Uganda Healthcare Expedition Part V

I’ve been spending this weekend back home in London. Unfortunately, it didn’t start off quite so smoothly…

I developed a bout of conjunctivitis towards the end of the week, and was slowly recovering from that. It was also on the Friday when I headed to London, that I heard about the terrorist incident at Parsons Green earlier that morning. People were naturally more cautious about their travels and that included me. What made things more difficult, was telling my family that I was going to the Uganda-UK convention in central London the next day. They were NOT happy.

While I was brainstorming on the train, and trying to think of what I would like to achieve from the convention, I received a certain-toned phone call from the family, asking about the sort of convention I was attending.

Then that classic saying came along:

“We’ll talk about this when you get home”.

No, not an unfamiliar saying. But if anything, it probably fired up my drive more so. Listening to some of my favourite movie themes (yes, this includes How To Train Your Dragon), I was even more focused in my planning for the convention!

I tried to think why it is that parents don’t want us to do certain things. Do they think differently from us? Do they feel like they are losing us? Are they worried that we could fail? Maybe all those things. Or maybe, we’re supposed to be “settling”.

I don’t think such a thing as “settling” exists. To settle and accept things as they are, almost means giving up on life. I actually think that’s somewhat disrespectful to life itself. To strive, however and whatever you decide to pursue, means to live life to the fullest. If you choose to be of service to others, why shouldn’t you? Anything which increases your options is a good decision. If you do the same actions, you’ll get that same results. If you do different actions, you’ll have a different life.

So I went.

After an early morning wake up (6.45am on a Saturday morning is early for me!), I got ready and headed out. The convention itself was quite easy to get to, only a few stops on the underground and just a couple on the railway. Once I got there I signed in, was given my pass and waited around…unfortunately for a long time! It turned out that not only I had gotten there ridiculously early (I thought 9am was quite decent!), but they were running very late. The hall where the convention was being held at was divided into two parts. The front consisted of the stage, the tables at the front and the stand alone seats at the back. Behind were all the exhibition stands. The people who attended were spread across the two parts, though the exhibition area was naturally much louder! Before you realise people approach you, and you can’t help but network as well-exchanging contact details and dishing out calling cards (I was probably one of the few who DIDN’T have one, I don’t think your NHS smart card quite qualifies!).

Sneaky photo before the crowds came

Before the rest of the people arrived 

The chairman opened up the convention with a saying I thought was clever, in the context of us being allowed to use our phones to take pictures!

“Life worth living is one worth recording”.

The convention commenced with the singing of the Ugandan National Anthem. This was soon followed by various speeches given by many distinguished invited guests-such as the Ugandan High commissioner to the UK, and the Vice President of Uganda, Edward Ssekandi.

Vice President of Uganda Edward Ssekandi giving his speech 

One of the presentations which interested me more so, was delivered to us by Dr Ian Clarke-a physician, philanthropist, entrepreneur and the chairman of the International Medical Group. I found his work inspiring, particularly how he used agriculture from his roots to keep his medical work sustainable. I adored his motto:

“Sustainable Development with Social Impact”

I was very fortunate to have a face to face meeting with him, which was just as well as I missed a part of his presentation (because it was during his presentation that we had to register to meet with a specific speaker…funny that!).

The meeting itself was a delight! I had my notebook with my questions written and my pen at the ready, to write haste his answers and advice. However I soon as I sat down, I didn’t even look at my notebook properly. It didn’t seem all that appropriate. I asked just one question, and the rest of the time we just chatted away, completely informal and relaxed. He was taken aback that I was a doctor, as I think he thought like many others, I was seeking for an investment! It was almost like we were uni friends, getting to know each other and comparing notes about medicine and life. I felt absolutely honoured that we spent the length of time we had talking. To me he was like a celebrity, and it was probably my highlight of the convention!

After leaving the meeting room, I walked through a very crowded hallway where out of nowhere, a calling card flung across, hit my face by accident and landed on the floor. I picked it up and didn’t think much of it when a gentleman said:

“I’m really sorry, did that hit your eye?!”

“No no it didn’t, not to worry”

“Oh then you can have it!”

Suddenly there was a loud uproar of laughter and I couldn’t help but join in. But it wasn’t until I left the hallway, that I realised who the card belonged to-the Ugandan High Commissioner!

After a cup of tea and a croissant for lunch (the queue for lunch was incredibly long and I didn’t have the stomach to wait), I managed to speak with some other people in the crowds, before taking my seat at the table. The lecture after lunch was provided by a Ugandan Physician, which captivated me yet again. She first talked about the Diaspora in Uganda. Ignorant as I am at things, I had to look this up. She then spoke about how the healthcare system there is “corrupt and broken down”, and that a lot of work still needed doing. This was followed with a story, one which almost brought me to tears…

A senior physician at her hospital became unwell and needed a ventilator. Unfortunately the ventilator broke down and he was deteriorating. “Hospital X” where he was staying would not let him go to “Hospital Y” to receive treatment via their working ventilator, until he and his family paid the fees. This was in the hundred thousand region and despite appealing to the administration, they would not let him go. “The fees were coming in but his health was getting worse”.

Once the payment was made to Hospital X, Hospital Y refused to take him in. This was because he now needed to pay for the ambulance, and this was even more expensive (in the millions region). SOMEHOW they managed to get this payment sorted and thankfully, he was transferred across. Maybe it was the way she told us this story (which is far better than how I am saying it here), but this sorry horrified me and I was heartbroken.

