Shadowing at the Hospital

3 08 2011

By Katherine Donato

August 3, 2011

Last Friday I went back to the regional hospital in Mbarara to shadow a couple doctors.  Unlike most of the students I’m here with, I’m not pre-med, but I thought it’d be a cool experience and a good way to see how one of the top health facilities in Uganda operates.  I shadowed in the Maternal Surgery ward, which ended up being a really intense experience.  The first operation I saw was a full hysterectomy.  The woman was expected to bring much of her own supplies, including things like gauze and tape.  As far as I could tell, everything went smoothly through this operation, but I could only watch in short spurts without feeling faint (clearly I will never be a surgeon!).

The second operation was really quite heart-wrenching.  We knew we would be watching a C-section, and so I anticipated a fairly happy surgery that would end with a crying baby and a happy mother.  It turns out that this woman had tried to deliver 5 days before at home, but had run into complications related to the baby’s breach orientation.  When she had arrived a local government health center, her baby had already died and they referred her to the regional hospital I was shadowing at.  I had no idea about any of this while observing the surgery, and had a major shock when they removed the baby from the woman’s uterus and all but ignored it for a few minutes while tending to the mother.  At this point, I still wasn’t quite sure what was going on with the baby, and the eventual realization that it was dead almost knocked me down.  It is not customary for husbands to be around during these types of procedures in Uganda, so it was even more distressing to watch this all play out and for the woman to have no family or friends there to comfort her.

Other than the trip to the hospital, the recent weekdays have been somewhat uneventful…more piloting and refining of my survey and starting to work out some of the smaller details of the intervention we’re planning that begins in September.  This past weekend I went with a couple other students and one or our Ugandan colleagues to the Queen Elizabeth National Park.  We saw a bunch of Ugandan kob (deer-like things), elephants, warthogs, hippos, buffalo, birds, and a few lions!  There was also some spectacular scenery throughout the park, including lakes, craters, and more or less open savannah.  I’d highly recommend this fantastic park to anyone coming through East Africa!

Lastly, a great article about Uganda’s health system from the NYTimes.

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