Approximately eight years ago, The University of British Columbia partnered with CoRSU Rehabilitation Hospital, Mulago Hospital, and Uganda medical school to send students on an annual mission to Uganda in order to provide medical assistance and training. This program was started by Dr. Mark Hill and has proven to be successful every year.
The group that is involved in this mission usually consists of a team of four plastic surgeons, a resident in training plastic surgeon from the UBC medical school and Heather Posno, an operating room nurse of 24 years.
Upon her arrival back from the 2016 mission, Heather shared her thoughts and details on the project:
❝ It is unique in that our missions are highly focused on training the medical students in Kampala Uganda.
After 7 missions with other groups I find this particular model of missions highly effective for ongoing sustainable training to new medical professionals and also medical mission work. We are leaving behind the knowledge. Which makes me very happy.
All of our teachings and surgeries provided to the students and patients of Uganda is completely free and a 100% volunteer basis for each of our team members going on the 2 week missions. We rely on the donations and support of our family, friends and own selves also donating money and time. We offer a full day hands on interactive talks and a cadaver training course on the arriving Sunday at Mulago Hospital, Kampala. We often have 20-30 students attend from the orthopedics, plastics, general surgery and urology divisions and often we have several full fledged doctors that are coming to our teaching course to learn the new techniques from our group.
This gives me goosebumps to write as this is what I am so proud of. Leaving behind our knowledge to pass on to the patients of Uganda and afar as these docs also will go on to teach in other African countries.
The next 10 days are operating days. At times we have 4 rooms running with each of our docs in a room teaching the students and Ugandan doctors. The patients that are chosen for surgery often have an element of teaching necessary in them. Focusing on what the students are requiring and also we balance out the priority with the most urgent patients going on the earlier operating days. Focusing on surgeries to maintain function or to restore function for the patients.
We choose both adults, children and very young babies for the surgeries. Sometimes I just get so attached to them on clinic screening day and I have to have them done. Maybe following an intuition or just a love connection I advocate at times for one or....a few! The docs laugh at me when I get like this!
It is at times very difficult as we see so many patients that all really do need our help and with the poverty and health care as it is in Uganda it does at times feels overwhelming. We do have to turn away many and just hope that at some point the local doc will have time to do their surgery. That is the hard reality of mission work. But with our being there and teaching the docs and patients we feel happy that the possibility is there. We often talk about how to manage their particular problem and that also is learning for the local doc for when they do have the chance to treat that patient. They have the knowledge.
This year I was able to connect with a particular mother and child by the name of Ruth. I first met them in 2014 just about a year after Ruth's hot water burns to a good portion of her upper body, arms, hands and face.
She is a sweet and lovely little girl. Her Mother is so grateful that we have booked her for surgery again this year. Little Ruth will greet me each morning in the hallway and give me the biggest hug. On this mission we released burn contractures on her arm and also released the skin around her mouth so she can open her mouth wider ease for eating and chewing and have a bigger smile!
We provided surgery for approximately 35 adults and 10 kids this year most all for burns. This is unfortunately common in Uganda. The practice of cooking on the ground over fires is a dangerous practice as often the pots tip or get knocked with the children playing around them so closely. This is poverty and lack of education.
More education is needed......maybe my next pursuit will be burn prevention education in the communities of Uganda. We shall see.
The staff at Kurudu Hospital are so happy to see us each year. I am a champion at obtaining donations of hospital linens, medical equipment and supplies. The gifts are highly useful and extremely helpful for their operating rooms. They are so grateful for the generous gifts. This is where Control Gap is also helpful....with your donations we are able to get ourselves and the equipment there! This year I had 17 hockey bags full of linens, cautery machines, and medical supplies to donate and use for our on going missions to Uganda! This is remarkable!❞
Here are some photos from the 2016 mission:
Heather and Ruth blowing bubbles before Ruth's surgery.
Heather Posno in the operating room. All instruments are donated or purchased with donated money.
Heather Posno and the kids having fun. All new linens for their operating room at CORSU Hospital, Kampala, Uganda.