Uganda 2015: The Clinic


First, big thank you to Amy Hunley and Elena for taking and sharing these pictures.  Without them, I would have no pictures of the trip.

7/11/15: We opened the clinic Saturday night for the children living at the orphanage/school. There are approximately 80 children living at the school.    The clinic comprised of several different sections: 1) check-in, where vitals were taken, 2) adult physician, 3) radiology, 4) pediatrics, 5) lab, 6) pharmacy and 7) vision.  I was assigned to the vision tent with Todd Hunley and Amy Hunley. 

Todd Hunley and the "tumbling E"

We were able to finish the medical assessments all of the children right about the time it got dark.  After closing up for the evening we went up to the Telman’s house for dinner.   The Telman’s cooked dinner for the entire team every night, the Applegates cooked breakfast for the entire team every morning and we were responsible for our own lunches.  After supper I took a shower and was sound asleep by 9:30.  I was so, so tired.   I slept on a cot with a microfiber mattress.  The mattress was placed inside an oval vip-up tent. This meant that every time I got up to go to the bathroom, I woke everyone up to sound of unzipping and zipping.  While noisy, it served it purpose, i.e. to keep the mosquitoes off.  We all slept under mosquito nets due to the threat of malaria.   We also took malaria medication called Malerone – which gave us really extreme dreams.

Lauren, our Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and Mama Layten, Pastor JJ's wife and Lauren's interpreter.

7/12/15 (Sunday): For our first full day of clinic we were up by 6:30 and down to breakfast by 7:00.  Getting ready was pretty easy given that I didn’t have a hair dryer, curling iron, hairspray, etc.  I washed my hair at night let it air dry.  In the mornings I ran a wet comb through it to try to tame my cowl-licks and then teased it to high heaven to try to get some body.  Funny thing, of the 13 women on the trip, 11 had naturally curly/wavy hair and didn’t have to do anything to make their hair look fabulous. UUGGHH.

 First full day of clinic - sitting on the Telman's porch after properly bug spraying.  

Excited to get started.  Amy and I always started the day off perky and ready to take on the world.  I assure you by 5:30 p.m. we looked very different. 

Please allow me to comment on how terrible/awkward my facial expressions can be. 

The clinic was open from 8:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.  We took a break at 10:30 to change into our church clothes. Church was held at Mbiira Baptist Church - the church is located on the same property as the missionary houses, orphanage and the clinci.  The church is made of all wood, it has all wooden benches and a dirt floor.  This church was packed to the gills!  There was standing room only and lots of people sitting outside listening.  Church lasted from 10:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. We sang for almost an hour.  Our first four songs were out of the Baptist Hymnal.  We sang, “How Great Thou Art”, “What a Friend we have in Jesus”, “Victory in Jesus" and "Amazing Grace”.  I was super emotional during the singing. It was so incredible to hear the people sing in Lugandan while we sang in English. They actually sang the entire song in Lugandan and then would go back and sing the first verse in English. Then they started singing their native music.  It was much livelier than the Baptist Hymnal (shocker!) We couldn’t understand a word, but the energy was really cool. During one of the songs, I happened to hear the word “Mzungu.” Then everyone turned to look at our group and then they all laughed.  Mzungu is a word used in Uganda for people of European descent. Later I learned that they were singing a song that had several short verses:  one for the women, one for the men and one for the Mzungu(s).  Suffice it say, we Mzungus totally dropped the ball. 

The children's choir

Pastor JJ

Amanda Telman, Elena and I at church. 

Alyssa helping with children's church

After the singing we went to help Amanda Telman with children’s church.  I held an infant the entire time.  This infant was wrapped up in a parka – no joke.  I learned that all of the babies are dressed warmly because 80 degrees is considered chilly. In fact, the secondary school children's uniform comprised of a long sleeve undershirt and a wool sweater. After children’s church we took all of the kids outside to play.  I ended up playing tag in my long skirt and literally bit the dust hard. Luckily I was able to do a barrel role and pop back up on my feet and keep running away from my pursuer.  His name was Treasure and he had tagged me 10 times already.  I was bound and determined that this kid was not going to catch me again - so I turned it up a notch. He didn't tag me again, but I had an enormous bruise on my hip to show for it. And if you are wondering, it is against my nature to let children win. 

