Hard to believe that it was clinic day four already. My alarm went off a little too early that morning – the long days were exhausting and my over stimulation, from the baboons to Joe the kitten, was beginning to catch up with me. Woof. Once I got over my sleepiness and gently reminded myself that I was in AFRICA, I shot out of bed to ready myself for the day. Let’s face it, I had a great reason to run to breakfast… I will give you one guess… bananas? Nope. Coffee?! YES! Duuhh.
One aspect of our early departures that I truly loved was being able to experience the sunrise over the villages we passed through. People always use the phrase, “It’s the little things in life.” Well, yes, it totes is. Small pieces of beauty like the sunrise over farms and villages in a beautiful country like Uganda put an immensely new meaning to statements like that one. To enjoy it all with teammates who quickly turned into friends was just the icing on the cake.
The van ride that day, to our clinic site in Biiso, was particularly exhilarating. Our van managed to be the holder of an iPod speaker. How could we do such a disservice and not take advantage of such a thing? So we rocked out – despite how early it was. We covered some serious ground with our music choices too. I’m talking disney classics, country, old school pop, you name it. And then, all of the sudden, we were traveling down a very narrow dirt road with tall grass on either side, so all we could see was… tall grass. Well wouldn’t you know that we took a wrong turn?! Mind you, there were 4 vans traveling together and now we all needed to turn around. Twenty seven point turn anyone? We’ll take 4 please.
Need not worry, we made it! As expected, there was a lovely long line of people winding around the building, waiting for us. The weather was mild, making it great clinic day weather. One of my favorite parts about Biiso were the murals on the school building…
K-squared rode again that day in Biiso. [The opportunities that I had to work alongside Dr. Kristen and some of the other providers while in Africa were go gratifying it’s hard to even explain.] Joining us in the provider room were the dynamic duo of Dr. Greg and April, Jory, Wes and Jefferson.
Dr. K and I saw a lot of GERD (gastrointestinal upset), headaches, scabies and body aches. Then one woman came in complaining of right sided pain and weakness. When she removed her dress to reveal her arm, our jaws dropped. She had been severely burned from falling into a fire (if my memory serves me correctly) and her whole arm, shoulder and large portion of her back was scarred. According to the medical papers that she had brought with her, right after the accident happened she received a skin graft. After examining her, Dr. K sent her to the pharmacy and to therapy. Our badass occupational therapist, Allison, couldn’t believe the range of motion that the patient had with so much scar tissue.
Now, don’t get the wrong impression when I say this but that day, in Biiso, I had one thought going through my head… ‘Bring on the STD’s!’ Strange, I know. But let me explain. Rather, let me show you…
That’s right folks, this girl gave her very first (of many) injections! Dr. Kristen had to give a Rocephin shot to a woman with an STD and I wanted to watch. Kristen looked at me and asked, “Want to do the next one?” WHAAAAAT?! Really?! Well of course I did. And two patients later, yep, a girl in need of a Rocephin shot. So I put my pretty purple gloves on and went for it. K told me that it was like throwing a dart. Hmmm ok, seems a little violent to be throwing a dart into a woman’s arm… but… sure. Viola! That day I got to give two injections and so did April. Errr, I may have also offered my services to the rest of the providers in case they needed an injection or two taken off their hands… While we are on the subject of STD’s, I was also able to witness my first pelvic exam. BIG things in Biiso!
Bryan. This little boy officially touched my heart forever. Bryan had several different medical problems. Hydrocephalus was the biggest issue but unfortunately, due to the poverty level and lack of medical expertise in Uganda there was no real treatment for him. When we first met Bryan, his grandmother (also his primary caretaker) carried him into our provider room where he began to scream incessantly. It got to the point where the providers could barely hear the translators and patients talking. Allison, our OT came in and saved the day. She took Bryan and his grandmother into the therapy room and worked her magic. His grandmother, who was probably pushing 75 or so, could barely hold him upright to feed him and Bryan could not sit up by himself. So Allison fashioned a little corner chair for Bryan out of a cardboard box and some velcro straps. (Sadly, I didn’t witness this in person but the pictures are priceless.) When Bryan came back into the room, he was all smiles. Many hearts were melted that day.
