Because sometimes, everything here becomes normal! Here are some of Ruthie's reflections from her time with me here in Bundibugyo!
"Finally here and so thankful that I don't believe we only get nine lives or else I might be concerned after feeling that I used a couple today! 😉
Tonight, although with no luggage, I am safe and sound in Laura's abode listening to the bats sing through the screened and slatted windows. I am covered by a mosquito net as her place is nestled in a moist jungle-like area in the Rwenzori mountains. It's calm and peaceful here, although everything in her house is cement, it is painted and home-like.
The drive here on the other hand was anything but peaceful. 😉 never in all my life have I been so tired from being a passenger! Haha Like the moment I looked up and saw this huge truck barrelling directly into our lane at high speeds and swerving back (just missing a pothole on the other side it turned out) or the moments that the road was completely covered with mud, sand and huge boulders which I guess had just came crashing down in the heavy rain earlier today. Or the moment there is construction (I may have a picture to explain that) or the moments that cows, motor bike "bodas", goats, sheep, cows and children (yes 👶🏾 and very cute ones 💕) narrowly missed being caught in traffic as they navigated through the traffic and the mountains.
What amazes me is how understated Laura's explanation has been of the hardships of her everyday life, of the conditions, sometimes the terror, and also of the joys I am sure! I wish I could tell you how hard life is here.
So many joys too though, for me some of them have been the alvacodos, the roasted banana, the pineapple and most of all long visits with Laura over many cups of freshly roasted African coffee! I am loving this chance to experience life in another part of the world!
Pray that the lizard we didn't catch, which has made its way in, does not find me tonight or if it does that I would be calm enough not to wake up Laura from her well-deserved sleep after driving through that craziest traffic. Tomorrow I wake up in rural Uganda and I can't wait to see what the day holds here! 💜
Well, another day is coming to an end. This "day" started yesterday morning with children at Laura's door and at the shutters where I was sleeping. I met many people without even leaving the house and got to meet some of the team who came to have supper with us. The day was good and I squeezed a sleep in in preparation for working nights at the village hospital with the midwife.
Laura drove me over and they both toured me around the various wards-all open to the outdoors and hard to describe really. It is hard to describe how cute and how sick some of the children are...some with on malaria meds dripping from the kind of iv bottles they use here and laying on bed and bedding the family had brought in to care for them. I was amazed by the rats, chickens and lizards running freely throughout and the smell was noteworthy.
Overall though there was a sense of familiarity as the nurses on shift change visited together about injustice and in this case severely low hemoglobin levels made worse by doctors who are not stitching the arteries well and a lack of blood in the region. At least that's what I picked up.
Our first mother had come by about midnight and although I wasn't able to check her temperature, they decided that a dose of ceftriaxone was in place to treat abnormally dark secretions. After sending the family on the boda to the pharmacy several times, enough of the right supplies were received to hang a drip and the antibiotic was labeled in a reused vial using tape which these resourceful staff used later to cover another iv, all part of making it work in a hospital where supplies are donated or bought by the families. It was time to have a rest, so I was given a bed to stay with a mosquito net although by that time mosquitoes weren't what was going to keep me awake through the night.
I brought my lunch inside with me and hoped that the rats or rat-sized mice would not come eat it, I was never able to fall asleep, but I lay quietly for an hour listening to the sounds of babies with their mothers in the next beds, of families waiting with their loved ones for their "turn" to come in and use the birthing beds.
About that time, we had a mother come in with notable pain. The midwife had me assess her, she was progressing well, but it was clear something was wrong as the fetal parts seemed almost just under the skin. Soon after she started to bleed heavily and I knew that shock would set in soon. The nurses tried and tried to find help, but none was to be found. Finally, a local doctor was found and came but would not open the mother because he felt she would bleed more and there was no normal saline or blood at the hospital to replace the fluids and she would surely die. Yet, with a ruptured uterus, the baby was no longer safe and the mother was in danger.