After church we ate lunch and then held clinic until 7:45 p.m.  We saw every church member – 180 patients in all.   One of the church members we saw and been attacked by a python.  It wrapped around her waist and started to squeeze.  A family member cut the snake off of her with a machete.  The part of the snake attached to the head crawled away in the brush to die.  It was a crazy story.

Elizabeth N. - Nurse

Dr. Lucian in the radiology building.

Waiting in line. 

Immediately after the clinic closed down we went straight to the dorms to paint the girls’ nails. They were so excited! It was getting pretty dark so we had to finish by wearing headlamps.  We decided to quit and finish up another day because our headlamps were drawing in tons of mosquitoes.  After dinner we went back down to the dorms to do bible study with the girls.  They have quiet time every night.  They start out with singing and then move to bible study.  Their singing is awesome!  They all project so well and one of the girls plays percussion on the bottom of a plastic container.  After our quiet time, we played “Little Sally Walker.” It is game where everyone stands in circle and claps and dances.  It was actually pretty fun.  It was even more fun to see our doctors dancing around. Everybody got really into it.  

The girls' dorm

Next we went up to the Telman’s, showered and went straight to bed.

7/13/2015 (Monday): DAY 2

Monday was a long day.  We worked from 8:00 a.m. to sundown.  We were able to see and provide medical treatment for 242 patients.  On this day we opened the clinic up to the people living in the village.  99.9% of the villagers did not speak English so we employed the secondary school kids living on the property to translate for us. This was really difficult.  I operated the focometer – the device used to assess nearsightedness and astigmatism. The focometer is somewhat difficult to use and even more difficult to explain in a different language.  Our translators for the week were Robert, Ruth, Nymbossa/Josephine, and Herbert.  They did a great job.  They worked just as long and hard as we did. Herbert had been Michael's translator last year. 

 Waiting to see the Dentist - the horror!

Me and Elena.  So thankful for such a good friend that invited me to on this trip. While we were close to begin with, we grew closer through service. 

One of my jobs was to put in eye drops.  This meant that we had a lot of apprehensive children.

Such a joy to spend 10 days with Amy. She is easily one of the kindest, funniest girls I have ever met. She is 20 years old and attends school at Lee University.  She has the BEST personality.  She is silly, loving and lives to serve.  Her personality is truly a gift from God.

I really enjoyed working in the vision clinic.  My favorite part was watching the elderly women see themselves in sunglasses.  After fitting them for sunglasses we showed them their reflection in a handheld mirror. They would immediately start giggling like a teenager.  It was so precious. 

 I also really enjoyed seeing the reaction of people that you could tell could see clearly for the first time.  The people of Uganda are not particularly expressive so to see their faces light up when I found the right pair of glasses was great.  They smiled from ear to ear, clapped and they hugged me and thanked me over and over.  I have to admit that clinic days ran together, so I don’t really have a lot specific things to talk about the clinic. By the end we had seen 1549 people with very little breaks.

Vision team - Me, Amy, Todd and Robert

I also really enjoyed my co-workers.  We all had nick-names.  Mine was "Er-Bear", Todd's was "Bobble Head Todd" because he nodded off one day.  Todd called Robert "Ghost" because Robert liked to wander off during the slow times. Todd played music the entire time which made our tent the gathering spot.  Pastor JJ spent lots of time in our tent showing off his Michael Jackson moves.We also listened to "Africa" by "ToTo" a lot.  I LOVE THAT SONG!  Not surprisingly everyone in Africa loves it too.  Robert could sing every word.  

We worked until 7:30 p.m. and then went up for dinner.  I don’t remember exactly what we talked about at dinner, but I remember laughing (really laughing) the whole time. We were all starting to get to know each other and every one was starting to open up more.I do recall that we told stories about the people we had seen that day.  Most of the stories were hilarious for some reason or another. Elena also told a hilarious story about Dustin getting upset on the airplane when the entire cabin was sprayed with pesticide while the stewardess wore bio-hazard masks.   

Dr. Lisa lead bible study on the second night.  She talked about Hagar. After Bible Study we came back to the room to get ready for bed.  Instead of sleeping (which would have been prudent) the ladies in my room talked until midnight.  It was so much fun! I enjoyed my roommates so much. Again, I don’t remember what we talked about, but I remember laughing.

