It was crystallized the next morning as our next patient was brought into the OR. She was a young seven year old with a severe deformity. As the films were pasted to the frosted window, which acts as a light box, the members of the team took pause. One by one they approached the patient who was scared of the clinical surroundings and odd sights and sounds so foreign to her. One of us held her hand and smiled. Another suggested a song to calm her. In a few moments the six of us were in chorus singing for this little girl letting her know the compassion and respect we had for her and for the procedure she was about to endure.
This was the rarest of moments when the silos are broken, where each member of the team becomes the team and the team becomes greater than the sum of the individuals. It was a time when the purpose of the mission became clear. It was a time when we all realized each of us had travelled great distances to bring knowledge, care and perspective to a remote region and an emerging nation. Despite the challenges of limited resources, limited equipment and the events of the day prior, our team was in unison more so than ever. We all had gained appreciation for what we were asking of ourselves and of our patients. The day’s surgeries went well and we finished early. Our second case, an elderly lady who came to us with lower extremity paralysis from a tumor in her thoracic spine also recovered well and began moving her legs. At home it is often difficult to visualize the essence of medicine as we each get buried under the scope of our responsibilities that force us to work as individuals. However, despite going to Uganda to teach all that we knew, the six of us that day gained as much as we gave. We gained the appreciation and privilege of what it’s like to be on a team working together with a common goal whose purpose is united and focused.