Karen's Inspirational Ugandan Visit

To have spent ten days in Uganda seeing the work of Wellspring and Medcare in action can only be described as a privilege. As a Nurse experienced in humanitarian development and disaster response, I have been truly moved by this experience. It is no understatement or cliché to say that Medcare really has transformed and saved the lives of many children in a rural area of South West Uganda.

Previously I worked in a hospital in the north of the country and it was during this period back in 2010 that I first visited the Wellspring Children’s Medical Centre. Since then, the size of this healthcare facility has grown significantly to accommodate the needs of the local population and the increasing number of patient referrals. Many of us take access to healthcare for granted and consider it to be a basic human right. This is something that Medcare is making a reality for the children of Kamatuuza and the surrounding districts.

I lost count of the number of children who presented with Malaria and this at a time considered to be ‘low season’ for this disease before the onset of the seasonal rains. The consequences of Falciparum Malaria can be severe and is evident in the number of children brain damaged by previous exposure to the disease. With the only paediatric physiotherapy unit in the region, the demand for the service is great particularly for children with resultant disabilities from cerebral Malaria. The physiotherapist, Ibrahim, like all the Wellspring staff, works so hard to deliver a good level of care. To see the admiration and gratitude that the children, their guardians and families hold for the healthcare staff and for Dr Pauline Hutchinson is moving.

Whilst there are many moments of this trip that will stay firmly in my mind forevermore, there is something in particular that truly inspired me and will eternally make me smile. On our final day, a group of children who receive regular care and support at the Medical Centre performed a traditional dance. Having met all the children during the course of our visit, I was aware that each child suffered with a significant chronic illness or disability with many requiring ongoing treatment. One child was a bilateral below knee amputee yet she was undeterred and had outstanding dancing skills. The performance blew me away - the boundless energy, the smiles, the fun, the professionalism - these kids were tremendous and could be on stage! This was truly magnificent and utter testament to the hard work and devotion of Wellspring and Medcare. Had it not been for the access to health care and the welfare support that each of these children has received, many of their stories would certainly have been different and they would not have been dancing before our very eyes. This is not a story told to be emotive, this is reality in this area of Uganda, and I am proud to have been a part of such a great organisation that helps to try and improve the health of the regions children.

Karen O’Neil (nee Livingston)

 

15th September 2016

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