After many hours of international air travel, landing us in Doha, Qatar for a night, a majority of team 1 was able to reunite. Attending team 1 was Dr. Isador Lieberman, Dr. Michael Hisey, Dr. Jaime Villerreal, spinal fellow, all from Texas Back Institute, along with Dr. Susan Benton from Plano, Texas, taking care of anesthesia, and Dr. Steve Gorlick from Toronto. In addition, we have Kari Zagar, the neuromonitoring technician, Sherri LaCivita and Jason Ash, scrub technicians, Joel Tanner, radiology technician, Brian Failla, hardware representative from Globus Medical, Sydnie Ozanus, undergrad, and myself, Adam Woodward, undergrad.
We slowly made our way to our respective hotels, and with those currently in the city, we were split between 4 hotels throughout town.
When we all finally got to our hotels, we took a short break to unwind from the long 15 hour flight before dinner; naps, exploration, and catching up on emails and social media. A reservation was made for a restaurant called “Persia”, which was absolutely fantastic, both in terms of looks and the quality of food. The interior was gorgeously decorated, with paintings in alcoves you could sit and eat in, and food that was unbelievably perfect. We took our sweet time at dinner, even though the restaurant did not serve any alcohol, enjoying each other’s company, the food, and sights. But of course, everything must come to an end, so we returned to our hotels to call it a night before our early flight to Entebbe to begin the final leg of the journey.
Sleep took many of us that night, and we traveled down to the airport, where we explored and bought souvenirs before climbing into a plane for another long and uneventful flight, where we would then meet up with Sherron Willson, resident nurse (RN), Michelle White, our physical therapist, and Stanley Kisinde, a local doctor who is currently doing his orthopaedic residency in South Africa and has been a valued team member for the past 3 years.
With such a large group of 15 volunteers and over 40 pieces of luggage and storage totes, comes many new problems not commonly encountered on prior trips, like having so many boxes of necessary medical equipment and supplies that either we could (A) fill the bus with everything and not fit all the people, or (B) Fit all the people and not all of the supplies. Dr. Lieberman strategically initiated the audible and made some calls to local friends, and planned to fill the bus as much as we could, and have the rest of the supplies delivered to Mbarara the following morning, so we could have them for surgeries beginning on Tuesday. So, while we waited on the truck to arrive to carry supplies on Monday, we played Tetris on a much larger scale, fitting boxes, backpacks, and suitcases into the bus as carefully as we could. Once satisfied and the other vehicle was filled and secured, we all got to know one another as we piled into the bus very close to one another and began the long drive to Mbarara.
The drive was long and uneventful as we headed to the equator to stop for dinner, eating at Café Equator and strolling through some of the local shops for more souvenirs. We took our time, enjoying the fantastic food, air, environment, and the chance to stretch our legs before we all piled back into the bus and resumed our trip, where many of us let sleep overtake us, giving some of us the bizarre ability to sleep with our face pressed against the window, even while the bus drove over bumps.
We arrived in Mbarara, where we unpacked the necessities from the bus (our personal belongings and clothes), received our roommate assignments, and called it a night, preparing for an early morning at the hospital.