Biiso certainly was the day for injections – it’s fair to say. Not only did I give my first two injections, April gave two Rocephin injections and then we had a couple of med/PA students give their first knee injections. Badass. Learning and loving all in one trip. I couldn’t have asked for anything more.
Remember the latrines? Well we weren’t so lucky with clean ones that day. April and I had to pee SO badly and there was no way that I was going in there to do it. So, our next best option? The bushes. Don’t even ask about snakes etc. I told myself that there aren’t any snakes in Africa and I was perfectly fine to squat and pee in the Ugandan wilderness. So April and I took turns being a lookout for each other – everything is an adventure in Africa. We had great success and a whole lot of laughs.
In working face to face with people all day long, I began to feel a little disconnected with the patients due to the language barrier. So I made it a point to learn some Swahili and interact one on one with the people from Biiso. We were taught early on in the trip that ‘Webale’ meant ‘Thank you.’ One of the translators taught me that ‘Webale Muno,’ equivalent to ‘Thank you so much’ was more endearing and heart felt. Now, being that I was a Spanish minor in college, it was habit to pronounce it ‘Webale Muño.’ Well let me tell you, that habit came to a screeching halt. Claire was nice enough to inform me that the literal translation of ‘Webale Muño’ was ‘Thank you anus.’ Great, Kristen, you not only thanked those last 20 patients but you also pretty much referred to them as ass-holes. Go. Me. Good thing I couldn’t really turn ‘You’re welcome’ into an English swear word because I could barely pronounce ‘Kaija’ to begin with. #winning …. um no.
The day had flown by. We cared for over 300 patients and the fun was far from over. After Dr. K and I had seen our last patient we wandered out to find some of the girls from triage playing with the kids in the field.
What began as a little game of ‘red light, green light,’ turned into a massive dance party. Carrie, Toya, Neysa, Allie and myself started dancing and the kids copied us. More people began to join in and we made one huge circle. Everyone took turns in the middle bustin’ a move. One little boy, who couldn’t possibly hold one more water bottle in his arms, stole everyones heart with his sweet little moves. I’m pretty sure that we all could have danced with them for hours but our fun was cut short by roll call. We piled into the vans and the kids all waved as we drove away.
Even though we had left the village of Biiso and were on our way back to the hotel, the fun didn’t stop. We still had the iPod player from that morning in our van and we started right off with the music. At one point, Cyndi Lauper was playing, April got super excited and yelled, “I miss Whitney!” I guess it was a ‘you had to be there’ kind of moment but it was funny. And you better believe that we sang the entire way home.
When we pulled into the parking lot of the hotel, I jumped out of the van and made a bee line for the shower. The Ugandan dirt was everywhere and I wanted to be clean before my speech. Yep, it was my turn to share my life story at dinner. All I could do was get up there in front of everyone and be brutally honest. So I did. Even though I had only known this rather large group of people for about 5 days, I was so comfortable speaking my truth in front of them all. My story closed with one of my favorite quotes, one that I thought was appropriate for each and every one of us there.
“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. We’re not fond of rules and we have no respect for the status quo. You can quote us, disagree with us, glorify or vilify us. But the only thing you can’t do is ignore us. Because we change things. We push the human race forward. And while some may see us as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones that do.”
BAM. Everything was out in the open and I felt a whole lot lighter. After I had sat back in my seat Hope offered me a hug. This girl NEVER declines one of those. I don’t mean to toot my own horn or anything but to know that people understand the hand I’ve been dealt, by giving a simple gesture like a hug – it’s the greatest feeling in the world.
‘Twas a glorious day indeed.