Initial feelings of being overwhelmed by the crowded conditions were short lived as each person dove into their roles. Patients and films were examined, dressings were removed and changed, and a handful of post op children were lucky enough to be discharged and sent home. This would become our morning routine. Then we went to clinic, an all day clinic. Clinic was HOT! There was no power. At one point there were 12 people in the small room and it was difficult to keep the new patients out while the ones just seen exited. We managed to see 41 patients over 6 hours in that crowded room with only an open window for light. We squeezed a team of 6 Americans, 3 Ugandans and a Canadian into a room the size of a small walk in closet with no electricity. The language barrier became the least of our concerns once we realized we could all understand the Canadian.
So many of our patients were pediatric. The magnitude of the deformities are difficult to describe and have to be visualized to comprehend. These sweet children and their caregivers have very little understanding of their disease. So many have scars from cuts made by traditional healers and present with hope mixed with fear and faith that their spines could be fixed. There is often a struggle between treating the severity of the appearance of the child and their functional limitations. Promise, a very pretty fourteen year old girl came and stood in front of us in that crowded room. Her deformity was obvious while clothed and magnified on examination. She had pain and wanted her back to look better.
Her procedure would be extreme and require removing ribs and a vertebrae from her spine. As we walked back to the bus that night after a long day of new insights, we contemplated the tasks ahead. We too had hope that what we set out to do would bring a smile to this young girl but faith our team would perform.