East Africa Bush Tails

Bwindi Community Hospital

Little Jackline’s Life saved!
Surgery for young children is still a challenge in rural Uganda where appropriate facilities and skills maybe inadequate.

Success stories like the one below help demonstrate the importance of our services, and motivate us to continue striving to improve.

Jackline, a seven year old girl from Kihihi, had been unwell for three days with abdominal pains, vomiting and bloody diarrhoea. Her mother, Agnes Niwasiima, first took her to the private health unit in Kihihi about 50km (and a two hour drive) from Bwindi Community Hospital (BCH).

While at the clinic, Jackline was diagnosed with malaria and was started on treatment.

Unfortunately her condition did not improve even a single inch. She was later referred to us. While here, our team of doctors were able to assess her thoroughly and discovered that part of her intestines had slid into another causing blockage of flow of food.

Jackline and her mother arrived at the hospital at about 10pm and were taken to the child health unit. She was later rushed to the operating theatre, and the doctors started the procedure. It took nearly 2 hours to correct the problem. Back on the ward, Jackline was a very sick little girl, and needed a lot of care from our nurses. Soon, however, she began to reward our surgical and child health teams with signs of improvement.

Day after day with the help of our teams and her caring parents, Jackline improved; her intestines started working again, and she was allowed to feed. Ten days later, Jackline was discharged all smiles.

Stories like Jackline’s are not uncommon here. They bring joy to not only the patients and their relatives but also to us as we come face to face with the challenges and rewards of surgery for young children in Bwindi.

We are grateful to Jackline’s mother for allowing us to publish this story and use her picture.

1Jackline plays with other children before discharge.

A volunteer’s experience at Bwindi Community Hospital
It is 8am. The sounds of singing in Rukiga (the local language) and the beat of drums and clapping hands ring in your ears. In every direction you look are steep green hills draped with tea and coffee plantations.
A pregnant mother walks past me with a child strapped to her back and a huge bunch of matooke balanced effortlessly on her head. This is Uganda and it is beautiful.

Almost every morning starts like this here at BCH. Monday to Saturday is a normal working week. It can be hard, but more often than not it is deeply rewarding. Between daily ward rounds of the Adult Inpatient’s ward, providing supervision for clinical officers in a busy outpatient department, receiving Rukiga lessons and contributing to weekly teaching for clinical staff, it can be difficult to find time for the quality improvement projects for which we have time 2-3 days a week, not to mention finding time for the weekly football and volleyball leagues. These are wonderfully fierce, and cause controversies that are discussed long into the evening. Clinical work in rural Uganda is fascinating whilst humbling.

2Dr. Hamish (right) together with the rest of the team attend to a patient on the ward.

The late presentation of patients’ means you regularly see what normally only exists in textbooks and the experience of the staff here at BCH is often all that keeps you straight. Patients’ stories bring to life the reasons for poor health in rural Africa and forever make you reassess what you take for granted.

A single journey by car on the roads here tells you why travel to the hospital takes so long and costs so much.

A lot of priority is given to making our time here as volunteer doctors sustainable. Being involved in the confidential enquiries into local maternal and child deaths, setting up chronic care clinics and initiating a service for those dependent on alcohol are among some of the activities that will continue to develop and improve once we have left.

After a long day or week on the wards (or if you are on the losing side in football), there is always hiking high in the hills next to DRC, bumping into gorillas on evening walks, heading to the forest camps for a cold beer or mountain biking. On days off, it is not far to Lake Bunyonyi to do not very much, and it is only 3 hours to Queen Elizabeth National Park and the tree-climbing lions.

All in, it is difficult to consider your time here as ‘volunteering’: BCH and Uganda can enrich your life far more than any cost of coming here. A privileged insight into Ugandan culture, lessons from increased clinical and administrative responsibilities, and time with colleagues and people who will remain friends or mentors for life, are among some of what I will take home.

Dr Hamish Foster
Volunteer Family Physician BCH
GP Trainee – Glasgow, Scotland 

Updates on Uganda Nursing School Bwindi (UNSB)
The school opened last year with the first intake of 13 students.  The second intake will be in May and it will include two international students who already applied. The inauguration ceremony is slated for 23rd of ‘May 2014 where His Excellency the president of Uganda , Yoweri Kaguta Museveni is expected to grace the occasion and all our esteemed partners. You can Support the school through scholarships.

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