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.

Friday, August 17, 2007

"We Take the Spice Out Of Life"

Michelle Gailiun writes:
I have such mixed emotions about what I've experienced this past week, and it is this man, Dr. Joel Kiryawele, who has helped me gain some understanding about it. One of the things I've witnessed but not talked about much is the cultural differences between the Americans and the Ugandans and how they play out in the realm of patient care. Some of our clinicians have expressed astonishment and even outrage about the seeming lack of urgency and attention they feel the patients here are receiving from their caretakers. It has been very difficult at times and I have wondered about that, too. I asked Dr. Kiryawele to talk about the differences he perceives between us and how they color the way we provide care, and this is a condensed version of what he said:

"The way we handle things is different. Ugandans are soft-spoken and laid back. Time is never so important to them as long as you get something done in the long run. So the way we handle emergencies is different; the way we handle disappointment is different. Here if the patient wakes up and finds that there is still something wrong, it is easier to forgive. Americans are faster, they are more into output - what have I achieved today? Neither extreme is good. The challenge is to find a balance."

"Ugandans have also suffered a lot. I remember when I was a boy going out into the streets and seeing people lying shot, bloody and dead. It leaves a scar. You never knew if the next bullet would be in your own house. So we may look callous, but it is really a survival mechanism. We have learned to take the spice out of life every moment."

So I sit here writing and looking out the window, soaking up the lush and vibrant landscape, knowing that we will have to leave in just a few hours. I know that behind the deep green curtain lies bone-crushing poverty, terrible disease and death. But I also see extraordinary spirit and grace. It is hard to hold all of these things in one embrace, but I will try, and I will will keep Joel's words in mind as we head back home.

We came with much, but we leave with much more.