Sunday, 27 September 2009

Too close for comfort!

Hippos are the main killers here, but luckily we took precautions...

Into the Wild...

We headed out of Kampala into the country on a road trip that combined work and pleasure. Along with Alison’s sister, Nicola, and another doctor from IHK, Rob, we took Jasper out West to visit 2 of the regional health clinics and take in a couple of National Parks en route.
We stopped at the equator crossing for the obligatory photo and demonstration of how water flows in opposite directions down a plughole on either side of the equator. We then stayed a night under canvass amongst the wildlife in Lake Mburo NP. There were zebras, hippos and warthogs aplenty, as well as some rarer hyenas and leopards that were slightly harder to spot. The tent was rather remote and the nocturnal walk for Bella’s toilet trip seemed a bit long to Alison who was unsure whether she would find baboons waiting in the loo for her!
We then went to Mbarara where Alison and Rob did a day’s training with the clinic staff. We stayed 2 nights on the Mweya Peninsula in Queen Elizabeth NP in the hostel. On the first evening we took a stroll to a nearby restaurant armed with torches for the walk back in the dark. A few steps into our return, a Land Rover pulled up alongside and told us to jump in immediately as it wasn’t safe. We thought they were being overly cautious until later that night we heard lions roaring a few feet away from our room! The next day we went out in the car on a game drive and saw a number of lions up close, having taken a particularly hairy drive off- road, with which Jasper coped with surprisingly well. We also took in a great boat trip and spent some time relaxing by the pool at the upmarket Mweya Safari Lodge, whilst Alison went to the clinic in Kasese.
The last night of the trip was spent at Fort Portal, which occupies a lovely location in the rolling foothills of the Rwenzori mountains. We went out for dinner to celebrate fellow VSO volunteer Geoff’s birthday, and headed back to Kampala with a Dutch couple who hitched a lift. Jasper made it back without any problems and we are looking forward to the next trip out into the beautiful Ugandan countryside.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

On the Road...

I am still really enjoying the work here, and I have managed to visit most of the clinics now, which was my objective before the 2 day workshop we are arranging at the end of this month. I spend my time at the clinics getting to know the team and seeing how the clinic runs, undertaking mini-audits of their antibiotic-prescribing practices (over-use of antibiotics is a widespread problem in Uganda), reviewing the emergency care provision at the clinic and also delivering some training in womens’ health. The other week I spent the day at a flower factory in Mukono, where one of the clinics is based, and found it very rewarding and inspiring. They offer primary care to the employees and also to the surrounding local communities, in which HIV is a big problem. They also have peer educator days during which they deliver health education to the local villages. They have invited me to hop onto the back of their motorbike in a couple of weeks time and join them at one of these community outreach sessions, which should be fun. They also make use of community-based volunteers, who offer their time free of charge to attend to house-bound people suffering with HIV, feeding and bathing them when necessary. The clinic staff do a fantastic job motivating the volunteers and patients alike and manage to maintain an excellent service with very little resource! Again, despite having quite a few patients with womens’ health issues, the clinic team were having to manage without any equipment (speculae) to conduct the relevant examinations! They are hoping to offer coils as part of their service next month, so hopefully the speculae will have arrived by then! We found that their emergency equipment was similarly limited, not even having oxygen on the premises!! So, not surprisingly, we found that despite having about 2 snake bites a month, they also did not stock anti-venom. On questioning how they manage such patients, the response was to monitor them and pray that the snake was not poisonous!!! Again, the benefits of working within the arm of a private, not-for-profit organisation, means that we should be able to stock all the clinics with emergency equipment and medication by the end of this month which will hopefully benefit the local communities enormously!!! We still have to work on the availability of anti-venom, as each vial costs about £130.00 with a limited shelf-life and since only a very small percentage of snakes are poisonous there is the potential for wasting a lot of money! Apparently there is a way of determining if your bite is that of a poisonous snake (other than if you are still standing!) through looking at the pattern of the fangs, so if there are any snake experts out there, we would welcome your input!!
We are heading out West this weekend to visit some clinics in Mbarara and Kasese. Nestled between these small towns happens to be Queen Elizabeth National Park so we are planning to fit in some safaris between the clinic visits. My sister, Nicola, is visiting at the moment, so along with Dr Rob (an American emergency physician who is also volunteering with VSO) Alan and the kids, and the resuscitation dummy, we will have a bus full!!! That is if we manage to leave Kampala! We are waiting to see how the riots settle over the next 2 days but are hopeful they won’t escalate, so fingers crossed we will have some exotic wildlife photos to show you on our next installment!

Like London Buses, It's another Birthday!

Hot on the heels of Alison and Bella, it was Zoe’s birthday last Friday. We celebrated with some of the other VSO volunteers at our local Italian restaurant, complete with a ‘Z’ birthday cake. Zoe’s present of a crying and laughing African dolly was a complete hit and is getting a lot of competition for attention from the other sisters. Thanks to all who sent cards/gifts/emails- most appreciated.
On Saturday we then went to Didi’s World- Uganda’s answer to Disney, but more like a static gypsy fun fair! It was so quiet that they opened up rides as and when you wanted them and you took your chances on the dodgy dodgems, rickety roller coaster, etc.

Treasure Hunt

Alison joined forces with 3 other brave lasses to form the Nile Special Team entering the Irish Society’s Kampala treasure hunt in the middle of the midday heat. There were about a dozen teams in fancy dress (including the pictured Jackson 5!) running around town following cryptic clues, which proved rather tricky as Alison’s team were all pretty new to town. However, against all odds they managed to pick up 3rd place. A welcome cold beer and barbecue followed.