Now in my last few days, there have been many sad goodbyes. Today was my last day at Mukono hospital, and saying goodbye to all the lovely midwives I’ve met here is sad sad sad.
I have had an amazing time and have learnt a lot. Not only in medical/nursing terms, but about the massive gulf in resources that separates the healthcare system here from back home. Today I was looking after a newborn boy who had been transferred from a different local hospital as he needed oxygen. The other hospital just didn’t have a way to give babies oxygen, and even this hospital has just one machine. Back home this is a very basic resource, available at each bedspace.
Similarly, there are basically no resources for caring for pre-term babies; pre-term pregnancies with complications such as a lack of amniotic fluid, or pre-eclampsia are induced and then ‘nature left to take it’s course’ with the baby. Thankfully I didn’t actually see this, but it happened over the weekend. Very upsetting for everyone, not least the midwives, who I imagine feel very powerless in such situations. On the other hand, scarcity of resources breeds creativity in professionals, and there is very much an attitude of improvisation and ‘make do and mend’. Last week I was pointing a phone torch inside an expectant mother, as the lamp was broken.
Spending time here has very much cemented my desire to be a doctor, and maybe to return here, or somewhere similar, to practice for a while. So fingers crossed they want me this time!
Another sad goodbye was to our missionary friends, who we went out for a meal with on Tuesday night.
They have been incredibly kind and welcoming friends to us while we have beem here. I still am not sure that I am comfortable with the general concept of missionaries and with the idea of pressurising others into your religion. Especially given the historical issues with American missionaries in Uganda and spreading their attitude towards gay people. But I can’t fault the conviction our friends have in their beliefs. Which is in some ways refreshing, and in other ways saddening. I didn’t actually ask their views on homosexuality, but I’m pretty sure I know what their opinions would be 😦
On Saturday we went to the orphanage for the last time to see Robert and the children. We played and danced a lot, which was great fun.
I took some pads as a gift for the older girls, and also ran my workshop teaching them to make their own pads. It was incredibly humbling for me to hear from Lily that one of women who works at the orphange had told her that the workshop had been the best gift of the year. And this is very much the normal response to the workshop! Which is lovely for me to hear of course, but also crazy and amazing that something so easy and simple can make such a big difference.
Perhaps the most awesome display of gratitude was from some village ladies in a workshop I gave at their pentecostal church. There was a big turnout, which was great, and after the workshop was over and the pads handed out, the pastor said that they would like to pray for me. Being a very religious country this is a pretty standard ask, and I was expecting a kindly worded ‘Amen’ prayer. Oh no. They all raised one hand, placed the other on their heart, bowed their head and started praying furiously in ‘tongues’. Each person was praying individually and their facial expressions were so intense, almost angry – such a surreal experience. It lasted a good five minutes, and an old woman was still going at the back once everyone else had finished. It actually sent shivers down my spine!
Saying goodbye to Joseph was another moment that I hadn’t been looking forward to. We have been working very closely, and his ambitious vision for the future of the sanitary products project has really inspired me. The parting was made less sad by the handing over of the sewing machine that my friends and family have very kindly donated. This will allow him to start production on a small scale, and get the ball rolling!
Even though my flight home is on Saturday, Selina and I are leaving on Thursday to visit the Ssese Islands in Lake Victoria (actually I am finishing this post on the taxi there). This meant the saddest goodbyes of all – Lily, Rosette and Isaac. Lily especially has been like a big sister to me here, always looking out for us, saving us from ridiculous Mzungu prices and going our of her way to make our stay as awesome as possible. I will REALLY miss her. But will see her again when she invites me to her wedding in Australia (…right, Lily??!).
With much love xxx
p.s. – on a slightly random aside,you know those Christmas shoeboxes that parents spend actually loads of money on filling with gifts each year?? Kids and families here actually get them and love them – they don’t just disappear into the depths of Santa’s grotto!