Uganda Healthcare Expedition Part III & Other Musings

It feels like the last couple of weeks have been a little ‘strange’ to me, since coming back to Leeds. There have been days where I was so driven to do things, but there have also been days where I haven’t been quite as motivated. For a while, it felt like time was going so slowly and I was feeling rather blah about things…and it’s only been two weeks!

The first weekend I spent since coming back to Leeds may have been a productive one. This is despite having many movies running on at home, probably too many to count. I was able to sit down and literally brain storm ideas on the whiteboard, for the cervical cancer screening programme I am organising in Bwindi-the objectives, statistics, equipment, screening and treatment options, current infrastructure, collaborators, funding organisations, questions to the hospital, the list is endless.

Despite taking a solid weekend, it felt like for the first time, I was able to create a vision in my head of what the programme should encompass. I have already sourced the equipment in Uganda instead of in the UK as I originally planned, and am looking into funding options for these. I have also been in touch with the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Manchester University and important charities who have expertise in this field of medicine. I’ll admit some responses have been slower or less helpful than others, but I do have some direction of focus. If there’s anything that I’ve learnt, it’s that you should keep going until they tell you no.  I’ll give you an example…

In my previous blog post on the expedition, I mentioned that I was in contact with a gynaecology registrar at the hospital. Unfortunately responses from him thinned out, to the point that I directly made contact with the Royal College itself for advice and about a potential staff training course for the healthcare workers. It was useful to know that this is a pilot, in which they require more information from the hospital. At least I knew this now and in my mind, this still wasn’t a no.

The beginning of last week was probably not one of the best ways to start the week off…my uncle passed away.  I received a flood of text messages from my family asking me to ring them back, and this was unusual for them. Though we weren’t very close, I was still upset. He was my uncle, and every time we made trips to Sri Lanka, he was always there.  I took a couple of days off work though weirdly enough, it felt like I wasn’t present most of the week. However we’re managing to carry on. I found it weird how every time my family asked if I was ok, I actually felt worse. I don’t know if that’s normal, maybe I just wanted some space for a bit.

This week almost feels like things are a little bit normal again. I’ve been trying to get on with things-marathon training (which I recommenced today), chasing jobs for the expedition, reading and establishing a routine again. Yes sometimes I like normal. Normal is trying to keep yourself busy and occupied with something, wanting to wake up in the morning to do it. Its important, it helps you get through the not so nice times, and it can help you feel a little less blah about yourself.

I’m so Fancy

Over the past few weeks, I feel like I’ve been making more of an effort to dress up nicer. I thought to myself…why have I become influenced to do so?

I think one reason is that I have a little more time to myself. Somehow I make the time to dress better, though I wouldn’t describe myself as spending hours on it, that ain’t my style. I’ve noticed that on the days I put more effort, they just turn out better. This is because of my thought of that day:

‘Even if I have a bad day today, at least I looked good’

I’ve started to understand a sense of style I’d like to develop. I did some research into outfits, by mainly looking at how other women dress, and seeing if their clothes appeal to me. Then I try to imagine if their style suits me. I admit I don’t buy a lot of clothes often, actually rarely, maybe once in a few months. So when I do go shopping, I try to buy items which could resemble an outfit, and mix and match with some other clothes I have.

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Here’s one example of a style I like. Though I’m 5 ft 2 inches tall, these skinny jeans do make me look taller. I  have also learnt that for shorties like me, boots & a short skirt work well!

So that’s clothes sorted..what’s next?

Let’s go onto make up.

To be honest, I haven’t purchased much make up in the past few weeks, because I’m happy with what I’m using currently. My make up range is rather limited: moisturiser (if you can call that make up), eye liner and lipstick. Eye liner is a must. I rarely leave the house without it on. Because I usually wear glasses, I need something to bring out my eyes more. I’m also lucky to receive nice compliments about my eyes from others (my family always say I get them from my mum), so I do like to flaunt them a little. I went through a ‘lipstick phase’ a few months ago (not weeks), following my love of the American hard rock group Halestorm. I admire the lipstick shades of the lead singer Lzzy Hale, and I think that because she’s so iconic, I was further influenced to purchase some lipsticks of my own. I went for the MAC lipsticks: ‘Russian Rouge’ and ‘Mehr’. 

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It was this music video, ‘Familiar Taste of Poison’ that got to me. It’s rather ironic how I was influenced to buy the lipsticks, considering the storyline!

Shall we move onto hair?

A couple of things spring to mind. I recently invested in a clipless hair curling wand from Aria Beauty. I’ll be honest, this wasn’t planned. We were walking down the mall in the city centre, when a friendly Romanian lady approached us and asked if I wanted ‘something done’. I didn’t even know what it was at the time, she was talking very fast!

‘Come with me, I’ll do something for free! You won’t regret it, it’s free!’

I figured that whatever product she was selling wasn’t obviously free. She was however providing a free service of some sort. I just looked at my boyfriend who was next to me. She was really nice, and I found it hard to say no.  The curling wand was on discount and, well I’ve never had curly hair before. Her sales tactics worked.

