This is a private room at the International Hospital of Kampala (IHK). This is one of the country’s premier hospitals, started by an Irish doctor who emigrated to Uganda, and who is now in Parliament there. My son was in this room for 4 days with pneumonia. The first two days were terrifying, as I got a first hand look at the differences between our Western medicine and what is practiced in the best hospital in Uganda. (To be fair, my son did get better, and despite some scary moments and some really basic nursing errors and some crazy “only in Africa” happenings, I am very grateful to IHK and smile at it every time I pass it on the way to Namuwongo!)
Since then, I have spent time in village clinics and in the hospital in Tororo. While some care is better than no care (usually, anyway), I think that all of you would be shocked and maybe even horrified at what sick people go through in them. Working with hospice, I am further saddened by how people have to die.
This woman, a jaja, or grandmother, living in a one room hut on the outskirts of a tiny village, has dry gangrene. Didn’t know that was a thing? Me neither, but it is. Parts just dry up and fall off, and it spreads until and unless you amputate above the farthest reaches of the infection. Hers was almost to her knee; she had no money for, nor the physical strength to recover from, surgery. She crawled around on her hands and knees with her foot in the air because someone stole her crutches. Hospice provides morphine and psyco-social help, but there isn’t much else that can be done.
This is Sharifa. She was 14 in this picture. She died 2 weeks later from HIV/AIDS and TB. We visited her in the home of her uncle, where she was left by her father after her mother died of HIV/AIDS. She has TB meds in her hand, but her family was non-compliant, because going to the clinic to get her meds took someone away from working the land, and they couldn’t do that. Sharifa was left alone in the house each day.
Meet Hillary, age 7. He has sickle cell anemia, the second child I met with this condition in a few days. He cannot attend school because of his frequent crises.. He had a sickle crisis a week before I met him, and was still tired, shuffling through the yard. Hospice Tororo enrolls sicklers into their program so that they can get morphine for pain when a crisis comes. They are the only hospice to do so; the only pain medication available to most people with sickle cell anemia is acetaminophen. It’s not enough.
This is how hospice transports its meds. Liquid morphine is mixed in used water bottles, color-coded by strength. Doctors (or nurses if doctor’s aren’t available) meet with patients, do examinations, and dispense medicine. Sometimes this happens in a clinic, such as this one we went to in October. Sometimes it’s in a home, in a yard, or even on the side of the road.
This is a rural clinic outside of Jinja. It’s got mattresses, which is big deal. They smell like urine, which is par for the course. In most hospitals, including in Tororo, patients (or their families) must bring a mattress. Otherwise, they lay blankets and woven mats on the metal springs of the 1950’s era beds. There are about 40 patients per half-ward, or 80 in a full room, plus family members who must bring food, clean the patient, give them medication, and generally care for them. The sights and sounds are numbing.
Why do we show you this? We work with 2 hospices in Uganda, which is ONE-THIRD of the hospices for the whole country. Hospice Tororo has its office in the Tororo Hospital. Hospice Jinja works with the hospital in Jinja, but doesn’t have offices for patients to visit. People we know and love go to these clinics, these hospitals, and rely on them for some help and relief.
This is where your money goes, to bring some relief in the midst of great suffering, and to support those in Uganda who give so tirelessly and selflessly to those who are hurting. We hope you’ll join the effort and donate here.