We tried unsuccessfully to contact help. My preceptor (Andrea's) voice was playing over in my mind to try to make a difference and I wondered how I could help. Finally we decided that Laura was the only one who could help us but we could not get through as cell service was down and when we did finally get the phone at the clinic to work right, there was no money on it. So, the only way was to come to the mission and get Laura-yet the doctor did not think it was secure in the night to walk.
After much convincing, we were able to get one of the waiting dads with a boda to drive the midwife and myself to the mission so with that we were off for my first boda ride at 2am in the cool African night air. We arrived at the gate and providentially the guards have been slacking so the gate was open. I stood at the fence around Laura's house calling in her window. I explained to her that this mother was dying and thought she may be able to help. So we in Laura's car and the boda went back to the clinic, where the mother, now with a high pulse and on what I felt was the verge of hypovolemic shock, was now required to walk to the car, dropping blood through the ward. I tried to support her as she walked. With the family and the midwife and the lady all loaded in on blankets and plastic, there was no room for me and I was happy to stay at the clinic.
As we washed the floor with rags on a palm? stick, the nurse kept saying how much I really helped that mother and I said that I prayed I did, knowing how much blood had been lost. We wore gloves donated in "mother kits", which I was so thankful for as mine still haven't arrived. Later I heard talk of HPP/hepatitis? in the patient with a rupture so it was even more important that these gloves had been available for our protection. Other than that it's just what the family brings in.
We cleaned and I prayed the lady would be ok. Soon after that the first mother who had received antibiotics was joined by another mother now dilated enough to begin labour on a bed, so both mothers worked pushing as a small crowd watched.
Everything seemed to happen at the same time as both woman were crowning. I monitored one mother and the nurse worked to get the other mother's baby breathing upon delivery. All at once, the babies head was in my hands and the nurse came over to help me pull it out and there it was, a beautiful baby girl with dark curly hair.
I was instructed from across the room to wrap the baby and as soon as the cord was cut and the placenta was delivered, we took the babies to be weighed. Never in my life have I seen anything like this, I let the mother have a peek at her baby and she smiled, but there's no skin to skin or even having the mothers breastfeed until over an hour later it appeared. I tried to encourage the grandmothers to take the babies back to their mothers, but it is hard to change culture and the focus on the mothers was necessary to get the bleeding stopped and them dressed so the stretchers could be cleaned for the next mothers. Really, the whole family was gone in about fifteen minutes, although some decided to stay around for a while in the next room. It is fascinating (and could be better I believe)!
The next mother came in to the stretcher, but was referred and with that, at about 6am, Laura and I both headed home for some sleep, after I had a cold shower. What a great day and although there were so many things that were different, there was so much familiarity. Honestly, so much I thought was really admirable. What an industrious people and what a beautiful part of God's world. I don't know why but I began to appreciate it the most when I was breathing the night air out filling the plastic jugs for hand washing (bizarre as that is to wash your hands with a plastic cup filled out of reusable jugs) having my first boda ride, and of course seeing my first newborn Ugandan babies--birth is always such a miracle!
As for today, I had promised a "football match" and got to have a wonderful game under the Ugandan sunshine followed by a Bible class at the beautiful library program Laura has gotten running. The kids ran eagerly to Bible class and 26 indicated their desire to have God take away guilt. It was a beautiful thing seeing children understand that taking poison, starving themselves, rolling in the grass or even blaming others (all common) was not the answer, rather forgiveness. I read with some of the kids after and enjoyed the library! I just wanted to post this before falling asleep tonight!
Guess what? Today, part of my luggage finally arrived! It's interesting that the stuff that was taken out was some of my favourite stuff too so maybe I should be worried that I can identify with the thief's way of thinking!? Haha! They took my sleeveless denim jacket and my new and all time favourite All Tribes sweatshirt from Jonathan and Marney. I guess there will be brand recognition in Brussels if it was the employees who were striking there. I am so thankful that they left me one of most things including one hat and less fortunate, one piece of my bathing suit, which I probably won't need any way! Haha
Everything in Laura's bin of treasures from Mom and Dad was fine except for a broken candle which undoubtedly would have gotten broken on the boda drive through that crazy construction zone and over the mud on the mountain roads.