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  End result!

Not only was I loving the new curls, but I now knew how to curl my hair, thanks to the saleswoman. Over the past few weeks, I also fantasised about highlights. These ranged in many colours: from blue (yes blue), to purple, to ‘copper red’. Having spent the past few days in London, I decided to make an appointment with the hair dressers in my home town. Whenever I get a hair cut, I like sort it out at home (even if it rains almost every time!).  Having said that though,  I haven’t had a haircut in almost two years, despite coming back to London several times, terrible!

In addition to getting a basic trim (I wasn’t looking into getting layers like I have done before), we discussed highlights. I learned that in order to get blues and purples, you need to bleach your hair. No, I didn’t know this. I don’t think it’s supposed to be that bad (I need to do more research), but that term just horrified me! We then talked about copper red as an alternative and as a first timer, I nervously accepted this treatment. Despite some variation in my hair colour, it unfortunately didn’t fully stick, just because my hair is apparently too dark for it. The only way to get this colour highlight was to still bleach my hair. I’ll be honest I wasn’t that desperate, so we just stuck to the classic wash, cut and blow dry. No matter, lesson learnt.

Interestingly, it was my boyfriend who mentioned about getting hair extensions. I mean, if I was still interested in getting highlights, why don’t I try this? It’s quick and easy, and you can still keep your natural black hair. Yes I’ll be looking into this.

Last thing I promise! Nails.

Having migrated out of hospital posts, the dress code now tends to be less strict in the community. This gives me the perfect opportunity to have pretty nails! I had a select number of colours. This includes your standard classic red nail polish, your black one, and your gold and silver ones. The top coat nail polish is a must for that glossy shine…and if I’m not mistaken I think I can use my one as a base coat. Though I had a few others, I wanted to expand my range. I looked online and literally google searched ‘pretty nails’, to find a variety of colours and designs.

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Some of the more ‘simpler’ designs, yet very pretty. I take no credit for this google search image!

Following my research, I went to Superdrug and purchased some more nail polish of various colours, including some rather bold choices. This came to about £15 for 6 bottles, roughly equating to £2.50 per bottle. Maybe pricey, but considering that they will last me a long time, and I can now create a variety of designs, I think the price is right. (I also got more points to my Superdrug points card, always a bonus). Though I’m aware of the ‘silver accent nail’ , I hadn’t realised the importance of having white nail polish, which you can use to decorate your already painted nails! Yes this may seem incredibly simple, but it wasn’t something I had thought of, so I also bought some nail designers.

Is this another phase I’m going through? Yeah maybe. I don’t expect to spend hours on my nails but I think once in a while, its nice to pay attention to these.

Well I think I’ve finally come to the end! Do I usually blog about beauty products? Well no, never. This may in fact be my first time. I felt like writing about something a little different this time, even though this is also based on personal experiences. Remember, these changes were over a few weeks, and definitely not one after another. My beliefs have probably changed. I now believe that I should be putting more effort into how I dress. It’s how you present yourself to other people. I was narrow-minded and used to think that it was shallow to want to dress up better. I’ve realised now however, that wanting to look nice is normal.

Trivial Pursuit

How do you develop culture? How do you become that all-rounded person that knows the correct facts, just at the right time, and just enough to show off a little bit? (Maybe that’s your intention? Well it’s mine too!)

I suppose the first question is, what’s the point of being cultured? Why bother?

I think that being cultured is important, because not only is it a part of today’s society, but it’s nice to be educated about the world and it’s languages.  Though I’m not a historian nor an artist, it’s worth being well read in some history, and sustaining an appreciation of the arts. I also think that being cultured generally makes you a more interesting person!

I did some research, and there are many ways to become a cultured person!

I find that taking trips is one way of improving my knowledge of culture. You may remember a previous post of my trip to the British Museum, one in which I relished the culture. Recently we took a trip to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, the UK’s leading open-air gallery. It was my first time driving on the motorway (a ’30-minute each-way experience’, one I was both excited and a little nervous about!). The weather was beautiful and there were many sheep in the car park! It was quite possibly the perfect way to spend a spring day out.

Having walked almost 7km across the park and through the forests, I was able to appreciate the sculptures on display and the nature surrounding it. Yes many of the fields were covered by sheep and cows (and their poo!), where we were literally entering some farms to get across places. But that didn’t matter to us, that just made the exploring all the more fun! I think what made it sweeter was that the farm animals were just carrying on with their grazing and snoozing, in the beautiful sunshine.

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I’d like to think that these two are a couple 🙂

This was a day I definitely appreciated the history, art and culture. We could view works from both British and International artists, such as Henry Moore and  Ai WeiWei respectively. There was so much I didn’t know about art, and so much more I can now appreciate. We ended the visit by heading to the gift shop. Standard. My boyfriend bought the book ‘What’s so great about the Eiffel Tower? 70 questions that will change the way you think about architecture’. I’m looking into ordering the somewhat unconventional book ‘Burn after Writing’, a collection of some gentle probing life questions. The bookshelf had a version for teenagers only. I unfortunately am no longer a teen!

