|Part of medical team walking down to clinic|
|One of the 3 four-bed wards at clinic.|
The clinic had three small wards where the very ill (most often young children with malaria) were admitted. Concrete floors, plastic covered mattresses, no mosquito nets and no bed linen. Note the wooden bench for visitors or family. If you or your child was admitted it was up to you to provide sheets, water and food. We often found ourselves paying what amounted to 40c for bottles of water and handing them out to people in the wards, mothers with young children. We also regularly went round and bought plates of food (about $2) for them as many might have walked from villages 15km away and not have the means to purchase food or to contact relatives.
|Annette, mother of 4 including twins Catherine & Nicholas|
|Babies ride on back|
As a non-medical team member I assisted with registration, taking blood pressure, weight and generally ensuring that we kept the lines outside the 3 separate consulting rooms (2 doctors or nurses one each) and the dentist moving. The local people were incredibly patient - many had walked significant distances to be there, some had slept under the tent shelter the night before, most waited hours before they were seen by the doctors and then a further hour or so to receive their prescriptions.
|Waiting at pharmacy window|
Over nine days we saw over 2600 patients and for many people it was the only time they consult a doctor - when the international team comes each year.
|Waiting for dentist|
I captured these children before they had seen the dentist - people waiting at pharmacy window behind them. The medical team has services of a volunteer dentist from Kampala - a very small statured woman whose sole role during the clinic is to extract infected teeth! An infected tooth could lead to greater infections, illness and, in worst cases death. With limited resources - all done in a plastic garden chair with dentist wearing a camping headlamp - everyone visiting the dentist goes in first to get an injection of Novocain and then to have the tooth extracted some 10-15mins later. The dentist is an amazing woman - works solidly through the day with minimal equipment. Some kids have to be held in the chair and scream - but many are quite stoic and take it as necessary. I think I got the photo above before their dentist visit since they are ready with their smiles.
|Waiting for relatives still with doctors.|
|At the end of the day the tent, so full in the morning, is almost empty|
The daily routine of the medical mission as described above masks some very difficult and heart rendering experiences. I was not a medical team member so witnessed far fewer cases than did the nurses and doctors - but there were times when the poverty, the sickness and the lack of basic health understanding brought each of us to tears. A little girl with malaria, a raging fever and little response was hooked up to a drip in an effort to hydrate her and I was charged with wiping her little body down with cold cloths to try and help cool her - she passed away on the first night - teaching me the fragility of life where lack of knowledge and basic medical care is so difficult to obtain. There were countless others - children and adults without shoes, women with hands so rough, cracked and creviced from working in the gardens you thought you were holding concrete when you took their blood pressure. Most of the adults I weighed were under 50kg and when I noted someone was around my age, I was shocked at how tired and worn out they were. But amongst all this was astounding human resilience which in and of itself was a rich and deep lesson for me.
Images beyond those posted above will stay with me as I try to make sense of the challenges the people of Kamengo face. I had an incredible experience on the medical mission and am committed to returning to work with the students, teachers and schools to see if basic education can be enhanced and can perhaps mitigate some of the suffering I witnessed as part of the CACHA medical mission.