The drive from church on the new mountain road was so beautiful this morning. Those are gardens on the hill sides from which we can purchase goods at the market. I'll have to look for some pens too because they needed mine at the clinic the other night. It is hard to believe that a pen was needed there! Talk about a lack of supplies. 😉 I'll donate some of my gloves there too which were disheveled in my luggage but mostly still intact as well as the masks, all opened, but I'm sure still good! I'm so glad my thief doesn't do volunteer work in Uganda!
Anyway, tonight we had a more restful day and a supper and song night here at Laura's. I'm so thankful for the gift and paint God gave Laura to make her house feel more like a home, it is nice to breathe a bit easier to refresh, although some more lizards came in on the laundry and it's not good to wear your bare feet on the cement floor (Laura says it won't kill me to step on a lizard, but I am not willing to test it and the cement is hard on your feet).
Anyway, I am slowly adjusting to life here. I am so thankful or as they say here way-bu-lay to which the other person says way-by-lay kisimo (thank you for thanking me) or if you're from the mountains (as a lot of mothers at the clinic) say, wesenga. Thank you all for your support too. Much love, Ruthie
Today was an interesting day, I feel that it is a day that would be very familiar to the people who work and live here at Serge. The day started with loud knocking at the door and windows, people looking for money, for work, for food, really anything they thought Laura may have. Laura tries to help those those are in desperate need, but it is a steady stream, more needs than any one person could or should meet. Laura is wise to this and really believes that if you teach a man to fish, it's better than giving him fish because people here have gotten used to asking for help rather than creating ways of meeting their own needs long-term.
It is hungry season but people are strange. We shared our pineapple with some but they didn't want it because it was chilled. I do not understand being hungry one day and wasting the next either. It is so strange to me, but culture and what is dignity to one is certainly different to another. It's hard though even for me as a nurse-so many people asking for ringworm medicine (which I need to look up and give them the generic name of) but realize that there is no way I can possibly provide medicine for everyone here. I feel that knowledge is power and giving people knowledge is the best way to help them begin to understand how they can begin to make money, budget it and invest and save it.
Truly, this area needs a ruler like Joseph as the potential here is great, with the ability to farm year-round, yet the people lack planning and sadly, in many cases, motivation. You see very few dedicated and diligent people and it's sad as we realize the mission will not always be here to help. Pray for these people, here in this village.
Not all Ugandans have such high expectations and dependency, but this area has had the mission here for so long that they have gotten used to asking.
Even in Bundibugio town people ask less, but here, people watch you to see what you have and then ask you for some of it and others watch others and soon people are more busy playing the asking game than working in their own gardens. I think this is a real concern to Laura, which is why she tries to help only those who are in desperate states including children with no parents, etc.
It is hard saying no though and hard to feel that people are your friends only to ask for stuff. This is unique to here it seems as even people at the clinic come from throughout the district. Having said that, even mountain people do watch you still. When I was lying in the clinic the other night "sleeping", I opened my eyes to someone standing over me. 🙂
Anyway, I now understand a little piece of why people here burn out! It's hard to see kids running around with no bottom in their pants and not want to help them. It's hard not to meet every need you see. It is hard to say no to someone you believe needs to learn their own life skills for future security. It is hard to be hungry because you have away a little too much. It is hard being here some days.
I so appreciate that people get tired and suspicious of new friends! Having said all of that, there are real needs. It's been quite a journey to a place I am just starting to understand! The moments on the "football" field are some of my favourite yet! I love laughing with the kids and building friendships.
Some said they wished I could stay forever and I admit, I wouldn't mind playing soccer everyday although I don't think I have ever been so hot in my life as today! I was getting pretty warm, but when the little boys started going in the bush to take off their shirts and hang them in the trees to dry, I decided it was time for a water break. When I noticed one playing in his briefs, having also shed his shorts, I decided it was time to take a break! LOL what enthusiasm for soccer! I appreciate their love for the game!