Do you recognise any works from Ai Weiwei? Henry Moore?

The trip inspired me to keep on broadening my culture horizons. Since coming back to London for a few days, for example, I’ve been reading through some of my dad’s UK citizenship books. It looks at British history and culture… it even tests us about William Shakespeare and Harry Potter! I decided that I will continue to take a keen interest on culture, to maybe make me, that all rounded person.

Everybody’s on the Run

I can’t believe it’s been almost a month since I last blogged..how terrible!

Having sat the first GP exam, which was the next item on my checklist…I’ll admit, I’ve been feeling both exhausted and lazy over the past few days. Though I really don’t know how I did, I’m trying to keep the faith and focus on the next tasks I want to achieve.  I’ve also added another thing to my list…I want to run a marathon.

I’m always inspired when live marathons are run on TV, for example the London Marathon and the Great North Run. I thought, why don’t I have a go? I wanted to run a 10K marathon last year, to raise money for the city homeless shelter. Unfortunately I couldn’t apply due to the difficult A&E rota I was in. I don’t have any excuses not to have a go this year and decided to run the same marathon this summer. It’s for a good cause and I was inspired to do this following my previous encounter with a homeless gentleman. Wish me luck!

New Year’s Resolutions

I thought it would be useful to document here a list of things I want to achieve this year. I feel that if I could write them down, I can work towards them. Here goes:

  1. Get fit (my boyfriend and I made a deal to lift weights together and stick to a diet of 1200 calories a day, something I have done once before. This is our ‘cutting phase’).
  2. Finally pass my driving test (yes, I failed before)
  3. Attempt the first GP exam
  4. Continue with the expedition
  5. Finish reading

Uganda Healthcare Expedition Part II

Since my last blog post, I have been in touch with various medical store companies who sell colposcopes and cryotherapy units. This was harder than I thought, as the stores I was recommended to try were either only liscenced to sell their products for UK use only, or just didn’t have the equipment. I did get in touch with one company which does look promising. They sell equipment for use abroad and I informed them of my plans. Fingers crossed I expect to hear from them early next week. Hopefully with some quotations in the purse, I will organise charitable fundraising for the equipment through:

-gynaecology clinics at the hospital here

-medical students (while they get to learn about women’s global health issues).

I have also been in regular correspondence with a gynaecology registrar at the hospital, who has put together a staff training course, as a way to improve the care of patients in low resource settings. If this gets the approval from the authorities, I will relay this course to Bwindi for their consideration. If the hospital agree with our proposal, we aim to get our two routes of support as mentioned above on board, in addition to matched funding in running the course.

A few days ago I got in touch with my first ever supervisor, the man who basically gave me my first job as a medic…I call him Dr Z. I have asked him for his help and guidance in organising a prevalence study on type 2 diabetes and hypertension in the Bwindi community. It appears that the disease pattern there is changing in the direction of non communicable diseases, so by identifying associated factors, we can enhance their community health programme.

Until next time folks…

Uganda Healthcare Expedition Part I

Question: Why have I decided to create a healthcare expedition?

Answer: Because I believe I can be of more value, to the people who need it.

According to UpToDate’s article on ‘Screening for cervical cancer in resource-limited settings’, cervical cancer is the most common malignancy among women in the developing world, where more than 85% of worldwide cervical cancer deaths occur.

I have been in regular contact with the community hospital in Bwindi, who have expressed wishes for some equipment…including:

-A colposcope-a special magnifying device used to look at the cervix. If part of the organ is found to be abnormal, a medical professional can take a tissue sample and send it for analysis

-and a cryotherapy machine, used to treat the early stages of cancer.

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It would be fantastic to get this equipment for the hospital. It could really save so many lives, what more value can you provide? But I thought to myself, how on earth can I get it? I’m only a GP trainee and I don’t really have any connections with the gynaecology department, or any medical equipment stores. So I decided to take the first step…I needed to make the connections. I went on our hospital trust’s website, searched for the list of consultants, word searched ‘colposcop'(in the hope of finding either colposcopist/colposcopy/colposcope) and a list of 3 colposcopists appeared. I emailed them all, appealing to them for advice and direction, about how to get this equipment.

I didn’t hear anything for almost two weeks. And at the point of almost giving up on them, I came home from work and checked my emails, only this time to find a reply. And then two. And then a chain. My enquiry was passed onto other gynaecology colleagues and the general manager of the gynaecology department, all absolutely pointing me in the right direction(!)

My next steps are:

  1. To get in touch with the medical equipment stores for quotations.
  2. To organise fund-raising for the equipment

It just goes to show, don’t be afraid to ask for help. If people can, they will most probably go out of their way to help you. And if they can’t, what have you got to lose? You did your bit by asking.