After a couple more speeches I decided to call it a day. I had taken more than enough knowledge and insight than I could have hoped for and decided to head back, to spend the rest of the day with the family.

My trinkets from the day 🙂 You could only speak with the guest speakers if you applied for a VIP pass-so worth it! 

Attending this convention only reinforced what I want to do with my life. There are many messages which I took home with me, but one of my favourites still is this one, which was mentioned by the Ugandan physician. It couldn’t be put more simply:

“It was just something different and that’s what I chose to do”

Advertisements

Keep the Faith

I’d very much like to share my thoughts with you, about a certain book I read over the summer. It’s become one of my favourites, and I personally think it’s up there on those ‘top books to read before you die’ lists. It’s an autobiography called ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’, written by the neurologist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl.

It changed my outlook on everything.

The book is a ‘timeless formula for survival’, accounting his 3 year experience at Aushwitz and various other concentration camps. I don’t think there is any point in me describing these here. How he does it is so accurately chilling and terrifying, I wouldn’t even come close. However, I wanted to touch base on just a handful of his insights. I found his book to be incredibly eye-opening and very heart breaking. I’ve cried watching movies, but never by reading.

Dr Frankl talks about how to suffer (if unavoidable) in life is a way to experience the meaning of life, and therefore the meaning of your life. It’s meaning is unconditional, ‘paralleled by the unconditional value of every person in this world’, and their responsibility to humanity. Dr Frankl states that it was the simplest things which helped him persevere. Things such as images of loved ones, humour (what he calls the ‘soul’s weapon in the fight for self preservation’) and glimpses of nature such as a sunset, despite knowing that he may not survive.

One of the reasons why Dr Frankl wrote this book was to demonstrate to us that life can hold potential meaning, under any circumstances, even in a concentration camp. You can’t choose the suffering or change your fate. But you can choose your attitude, your personal values, your inner freedom-things nobody can take away from you.

If there is a meaning to life, then there is a meaning to suffering. The suffering should be undertaken as a task. So if you’re going to suffer, do so with courage and dignity.

‘Tears bore witness that a man had the greatest courage. The courage to suffer’.

Other things Dr Frankl talks about include the importance of documenting events, particularly those you’re happy to reflect on with pride and joy. Everybody has the potential to ‘actualise opportunities’ and therefore realise the value of creative work, fulfilling their meaning of life. These actions are never lost, but are stored and treasured. Again, they can never be taken away from you.

The last thing I wanted to quote here is directly taken from the book. One of the many things which altered my outlook on life…

‘Don’t aim at success-the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensure, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one’s dedication, to a cause greater than oneself’.

Life is a Movie

This weekend was a good weekend. I think everyone needs one of those weekends… you know the sort where you don’t set an alarm, then get up late and are happy that you did.

When I did wake up, eventually, I decided to drive to the city centre. There were some errands that we needed to do and we still hadn’t seen Wonder Woman! Despite having left the house at almost 2pm, the city was still buzzing and it was a very sunny day!

On the Friday, I watched the British movie ‘A Street Cat Named Bob’…the true story of a homeless man, who was literally saved by a stray cat.

a_street_cat_named_bob_still

Isn’t Bob the cutest?!

Having previously done a 10k marathon to raise money for the homeless shelter, there is now a part of me who will try and give more money than I previously did, to a homeless person I see. Whilst we were in the city, I saw a homeless man on the floor with an empty paper cup in his hand. The movie I had seen the day before came straight to my mind, his story and his troubles. He even looked like the man in the movie. He was miserable and had a sweaty forehead (it was a hot day). I fished out a £5 note and gave it to him.

‘Are you sure?’ His face completely changed.

‘Yeah, get some food it’s past lunch time’. I said.

He thanked me and we carried on. I turned around and I saw him run into Subway.

Having completed our errands, we stopped for a coffee and later headed off to see Wonder Woman.

IMG_5177

I thought my ‘flat white’ coffee looked pretty, so I took a picture

This movie was better than I thought and by far my favourite DC movie to date. The characters, the scenery, the story line, even the music which is definitive of Wonder Woman, all absolutely amazing. It encompasses a central theme which I adore-the importance of leadership. 

wonderwoman-1280-9amembargo-1488818748850_1280w

From one of my many favourite scenes. It’s not about what you deserve.  It’s what you believe.’

Even after I returned home, I was still in that movie mood. I ended the day by going on Youtube (as you do) and watching clip after clip, of classic movies and new favourites. I wanted to end this post by sharing with you two of my favourite Disney movie openings, in the order I first watched them as a child. I hadn’t seen them in a VERY long time and yet I still get the chills. I think they are both so grand, magnificent and unforgettable. I still wish they did movies like these. Moana has now become my new favourite movie of the 21st century and one I am super excited about. I loved it that much that I went to the cinema twice just to watch it, but that’s for another post, another time!

The Hunchback of Notre Dame

The Prince of Egypt

A Sprinkle of Marigolds

A small, simple post! I recently watched ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’, and I wanted to share some of my favourite quotes from it 🙂

Evelyn: Nothing here has worked out quite as I expected.  Muriel: Most things don’t. But sometimes what happens instead is the good stuff.

Evelyn: The only real failure is the failure to try, and the measure of success is how we cope with disappointment.

Sonny: Everything will be alright in the end. If it’s not alright, it is not the end.

____536d6929560ba-medium