It was a packed house today in the library, and a dark one as the electricity was off, but I think it's off as much as it's on! 😉 I'm reminded tonight that the gift of books and of knowledge is one of the most precious gifts we can give people, especially young minds in helping prepare them for their life. That's why it is so wonderful to see their love for the library!
They are so motivated to earn prizes from the store and what a great way to teach them the value of hard work. I'm so proud of the program Laura has put together and also how she is training local people to teach and run it. There's so much potential in equipping people to be successful... Thankful for another day filled with learning for me. I see that speaking a person's language and playing a person's sport allows you to build friendships and laugh with them. Precious moments.
The nutrition clinic was short-handed today, so I walked up to help them. It is such a great program they have! My job was weighing the babes in this net from UNICEF. We had some pretty little ones, but some, even one set of triplets, seemed to be thriving. After the education session, I spoke to offer encouragement to the mothers to keep up the good work of loving and caring for the babies and said that I hoped they could support and encourage each other. I also told them how beautiful I thought there kids are (like their moms) and how impressed I was that they can carry them on their backs! It is really neat to see how the babies just hang out there while the mother gets them tied on. Seems like a great way of carrying kids, maybe a skill to learn!
They were friendly despite the language barrier and laughed and welcomed me. I thought their kids were so adorable and I think they sensed that I really loved them. I hope so. Overall, it was a great day, I got peed on, but I found out that's a sign you're about to have a family of your own so I should be happy!? Walking home was interesting, kids wanted me to say hello and yelled mazoonga which was all good, but then a man harassed me for money to the place I was very happy to see the mission gates come into sight.
After returning, I joined Laura and a friend using the internet for lunch and had a little snooze. I then went up to the library. I couldn't get in at all with so many kids, but I could see the kids were captivated.
Following that, they had popcorn and watched the Jesus movie which has been translated into their local language. I sat with a little guy for a while. When he found out that I was Laura's sister, he said "Laura is a good lady". He went on to explain all she has done for them and how much he likes learning at the library lessons. Truly, this library program is timely and many kids and parents seem so thankful!! Blessed! I overhear so much positivity.
Feeling that I am making friends with some of the kids is a great blessing. It takes a while for them to warm up to new people, so I was so happy that some came to me and asked to my friend. 🙂
We came back and had a bite to eat with Laura's neighbour. Now it's off to bed so I am ready for my first trip to district hospital tomorrow with the local physiotherapist. I'll be motivated by the thought of having Ugandan coffee when I get up! ☕️ It is delicious!
We're both so tired tonight, just posting a few pictures and a video so you can see the hospital where I have been working in Bundibugio town. It felt again today like God brought me over here. Just felt so influential and like my opinion about the physio program at that hospital really mattered. It's sad that they haven't gotten good support from the staff for full funding because they haven't been seeing the need for physio really there.
Maybe because of my skin colour or my snazzy Trent uniform 😉 they seemed so open to what I had to say and the chief medical officer even asked me to return another day and walk with him. I understand they are quite friendly to all, but Obed made a point of introducing me to many people, including the chief nursing officer (who I met first and noticed my shirt was on inside out haha!) anyway, at least the right side of my shirt was cleaner after the 10 kilometre? boda ride to the hospital. Haha.
I was able to really promote physio and saw firsthand how much it can do. I believe in it anyway, but it was especially amazing seeing how Obed acts like Jesus (in how patient he is and how he really comforts and encourages) and it was really cool to be asked to pray for each person we saw. I prayed for one man who said he believed in Jesus that he would have the patience and long suffering and humility to be able to accept help from his family. They are the ones who have to do the exercises with him when we are not there, but it's hard for him, being the formerly "big man" to accept help he needs.
Another lady's extreme modesty almost made her refuse her daughter and I to dress her severe pressure ulcer on her coccyx. She finally did and then we prayed for her, it's just so nice to be able to show someone you care in this way and they seemed so appreciative. They really need to expand this program as people were approaching us for help, especially those in the chronic ward as out patients...
