After a Saturday evening of reveling on the town with Collins, Picho, and Alan, I moseyed down to the lobby of my Ntinda hotel to meet Frank, who I hadn't seen since he left Uganda last July. It was great to reunite with my "techno-dork partner in crime" and he was excited to show me the new system monitoring program that he had tweaked to give us continuous and comprehensive monitoring of networks, allowing us to arrive more prepared when the time comes to eventually implement the complete project in Bwindi or anywhere else. It was also great to meet Paulie, Frank's oldest son who he had bragged about all of last summer. Paulie, at only 15 years of age, had come along to help spearhead the Bwindi project, hopefully mobilizing his school community to raise funds and awareness for the hard work imaging the world is doing in Uganda. After greeting Frank and his son, they went with Picho to Nakumatt to pick up tools and supplies that would be needed in Bwindi. When he returned Frank noted just how expensive common things are in Uganda...for instance a simple wrench cost over 20 dollars! While Frank was gone, Alec and I went for a walk through the hills of Ntinda, finally getting a chance to explore Kampala a bit, something our busy schedule had made impossible on my last trip. When Picho called and told me Frank had returned from shopping, Alec and I hopped on a boda boda and headed back to the hotel to finalize plans for the evening and the following morning. We would be heading back up to Kamuli for a day trip early Monday, and then early Tuesday, the Bwindi team would head west. Sunday evening, Debbie, a former volunteer trainer from ECUREI who is now in medical school with the goal of becoming a radiologist, met us for dinner. We went to Mamba Point pizzeria, reminisced about last year's ITW adventure, and laughed at Collins's ridiculous attempts to pronounce the Italian ingredients (he eventually had to order by pointing at the menu). I sat next to Debbie and talked to her about the challenges of advancing radiology in Uganda, where almost all of the equipment is broken or obsolete, and the process of fixing old equipment or procuring new machines is covered with red tape. As a future radiology colleague, I really hope she takes on the challenge of staying home and helping build an effective imaging effort in Uganda. I can't imagine anyone who will be more qualified to take on such an important, yet daunting challenge.
The following Monday morning Picho drove Frank, Alec, Paulie, Allan and me back up the pothole-covered road towards Kamuli. Frank was hoping to pull some cases from the machine in Nawanyago, film Sister Angela's ultrasound clinic process, from checking in patients to scanning them, and also to make sure that the transmitting netbook was in order. In the end, I think his real motivation for visiting the clinic was handing out twizzlers to the kids around Nawanyago! We had a wonderful visit with Sister Angela and discovered that they are more organized with ITW administrative paperwork than we could have possibly hoped for.After 4 hours visiting Nawanyago, we continued back up to Kamuli to drop off a package to Dr. Alphons. It was a great time to show Paulie the Hospital and also for Frank to say hi to Monica and other old friends. Around 4 pm, we left for Kampala again, and by a miracle, avoided any jam on Jinja road. We made it back to Ntinda that evening, and turned in early, as the van carrying Frank, Paulie, Alec, Picho and Allan on the 10 hour journey to Bwindi was scheduled to depart at 5:00 am. True to form, the car actually wasn't ready to roll until 8:30, and I moseyed down to the lobby in my pajamas to say goodbye to the team. I gave everyone big hugs, and would be lying to you if I said I wasn't extremely jealous as I watched the ITW van pull out of the Nob View Hotel parking lot. After hearing about the successes of Nawanyago, visiting another wonderful clinic outside of Masaka, and training wonderful nurses from potential expansion sites, I'm extremely anxious to get more clinics "imaging."
I also would not have minded returning to the mountains and the impenetrable forest of Bwindi, where I got to meet a few mountain gorillas last year. But like Frank told me on the phone while I was driving to the airport today, if I have any intelligence at all, I'll be back soon enough to train operators at these new clinics. I'm not sure how much time my internship director will allow for work in Uganda, but I will try everything I can to get back as soon as possible.
After my two weeks in Uganda, I can proudly say that all is "bulungi" with the project. While sitting in Brussels waiting for my flight to Montreal (which will connect to Toronto, and then to Nashville, an African man was looking over my shoulder at my iPad as I chose photos to send for these blog entries. He tapped me on the shoulder. "What is this work you are doing?" he asked me, his curiosity clearly reaching the point where he felt it necessary to interrupt my photo editing. I explained to him that I was on my way home from Uganda, and about the work ITW has been doing there. "I live in New Jersey," he explained, "and am coming home from my home country of Guinea. We need these services. Can you help us?" I explained to him that we were still refining our project in Uganda and still had much work to do there. "I understand nothing comes right away," he replied, undeterred. "But my country needs help. I am a personal friend of the Minister of Health in my country, so if you become ready, I will escort you there." I gathered his contact information, and told him that maybe one day, we could expand to Guinea. I was unable to flat out dismiss such a sincere plea for help. If I'm lucky enough, hopefully one day I can help bring ITW’s model there too.
Till next time!