After countless hours of work this year, I finally finished writing and updating the new medical curriculum that LifeNet’s nurse trainers use to train in our partner health centers! That was a huge milestone, and now the curriculum is being rolled out across Uganda, Burundi and DRC. Super exciting stuff!
Last month was a busy one! We were able to arrange for our nurse trainers to attend a “Helping Babies Breathe” training, focused on neonatal resuscitation and newborn care. After, we were joined in Uganda by LifeNet team members from Burundi and DRC so that I could spend a week with them reviewing the new curriculum and providing some practical training. We had a great week together where we shared a lot of new knowledge and a lot of laughs, especially when taking turns pretending to deliver babies!
A highlight of the week was the practical training on how to fill in and utilize partographs (a type of delivery record) to help make life-saving decisions during labour. They were so excited to spend that time learning and practicing this. Our DRC representative informed me that in all his years of being a nurse, he was never trained on how to use a partograph, despite the fact that it is a requirement by the Ministry of Health. He explained how officials often visit health centers to check that the partographs are being filled out correctly and utilized, but they don’t know themselves what to look for during these assessments.
After all that, LifeNet sent me to Malawi for two weeks to conduct baseline health centre assessments as part of laying the groundwork before LifeNet expands to Malawi next year. Working with a great team there to help with the full assessment, we assessed 20 health centers in 10 days! Phew! It was so busy that we ate peanuts in the car between health centres for lunch! The first week we spent staying upcountry in a place called Dedza. We would drive for hours between each health center, with nothing in between but small villages. Malawi is a beautiful country, so all that driving was actually amazing! We got to see so many newborn babies, and that’s always something that I love.
It’s so easy to visit a new country in the region and at first glance, it looks the same, but when you truly look up and open your eyes, there are so many beautiful things that make it unique. Some of the things I loved about Malawi were the abundance of flame trees, jutting rocky mountains, tiny peaches, oxcarts, neatly kept villages all with grass roofs, people holding out bunches of giant mushrooms to sell on the side of the road, and a lake full of brightly coloured tropical fish. During our time there, I was able to pop into Mozambique too! That was a treat I was not expecting!
During my time conducting assessments, I was also able to step in a few times and help the nurses handle severe cases where they didn’t know quite what to do or how urgent the case really was.
One day, I found a woman laying on a delivery table with her two week old baby. She was still bleeding even weeks after her delivery, and had decided to come back to the health center. She had received some treatment, but had been left to rest alone. When I assessed her, she was still bleeding significantly, had dangerously low blood pressure, and was anemic. She was desperate for a blood transfusion, and I spent time with the staff of the health center to help coach them through the necessary steps and encourage them to transfer her to a facility where she could get the help she needed.
Later on, we were presented with a baby and a young girl in the pediatric ward. The baby, two-weeks old, had a large infection on his chest, and was close to death. Nothing had been done for the baby, even after two days of staying at the health center. The mother believed that the sickness was witchcraft. The young girl was suffering from advanced malaria, and we found her to be in respiratory distress, severely anemic, feverish and drowsy. We took steps to help both patients get arranged for transfers.
It was surreal to be on the ground, dealing with cases like this, cases that I write about sitting behind a desk in Kampala.
We work in low-resource settings. That’s what it’s called. It’s another thing to see the lack of equipment, supplies, knowledge, ambulances, all of it. It can be emotional and overwhelming at times. Every bit of it is a reminder to me of how thankful I am to be Canadian, and how blessed we are to have access to healthcare.
Just a few days ago, we went on LifeNet’s first ever staff retreat! It was a wonderful time to connect as a team outside of the work environment and just have fun together. The first day we stayed in a lovely hotel out in the country side, and held program meetings and brainstorming sessions. Our speaker fell through at the last minute, so Josh ended up giving a sermon to the whole team. I was so glad that fell through, because Josh delivered a beautiful sermon!
On the 2nd day, we went to an extreme adventure park! There was a high-ropes course, paint balling, it was great! The ropes course was a really fun team-building challenge and we all gave it our maximum effort! I made it to the 3rd level of the course before collapsing! Good thing we were wearing harnesses!
Personally, we continue to move through the steps towards our adoption here in Uganda. Things are moving really well! We have worked through loads of paperwork and multiple home assessments. A funny story, I was in a local official’s office waiting for some paperwork, and in his waiting room, there was a TV playing Napoleon Dynamite! It brought me back to one of our first dates, where Josh and I went to watch that movie in the theatre! God has a sense of humour, and I know he cares about the little things. It was such a fun moment, to be there in a tiny office in the middle of Uganda, getting paperwork for our adoption, and remembering one of our first dates, back in 2004! What a thing, to be brought back to where we first started, and think about where we are now.
Josh is working on wrapping things up at the office this week before the Christmas holidays. On Saturday Josh and I head out on vacation for the remainder of December. We are looking forward to the time to rest and adventure together just the two of us before we grow our family…we’re calling this trip our babymoon!
Thank you all for your incredible prayers and encouragement throughout this year. It’s definitely been a roller coaster, and we couldn’t be more grateful for the love. Thank you also for your support and prayers for LifeNet and the incredible work that is being done in the region.
We wish you all a very Merry Christmas! We are definitely looking forward to the New Year and all that it will bring!
Training & Staff Retreat Photos: