Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Introduction to the Uganda Cancer Institute

1st day at the UCI part 1(Monday the 20th)

Today was my first visit to the Uganda Cancer Institute to spend the day with James. I think all of James' visits to the Uganda and his pictures and descriptions over the last 10 visits he has made have really helped prepare me for this. Maybe. He keeps saying he can't believe how well I am handling everything but really I'm just not sure how I am feeling.

It was really fun to see Patrick and Rachel, two of James' co-workers that have been to the states and I have met. I met so many new people and everyone is incredibly welcoming. Everyone says “Welcome”. That is their greeting. Even the grocery store clerks, everyone you meet, “Welcome”.

First, we got a tour of the new facility. Wow!

This place is going to be so incredible! There are 3 stories plus a basement. The top floor is where all the laboratory research will take place, James' area.
And it looks and feels just like the buildings in the states. High tech everything. Clean and beautiful.

The 1st floor is where the clinics will be, where out-patient care is. The 2nd floor is where all the clinical trial patients will be seen.

There is a new in-patient hospital up the hill. Pediatrics is already there but I haven't been up there yet. (Maybe this is why I'm “handling things so well”, I haven't seen the pediatrics yet.)

After the new facility tour we got a tour of the current UCI facilities. This is where the differences really stand out. The differences between cancer care in the USA and cancer care in Uganda. Any medical care for that matter, I am sure. This is where your heart and soul just ache at the unfairness of life. Real unfairness. My kids think life is unfair because one sibling gets more than what they have or because their best friend got such and such a thing for Christmas, but REAL unfairness is very hard to take in and stomach. This sort of unfairness is what my children need to see to really appreciate their lives a little more. And I don't mean to pick on my own kids, I think pretty much every kid in America is just like my kids.

I love my babies and I thank God for all that we can give them, especially their home and their health care and the food on our table.

I did not take pictures of the cancer wards. It just felt wrong. Invasive. Insensitive. My descriptions will have to do. But first here are 2 pictures of some of the older, still in use, buildings.  The first is taken from the doorway of the current lab where Patrick and others work. This is taken on a clear day after the rain when patients are hanging their laundry out to dry. The building you see behind the clothes is the outpatient ward I will speak about below and to the left you can see a few people and that is where the line forms for xrays I talk about below. 
 This next picture is taken from the 3rd floor of the new building.  In the far distance is the city of Kampala.  The closer buildings are all part of the UCI campus.  Various departments. The 2 closest buildings on the left right behind the cars are the cooking facilities for the hospital. Yes, pretty much outdoor kitchens as there are no actual windows and it's wide open.

The first thing noticed is the long lines at every department. We had a view all day from our offices of the long lines for the x-ray department. People sitting outside just waiting. Around the other side of the building were people sitting and laying outside on the lawn waiting to be seen in the out-patient clinic. They had their mats and blankets, the loved ones caring for the sick. These are pretty much all adults as pediatrics has been moved to the new building on the hill. Although I learned later that some outpatient pediatric care is still done here. Today (tuesday) I saw a little girl about 2 or 3 years old waiting outside under the trees with her momma.  She had an IV site in place.  James said she was probably there for chemo, but that's just a guess.  She may be very sick and still needing diagnosis. 

We stepped inside the out-patient ward. The “rooms” had 4-6 beds in them all with patients being cared for mostly by their loved ones. In the 2nd room they had about 10 doctors and med students doing rounds. I think there were 3 rooms like that but then there were also at least 3 patients in the hall laying on beds or the floor. One with a screen blocking only ½ the bed and a loved one, not a nurse, cleaning up the patient. Something that should be done in complete privacy. We'd never, ever see anything like it in our hospitals back home.

Next we got to meet the one and only Dr. Jackson Orem! He was the first, and for a very long time, the only oncologist in all of Uganda. He is now the director of the UCI.

The next stop was the STC, solid tumor center. We walked into a very large room filled with activity. Six or more beds (in ONE large room) filled with patients, several large rooms off at each direction of the room. We only briefly walked in but didn't stay. It quickly felt just not right to be there, invading in such sensitive privacy. One patient immediately stood out. She had several doctors around her and her leg was exposed to all. It looked as if a very large area of skin around her foot and ankle had been cut away, probably a tumor removed. No privacy...the most difficult part of it all.

The most obvious and difficult things to see and take in; there is no privacy and there aren't enough places for people to be taken care of so they wait on the ground outside or lay on the floors in the hallways.

That is part of my first day here at the UCI. Just the beginnings.

In His Love,
Susan Sophia

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