A Successful Ultrasound Lab in Nawanyago

August 16, 2013 It is so great to finally be here in Uganda with the ITW team after weeks of preparation. Since we got here three days ago, or nights I should say, we have all been busy with surveys, presentations, and working at the Nawanyago clinic (Health Centre III) and Kamuli Mission Hospital.

One thing that I have found particularly inspiring so far was giving a presentation on adolescent pregnancy to a group of teenage students in Nawanyago from the Nawanyago College. Not only were the students engaged in what we were trying to teach them, but they asked such intriguing questions that I would have never imagined hearing from teenagers in Uganda. When they arrived at the clinic, Anna and I went around to each student and asked them a few questions to analyze their knowledge of and experience with pregnancy. Although the questions we asked were simple, it was interesting to hear some of the responses. For instance, about half of the 15 kids said they had never seen a pregnant belly. We thought that they might have been confused by the wording of the question, though, which could have altered the responses. Additionally, we asked if any of the students had ever been pregnant or fathered a baby. Two girls out of the fifteen, ages 16 and 17, said that they had been pregnant before, which was interesting.

The first step of the presentation was giving a survey PowerPoint that Mary Streeter put together and gave to the students. She explained in depth the risks associated with teenage pregnancy as the kids gathered around and listened attentively. Many of them expressed interest in the function of the placenta, and it was fascinating to see them learning about things that most had had no prior knowledge of.

Next, we went over to the scanning room where Sister Angela performs ultrasounds at the clinic. An expecting mother had previously volunteered to let us and the students watch her get a final ultrasound. Before she was scanned for the Lab program, the ITW team learned that the woman, who had a bad case of malaria, had been in labor for four days, and unfortunately she was having some serious complications! After doing an ultrasound scan to identify the problem, some ITW members rushed her to Kamuli in the team van, she had emergency surgery, and luckily she and her baby are now doing fine. We learned from Sister Angela that ultrasound results have helped to save many patients.

Luckily for us, there were a few more willing women at the clinic who let us watch their ultrasounds for the Lab. Sister Angela was great with the students. She talked them through each step of the ultrasound, and I could tell by their eyes and facial expressions that they were absolutely fascinated by what they were seeing. I think witnessing something in action is so much more effective than simply learning about it in a classroom, and I think that was proven at the clinic.

DSCF2098After the ultrasounds, Anna and I asked each of the kids some follow-up questions. First, we asked each person if she or he understood the risks of adolescent pregnancy, and if they wanted to wait until they were older to get pregnant, and we got pretty positive responses from those questions. We also asked what actions each kid would take to ensure a safe pregnancy. This question seemed to confuse them a bit, but after we explained it, most of the students said that they would come to the clinic to get regular pregnancy care and testing and to get ultrasounds, if appropriate. Lastly, we asked if they wanted any more information on any of the topics that were covered that day. Interestingly, many said they wanted to know more about how the ultrasound works and how a fetus “survives off of its mother.” The information that we took from this was that the students were really interested in the scientific and biological aspects of pregnancy.

Although the goal was to teach them about the risks of pregnancy, I thought it was good to see the students so interested in the more general topics. After the presentation and surveys were finished, one of the kids came up to me and said he needed help. He told me that he absolutely loved biology, and even asked me some questions about cellular reproduction (not my best subject). At any rate, he was concerned that he wouldn't be able to go to University because he had no way of paying for it. I dreaded the moment when he asked me to help him out, which, of course, came next. Although I couldn't give him money, we shared the desire to go into medicine, and I think I gave him hope that he would be able to go to college if he set his mind to it. All of the kids were so friendly and wanted to know about our trip and life back in the states. Although it was overwhelming to be surrounded by all of them, it was a good experience to be able to connect with some.

Getting back to the presentation, I think it was a very positive thing for the students to experience, and to be able to see a real ultrasound. I love how ITW is able to provide opportunities like this to kids who wouldn't have them otherwise. The gift of material objects, as many people in poverty are given, does not compare to the gift of knowledge, which can be used throughout a lifetime. I have learned so much from this experience, too.

-Madison Hyams