7/13/2015 (Tuesday):  DAY 3

Tuesday we overslept.  We were supposed to be up by 6:30 a.m., but didn’t get out of bed until 7:15.  I have no idea how I managed to over sleep. I woke up at 5:30 to check and send email and I guess I went back to sleep.  As for internet, we did have the internet, but I couldn’t connect if anyone else was connected.  This meant that when I woke up in the night to go to the bathroom, I would spend a few minutes huddled under the covers in my bed checking email.  Email was my only way to talk with Michael and check on the boys, so I was happy to have a few minutes in the middle of the night to get online.

Checking in. 

Elizabeth Clinard and Dr. Lisa.  Elizabeth worked in the Pharmacy.  She may have had the busiest job of all.  Most everyone left with multiple prescriptions. 

Amber Dame - the funniest girl on the trip. She and Roger assisted in the Dental Clinic.  These two are tough as nails.  The screams coming from that tent were horrifying. 

Roger and Amy

Elena and Roger in the Dental Clinic.  Elena assisted for one of the "pullings."  She can attest to how hard it is to work in the dental clinic.  Amber told us that after getting their teeth pulled, Roger would sneak candy to the kids. Somewhat counter productive.

The dentist pulled this sucker out.  The roots are so large that it looks like an alien. 
Roger said that some of the roots were so large and deep that the dentist had to break them and take them out piece by piece. 

On this particular day Robert, our interpreter, told me that I had a horse face. I informed him that this was one of the worst things that one could possibly say to a girl.  Later that day he found me hiding behind the tents doing push-ups (We didn’t have time to work out so during slow times at the clinic I would go behind the clinic where no one could see me and do push-ups and lunges, etc).  He looked at me with a really perplexed expression and said, “why are you doing that – it won’t help your face.”  Ouch.

Because of his honesty, Robert was one of my favorites.  At one point Amy called me a “beast” referring to my strength.”  Robert, with a horrified look said, “Are you really a beast?”  I smiled and said, “Yes.” Still alarmed, Robert asked, “but you are a human, right?”  I said, “Yes, of course.”  Then Amy and explained what she meant by calling me a beast.  Robert looked relieved and told us that in Uganda you can’t call yourself a beast because if someone believes that you are, in fact, a beast, they will hit you in the face. He also told me you also can’t jokingly say “I will kill you” because if you do, the other person will actually shoot you. Every one is VERY literal in Uganda. 

On this day we saw 350 patients, one of which was a little boy with a -6.25 prescription (very, very bad vision).  We were able to find his prescription in child’s frames.  He was so happy. I was so happy.  To God be the glory!

We closed the Clinic down early at 5:30 p.m. so that we could make our dinner reservation at Frikkidellens (a dutch restaurant). We changed into our skirts quickly and hopped onto the bus to drive into the town of Masaka.  It was about a 15 minute drive.  I sat with Amanda Telman and she explained to me that the main religions of Uganda were Islam and Catholicism.  She also told me that the Pentecostal church was making a huge dent.  As we entered Makasa, I saw enormous cranes (birds).  I commented on how big they were.  Amanda told me that Idi Amin brought the cranes in specifically to eat all the dead bodies. Its funny to me that the soccer team in Uganda are called the "Killer Cranes." It seems to me that the people would not want to remember (through a beloved sport nonetheless) such a terrible time in their history. 

Frikkidellens was great.  We sat outside under a lit canopy and ate really good food.  I sat and chatted with the Applegates, Dustin and Elena, Jim and the physician from Greece that is currently serving with his family as a missionary in Masaka.  I had a great time getting to know the Applegates better.  They loved my “horseface” story!  I also learned that Mr. Applegate’s Mother is Mrs. Nona – a substitute teacher at Finn and Sam’s school.

After leaving the restaurant we made the bumpy trip home.  I used the Applegate’s gym to workout and then readied myself for bed.  Before going to sleep the girls in my room sat around and talked until way too late - again.  I also braided Amy’s hair.

7/14/2015 (Wednesday) DAY 4

Today was a great day!  We saw 389 people – a new record.  We also almost had a riot when we went to take a lunch break.  I guess everyone waiting thought that we were leaving for the day and got really upset. We had to bring the “big guns” out to quiet everyone down.  And when I say “big guns” I mean actual assault rifles.  We had extra security come in for the clinic.

I had a great day with the translators.  I showed Ruth and Josephine how to use the focometer.  I also told them all about my tattoos.  I mentioned that mom didn’t really like tattoos and Ruth said, “you still have a mother!”  Told her yes and told her about Sam and Finn.  Then she said, “You are called Mother!”  I think that she was amazed that I had so much family.  My heart just broke for her.

Amy, Nymbossa/Josephine, Ruth and me.  (Nymbossa is her given name and Josephine is her Christian name.  Everyone called her something different, so I called her "Nymbossa slash Josephine.")

Ruth and Nymbossa/Josephine - my favorite girls. Ruth does not smile for pictures. 

We were deliriously tired.  

We finished up by 6:30 and then took a group picture in the Chik-fil-a shirts that Todd had made for everyone.  For the picture, instead of “cheese” we said “chicken man.” 

"This one" can sing!

Next went to finish painting the girls’ nails.  I put glow in the dark polish on Ruth, Josephine and Julian. They were so happy.  Ruth told me, “I am so happy you have come.  Will you please come back next year?” I told her that either Michael or I would try our best to come back next year.  She remembered “Mr. Mike” from last year and said, “oh, he is so quiet – you must come back.” After her toes were painted she told that I would be abundantly blessed by God for coming to take care of them. I squeezed her and wanted to cry. 

The MKs

After a dinner of boiled cabbage (seriously delicious!) we went down to the dorms for quiet time.  The dorms are very interesting – there are two that house the girls.  They are very simple: concrete floors, one overhead light and row after row of metal bunk beds.  Each girl has a metal box that is kept at the foot of her bed to keep her valuables and her mosquito net. It was not necessarily tidy, but certainly acceptable. Our quiet time that night was led by Elena and she had the girls look at Psalm 139.  The girls are so knowledgeable about the Bible and happy to participate in group discussion.  This night I shared something particularly personal to me and as I finished the girls all clapped and thanked me for sharing.  After that we played, “Down by the Banks” and “Ms. Sally Walker”.  As we were finishing up “Ride that Donkey” we all grabbed a girl and jumped with them (hard to explain if you weren’t there).  They were so excited.  As we left they hugged us as hard as they could over and over.  We all yelled goodnight at each other (again, had to be there).  It was the best moment of the trip so far.

Dancing the "I'm watching you" tango. 

7/14/2015 (Thursday): DAY 5

Today was the last day of clinic.  We were up by 6:00 and had breakfast by 7:00.  Let me reiterate, Ms. Applegate’s breakfast was incredible.  Every morning we had super hot coffee out of a French press.  It was delicious.  She gave me a list of her recipes that I intend to try once I get home. 

How women carry their babies

Sarah, Amy and Dr. Lucian

Ja-Ja.  This lady could see clearly for the first time in years.  

 Elena and her translator 

The last day of clinic was physically taxing.  We had been on our feet all day for five (5) days and I was just worn out. We were also low on both prescription glasses and sunglasses. Luckily, I had set aside a pair of sunglasses to give out at my discretion.  I gave them to a mother with a young baby.  She had the reddest, most aggravated eyes that I had seen the entire trip. (between the sun and the dust, everyone’s eyes were really aggravated) I took her aside, away from everyone else, and gave her the last pair of sunglasses and a tube of eye drops. She was so grateful. We started taking the tents down at 4:00 p.m. We were still seeing patients even as the tents were coming down around us. Next we packed everything up – most everything stayed in the storage unit on-site for next year’s team. I was pretty emotional seeing everything come down – it was hard to believe that it was already over.

Before dinner I wrote “Thank You” notes to Ruth and Nymbossa for translating for me and took them down to the dorms.  The girls showed me their bunks and their sewing room.  They are both good seamstresses and love to sew. They were currently working on the pockets of their aprons. 

Later than evening Pastor JJ and his wife Mama Layten came over to tell stories, as they call it.  He told us about: 1) His Michael Jackson dancing, 2) That he and Mama Layten pretended to be brother and sister for three years at the church they attended, 3) Night Dancers, basically these are people who are possessed.  They walk around naked at night, dig up dead bodies and eat them - so scary, and 4) the family that had a snake for a baby.


After Pastor JJ left, I went down to the dorms to say goodbye to the girls, specifically Ruth and Nymbossa. I gave both really big hugs, kissed their heads and cried when I told them goodbye.  Earlier in the week Robert (go-figure) told me that American girls cry way too much.  He said that Uganda girls are tough and that they DO NOT cry.

I went back to the room that evening and packed my stuff. It was a bitter sweet moment. While I was packing my bag Ms. Michelle Telman brought me two letters - one from Ruth and the other from Nymbossa/Josephine. They were such sweet letters. I will miss them. 


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