The conditions were unbelievable. It was clear the staff was trying to manage the patient load, but were running into overwhelming road blocks. The ICU had 3 of our patients such as Eric Agaba - our respiratory distress patient who was doing much better but taking no narcotics- after a massive two stage congenital scoliosis correction surgery. The patients' vitals and lab data required half an hour of searching and were only partially available. Overall, our ICU patients all seemed to be improving. We did multiple dressing changes and assessed our patients but there wasn't much we could do to minimize their pain beyond showing that we cared with a gentle touch and encouragement. The Ugandan staff as well as some of the patients live in fear of forming addiction to pain medications and are extremely reluctant to use them.
After a brief siesta, we met again for dinner at the Rhino Restaurant at our hotel. Dr. St Clair led us in a Lieberman tradition of going around the table and discussing what we learned today. For me, the learning experience was an invaluable and overwhelming epiphany of how real it is for these destitute people. I had watched videos and read about how the terrible conditions are in Africa but seeing this first hand literally rendered me speechless. I wasn't sure what to do at first, part of me wanted to run, part of me wanted to cry and part of me wanted to just start hugging them. I have now had some time to digest what I saw, but what I realized is I will never empathize with their suffering. It is incomprehensible for me. I am so blessed and lucky enough to even have the opportunity to be here. I offer my help more as a symbolic token now because I could never truly alleviate their hurting, but we on team three will give it our best damn shot. For me, Eric, I also recognized just how much we take for granted in healthcare back in the US. Our team rounds were like nothing I've ever experienced, almost every encounter required obstacles to overcome and necessitated creativity and problem solving. For instance, availability of exam gloves, getting vital signs, or just communicating all required making do. The amazing thing was despite difficult conditions, the patients were grateful to be there and that gratitude couldn't help but elevate you. Recognizing this gratitude and using every mental as well physical resource to problem solve were invaluable lessons for today. After finishing our debriefing we enjoyed an epic meal of delicious local talpia and wine. And yes, my (Austin) stomach system held up and I am feeling both gastrointestinally comfortable and ready for sleep. We rounded out dinner and sleepily made our way upstairs to get ready for tomorrow.