Uganda Healthcare Expedition Part IV

After a fun couple of days of vegetarian home cooking (burgers and lasagne!), I had a few days off work and so set off to London. I was a little lazy at home but at the same time, hung out in the high street and enjoyed the summer sales!

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The view from the top floor of the bus, the best seat in my opinion!

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My sales items, totaling £62.75

It was also a good opportunity to meet up with a family friend, one who I’ve known for almost 25 years.

It was on the day that I met up with her, that I had an appointment with the dental hygienist in the morning. Just a typical appointment which I had booked the day before…or was it?

Everything was going pretty normal. My teeth were being inspected and the dental hygienist was doing a ‘deep clean’ on them, when his phone rang and he answered accordingly.

‘Oh I’m very sorry but I had to take the phone call’

‘That’s ok’ I replied.

‘Yeah it’s from Uganda’

‘Oh really?’

It was at this point that my voice changed to one of excitement. Of course I let him finish off the session, and then we talked about all-things-Uganda. We spoke about my trip there last year, his origins there and what we were both hoping to do. I told him about what I was setting up and interestingly, he told me about his plans to improve the dental hygiene there. We exchanged contact details and I left soon after. The very next day, I received an email from him.

He alerted me of the Uganda-UK Investment Convention which is scheduled for this year. I don’t know if I would have even be aware of it, if it wasn’t for the dental hygienist! Did I sign up for it? Well of course I did. I considered it a sign that he was there! Interestingly, I was contacted by two key organisations soon after-The Ministry of Health in Uganda that day, and the RCOG the next day.

So yes, things are still going. My next steps are:

  • Look into fundraising and obtaining the medical equipment.
  • Once this is done, we can set up the services for the cervical cancer screening programme and look into keeping it sustainable.
  • Make plans to go to Uganda towards the beginning of next year.

I wanted to end this post by sharing a Youtube link, because of the impact it has on me every time I watch it. I find it very inspirational, focusing the importance of creating change and making a difference in people’s lives. This is what I want to do.

Gary Vaynerchuk in Ghana, a country I have been to previously and love dearly. The ending of this vlog almost always gets to me. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did 🙂

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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.

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.