After nearly two weeks in Uganda, the fourteen member implementation team in Uganda is alive and well. After some missed flights and lost baggage, the team eventually arrived at Kamuli Mission Hospital to begin the first research project, and to test internet connectivity at Nawanyago, the first implementation site. The Image Quality Study had a rough start with multiple delays and surprises. Some of the issues we have seen include: extremely unstable electricity, one close call on blowing the generator, scarcity of supplies and the ability to get supplies, some cultural disconnects, a flat tire, working in a construction zone, lack of water, illness, broken bathrooms, language problems, and many, many more challenges. And Kamuli Town is not even a rural area! The ITW team has worked extremely hard, and despite all of the challenges, we are proud and elated to report that the ITW team successfully completed the Image Quality Study only half a day behind schedule. This is a remarkable achievement and I cannot praise the team enough for enduring so much hardship, and persevering when at times it seemed to be a futile mission. Through this process, I think that we have all learned much about ourselves and each other, but most importantly we have learned much about our own cultural expectations and how we must learn to adapt and adjust constantly. I have watched the ITW team learn to relax and work through delays and problems with patience, even enjoying a cup of tea in the mid-morning as is the local custom (despite a work list as tall as a man).
Meanwhile, Dr. DeStigter and other ITW team members traveled to Nawanyago to test the internet connectivity and were very surprised to learn that there was absolutely no internet signal. We had tested the signals previously, and there were several. The team was crestfallen and spent days working to correct this, purchasing and testing six different modems and telecom carriers. This includes rigging up a very large antenna to the top of a forty foot pole (read tree). There is a very long and entertaining story around the raising of the pole that I will post at a later date. Interestingly, we learned that internet signals vary day to day. We brought two separate technicians out to troubleshoot, to no avail. As a last resort, Frank Miele purchased a cell booster in the USA and brought it to Kamuli Town, and we are pleased to report that we have double the bandwidth that we need (thank you Frank!).
Although the training started a little late for the second phase, the training is now half way done with great success. The sisters from the clinic are very committed to learning and are doing extremely well. In addition to the sisters, there are a few sonographers from Kampala (the major city) and a few nurses from the Kamuli Mission Hospital (where we are currently training) who are also learning all of the protocols. The excitement is tangible! It is not possible to express in words the commitment and joy expressed as these trainees start to understand the potential to improve patient outcomes.
For the last two days, I have been interviewing each participant in this study, and I have been very touched by the reports and the emotional attachment each member has to this project and mission, and to helping the beautiful and happy people of Uganda. I am sure that this is the carrot that has driven us to so much success in the midst of the trials. Some of the medical students have gone on rounds with Dr. Alphonse, and have seen so many heartbreaking things including a woman and her child who died after the woman’s uterus ruptured after laboring of four days and being brought to the hospital far too late.
As I type this, four pregnant women are sitting behind me dressed in their finest cultural dress, and Andria Jones and Frank Woitera are telling them about the ITW project in their local language. In the adjacent room, OB patients are getting scanned (see picture above.)
We are all looking forward to a hot shower and something besides beans and rice and plantains… A drink with ice in it would be tremendous.
Signing off from Kamuli,