It is amazing to see how much hope it provides to people who were previously kind of condemned. For example, one man had complete left-sided paralysis and can now almost walk with a stick. It gives people their life back and more want it, so now it's just needing to see it happen! The problem stems from not seeing the need and/or corruption in how the money is handled...
I tried to do everything I could for the program by praising their good work in providing physio and seeing such phenomenal results. Pray that those words stick and that their promises to me today that they will have a room ready for Obed and the missiom's therapist (upon return from furlow?) to work from will come to fruition and that they will see the need to put him on payroll too. It is a good work they're doing.
We do more of the same here in district clinic tomorrow. I'm exhausted, Laura and I both are, but a good kind of tired. What a fun day. There are some other random shots, most from today except for the hospital movie, which I shot from the car on Sunday. Some things are missing including more soccer, a smaller but nice library program and a wonderful conversation about life with my new little friend from Laura's hammocks (although a picture is there). I had seen this little guy around and felt he was too quiet and like I wanted to be his friend to see if he wanted to talk. I was thankful he was here to clean Laura's step as this gave me a chance to talk to him. Laura already had him cheered up, but we had a great talk and I was so honoured to share some of my most treasured and deepest held beliefs as he recited some of his memory verses for the library.
There's so much potential in these little kiddos. I told him and the amazing promise in Psalm 1, which I memorized as a kid. Truly, God's word has changed me and has the power to change the way we think and we act so that our thinking can be refreshed and changed so we can be like a tree by a river with access to constant water and truest hope... Much love to all, off to sleep! Have a good afternoon/evening!! ❤️️
Woke up this morning to gunshots, and spent a large part of my morning looking out Laura's door (took this short movie then). A riot broke out following the death of a young college student who was about to graduate. He was hit by a boda. It is confusing to me who put the curse on who, but a curse was thought to have killed another one (although most likely natural cause), so it was decided that they would kill the boda driver and all his family by burning down their houses with them in it. The police responded (thankfully) by trying to protect the driver and his family and only one small house was burned, but sadly at least one was still killed.
What you hear in this movie is just a gunshot, but I found the tear gas bombs a bit scarier, as it sounded like either a gunshot right outside our door or a bomb. - It was tear gas bombing by the police and it took three in a row, but some people finally left running (you can see them here), while others are still headed toward town.
It sounds like things are under control now, but I have to say that the whole grieving process here seems totally unwise, this is all happening on the second night of staying up through the night (the first night there was wailing and mourning). This sleep deprivation mixed with large amounts of alcohol is probably not the best way to handle grief at one of the saddest times in your life. Although this conflict seems to be resolving now, it reminded me to share Obed's request to me yesterday that we pray for on-going peace. With the Congo border so close and ongoing tribal thinking...
Despite large strides toward civilization, Laura says that the tribal way of thinking still remains. This makes the lessons being taught at the library make a lot more sense...about no longer praying to witch doctors....it's so important and helps me understand why the kids seemed so very captivated by the topics being presented about not having other gods and doing good to others, this applies so much to their lives.
We have to leave the gates shut at least until noon so I will not go up to clinic as planned at least until the groups have left and things seem to have quieted down. Please pray for peace and the protection of our friends and neighbours my eyes were filled with tears watching the children and some with babies on their backs running toward the conflict), pray that no more death would happen and people will go home and stay home to sleep it off.
Right after the riot in Laura's town, the internet went off, but tonight we are back in Kampala. The last couple days were filled with so many experiences again, including experiencing a full Ugandan meal cooked for me and including g-nut sauce, which I now know is delicious!), a day at the hospital, one last soccer match and a trip to the craft market today upon arriving back in civilization/Kampala after our seven hour plus drive (which I won't talk about in case it makes me feel car sick again! haha)
It's been such a full and fulfilling time in district and very eventful. As I said goodbye to Laura's team, they all hugged me and said I have been one of the most active visitors they have had!
Between Laura and God, they had a lot planned for me to do while I was there! We had some good laughs with the team too, and I made good friends among them. So wonderful to meet the people that live on and off mission and are part of Laura's life/work.
