I’ve been working with Hospice Jinja for almost as long as I’ve been going to Uganda; I connected with them on my second visit, nearly 6 years ago. When Rinty opened up Hospice Tororo a few years ago, I started visiting there, too. In that time, I’ve seen some hard things. Things you just don’t see — honestly, things that really don’t even happen — in the US. Through it all, the folks of both hospices have kept their compassion, their love, their dedication, and their enormous welcoming hospitality towards me and anyone I’ve brought to visit. Both organizations are truly among my very favorite places to go in Uganda, hard things and all.
We visited Hospice Tororo after Mawanga, and there was a definite silver lining: Green Meadows, the hotel where we stayed. This place, y’all… wow. It is absolutely gorgeous, relaxing, peaceful, comfortable… I stayed there last October, when it was pretty new. Now all the beautiful landscaping has grown in, so it’s even more stunning. And I maintain that they have the best showers in the entire country! Needless to say, we greatly enjoyed our 2 nights there! (I didn’t take many photos at the hotel, unfortunately, except a few of the flowers and outside.)
We had climbed the mountain outside of Mawanga the day before, so we decided not to try to climb the less pretty Tororo Rock as we’d planned and just take an afternoon rest day. It was AWESOME! Allie slept for 3 hours, and the rest of us read, got on the internet, and watched Flashdance with Arabic commercials.
The next day, we headed to Hospice Tororo, located in the Tororo Hospital. Now, as Ugandan hospitals go, the one in Tororo is pretty good. That’s not to say GOOD, but it’s all relative… The grounds are filled with the families of those in the hospital, because the family members are the ones who feed, bathe, and care for the patients. Without a family member, a patient could well starve right there in the hospital! Since the last time I was there, the ministry has given the hospital mattresses, which is a big improvement over the metal springs the patients slept on (on either a reed mat or a foam mattress provided by the family). And overall, it smelled a lot better. Not good… But better.
We did a tour of the hospital, as I thought it important for the non-medical girls to still see what a Ugandan hospital was like. What is it like? 35 or so patients to a ward. Family members milling about, sleeping under beds, helping patients to the latrines. In the surgical wards, things we haven’t seen here in decades, like full upper body plaster casts. In the non-surgical wards, people who look like living skeletons, or who are literally dying from things like a botched hemorrhoid surgery. Lots of liver cancers from hepatitis B. Mostly acceptance that this is just how life is. Here are a couple of photos from the hospital:
While Nurse Allie spent the day (in her element!) with the head hospice nurse, Diana, in the hospital, Erin and Hannah went out into the field with the psycho-social team to visit patients and their families in the villages. This is an important part of what Hospice Tororo does, and they have several social workers on staff or volunteer who help design programs for the psycho-social side of palliative care. It’s really a wonderful program, and helps hospice reach not only the patient but also the family and community with training, bereavement, and programs for children. The girls loved the day spent with Denis in the field, and were really touched by the patients and the work the social workers do. A photo by Hannah:
Because of space constraints in the vehicle, I didn’t go out in the field. And because I’m not a medical person, I didn’t work in the hospital. That left me with a wonderful afternoon of lunch and catching up with my friend Rinty, who will become a mama in a couple of months.
Our visit to Hospice Jinja was also great, and also hard. For me, harder, since I did go into the field with the team. However, prior to that, we had worship, prayers, reports from the previous day’s team excursion, and a preview of that day’s visits. Erin gave them some clothes for needy patients. We split up again, with Hannah and Erin going on the “easy” route (as far as the patients went), and Allie and I, along with the new Hospice Jinja Program Coordinator Sylvia, with the “hard” route. And it lived up to it’s name!
**** WARNING: MEDICALLY GRAPHIC PICTURES TO FOLLOW ****
We also saw a lady with untreated breast cancer who was so sad. The cancer has spread, but she is in denial about her prognosis. She asked Allie, “Would there be a treatment for this in the US?” We couldn’t tell her it would never get to the point of literally eating away her breast in the US… She also is refusing to take morphine, so she is in a lot of pain. It was a really sad visit.
So yes, it was a hard day. But also an amazing day. Both hospices do an incredible job at pain management for their patients, which is huge in a country that has only allowed narcotics in for about 8 years. The patients were universally glad to see them, and were cheered by the visits. The palliative care team has also been able to educate family and the community so that the dying patients are treated much better than the culture has dictated in the past. And all of the workers at both sites are just wonderful people who show love and compassion every single day.
We are proud to be partners with both of these organizations — and both need financial help to continue their missions. If you’d like to contribute, please visit our GoFundMe page to make a donation today!