A 28-member team of health care professionals from Duke University Medical Center is carrying nine tons of surplus medical equipment and donated supplies to the 1500-bed New Mulago Hospital in Kampala, Uganda. Mulago Hospital staff will be trained to use and maintain the new equipment then surgeons from both countries will join in conducting a number of brain and spinal surgeries.

The project is administered by Duke’s Global Health Institute.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Case of Mistaken Identity

Michelle Gailiun writes:
Take a close look at this adorable little 7-year old boy....er....girl. Yes, Subra Rashidi here exemplifies all that can go right...and wrong...in medicine today.

When the Duke docs made rounds on the first day, they saw that Subra was partially blind, probably due to neuroblastoma, a cancer of the eye that can only be cured by taking the eye out. But scans showed another problem - a pretty good-sized aneurysm behind the socket that doctors likened to a ticking time bomb. If it would burst, it would be deadly. Surgery was the only option. Subra's hospital record noted that the boy had been to several other hospitals before landing at New Mulago.

Communication with the family had been difficult because they spoke an unusual dialect and didn't understand the native Luganda. We noted and corrected a misspelled name on our own notes....but it wasn't until moments before surgery that Subra's dad, overhearing a nurse talking to his son, turned to me and said "girl, Subra is girl." While it made no difference in her treatment, it did serve as a huge red flag for us all to take nothing for granted, and to double- and triple-check for accuracy. Subra is still in surgery as I write. Her father is so thankful.

I am so in love with Subra's family. This is her dad, Wathum, waiting for her to get out of surgery. He has such an interesting story himself. He says his mother died when he was eight; his father, when he was 13. He scrapes out a living by raising food for the family and selling what's left over. His wife is staying home with the other two children while he is here with his daughter, and they fear a surgery will mean they will have to pay for drugs they can't afford.

He said his hope for Subra is that she will be able to attend school, because "school will make a difference." He says he also hopes he will be able to leave something to his children when he dies. Wathum usually wears a faded yellow trench coat with the word "Sears" on the side, but today was warm, so you see him here without it.

He says he has never been to school, but I have witnessed his extraordinary tenderness and consistent care of his daughter over several days now, and when I noted that he must have learned to be an excellent father somewhere....and he just beamed. Made my day.