The last day at the hospital was sobering in many ways. A lady who we saw for a physio follow-up had had the end of one toe and part of another eaten off by a rat (they suspect during the night) so I cleaned and dressed them and instructed that they use her mosquito net and do not ever miss a night putting it on. She lost feeling in her legs after a fall coming down a hill? and sustained a probable spinal injury-likely made worse and sadly permanent by transport to hospital by boda.
Another man we saw was developing a severe infection. His book was lost (they carry little Avery paperback health records with notes from all healthcare providers), and the doc had not returned to see him after having seen him the previous day and having suspected either tetanus or meningitis, but was more certain it was meningitis due to him not talking and moving his jaw. However, when I saw this man, he was extremely febrile and tachycardic and could not even bend his leg due to increased muscle tone. I felt he would die if he was not soon treated. Yet, they had not even started an iv or got the family to get one. I can't prescribe, but I have to tell you I was tempted!
They had prescribed antibiotics for a headache (which appeared to be related to hypertension) in one case but had not given this man a dose yet who was clearly dying of infection. After approaching several doctors, including the chief medical officer, there was nothing else we could do except pray for him. Hopefully they returned upon us explaining his extreme pyrexia and muscle contracture/tension.
It is hard to have patience when you have to watch someone who shouldn't die likely die. In happier news, we have now heard that the mother with the ruptured uterus lived!
For additional experience and knowledge of problems facing Ugandans, they had us sit in on paediatric consultations. There were large benches filled with people and their children. One by one, they came in and sat on the bars of a chair (because the top was missing) with their child on their lap and the doctor made clinical judgments based on a variety of symptoms. Even a thermometer is hard to find however so it's a bit of guessing and between that and patients non-adherence to prescribed regimen for many various reasons including money, many were quite ill even after previous treatment.
The Dr shared about their problems including sickle cell anemia and lack of medicine for malaria (limiting it to kids and pregnant mothers in some cases) and he asked for advice. He also wanted to know what our problems are. I said, interestingly recently impetigo and increasing rates of childhood diabetes. Those are the two that came to mind, albeit ironic.
Anyway, we also saw many who needed physio, including one who had been referred but hadn't found Obed to get treatment two weeks prior. Her daughter was severely burned in a pot of g-nut sauce, actually, and had developed severe contractures and pending paralysis due to not seeing physio. Obed provided the information for her to bring the daughter on the boda to the clinic where he has been working with the mission's physiotherapist and has access to nevessar equipment. However, this won't happen until Tuesday when it's open.
The doctor made sure they had it written in the little blue book/medical record, so hopefully they make it! It would just be better if Obed was there at the hospital and treating people properly before it is too late (so do pray for that to get up and running and for him to be on site - that's the goal - to have one on each site) ...
Anyway, the lady had her child's hand in a light blanket bent, so I suggested she try allowing it to lay more straight (to protect whatever muscle was not contracted). The doctor could see this almost made the mother cry, so we let them go as is and I realized how much I needed patience. We just saw person after person, each with much more needed and oh how I wanted to help them all. The doctor asked for feedback on several, but when I asked assessment questions, many were not answered or unanswerable.
We also saw the policeman who was shot in the leg during the riot and Obed was able to provide a set of crutches to him, which was really neat.
As far as the riot goes, other than the village playing loud music "to keep the evil spirits away" for a week following the death, things seem to have mostly settled down! I saw some hard things during my time there, but I am reminded again as we drove today of how beautiful of a world it truly is! For those of you who want to know about riding a boda, I took this view of the trip to town for M.J. Stewart and decided to share part of it! 🙂
We are now in Kampala, which feels like civilization again. We went and got a Canadian dinner which was really nice! It's still not expensive here, but it feels like a taste of home! Tomorrow, we leave to travel north to see some giraffes and elephants!? Pictures to follow ❤️️
Well, I made it! Last day here in Uganda and now starting my long journey home! Thankful for a full and amazing time here in Uganda with my adventurous sweet sister!