so it was a nice change of pace. Everything went well, and we look forward to seeing Ivan next year and continuing to monitor his progression!


The final case of the day was a 51 year young woman named Winnie.  She had a benign but painful tumor in her third lumbar vertebra. This required cement fixation to provide pain relief. Dr. Hisey inserted cement under X-ray guidance, but was challenged by the cement hardening in under 45 seconds! It took all of Dr Lieberman and Sherri’s help to get the third (and last!) batch of cement ready quickly enough to fill the the vertebra enough, but all turned out well.

We were finally done with our work in Uganda! As a thanks to Dr. Lieberman for carrying us all week, we decided to carry him off into the sunset!


Quote of the day:

We tried an Indian restaurant for dinner and put in an order for Na’an early because we were starving! We’re not sure they got the message though because our main courses came out before we ever got the Indian bread. A bit annoyed with the lack of carbs, Zvi commented “so far this has been a non Na’an meal”

Please support the Uganda Spine Surgery Mission, visit: http://www.ugandaspinesurgerymission.com

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