Hello friends! It has been a while since my last update. I apologize; spotty internet and electricity losses don’t help my cause. I HAVE to tell you all about probably the best day I had in Uganda. Our trip happened to be in the perfect timeframe. We were able to participate in one of AOET’s monthly village outreach days. On the 20th we were off to Buwenge which was about an hour drive from Bugembe/Jinja. AOET participates in outreach programs where they provide HIV testing for the entire village. Additionally they set up multiple stations which include counseling, seeing a PA, and lastly going to the last station which is a makeshift pharmacy which I was able to be a part of. Mainly we pasted out some ARV’s, vitamin supplements, and anti-malarial and anti-parasitic drugs.
This was the best day for various reasons. At the beginning of the day the village all sat under a tree and we introduced ourselves. The ‘Jaja’ or respected elderly woman of the village, welcomed us and expressed her great thanks that we were there. I was touched because we hadn’t done anything yet, and still they were so welcoming and appreciative.
I had the opportunity to be a part of the mobile pharmacy. We were able to see the patients after they had seen the doctor and received counseling. This was my first experience dealing with many people with HIV. At the start of the day because people were still being tested we began to slowly prepare a system to distribute drugs and began to fill prescriptions which involved counting the appropriate number of pills and putting them in little distribution envelopes. There are not bottles here in Uganda! So we filled the envelopes and as the day progressed the villagers began to come and to the final station so that we could give them what they needed.
Do not be deceived there was no great excitement filling these envelopes. But still this was the best day! Let me tell you why. We began distributing the drugs as best we could. The sad fact was that some simple items like multivitamin and vitamin C were out of stock. So we were sad when we could only provide as best we could. We were working with and only planned on working until 3 or 4 but midday it began to rain like crazy. This was an intense period because we had to abruptly clean up the drug table and move it into a hut. The people were all anxious for their medications and supplements. We moved into the house and as best we could set up our makeshift pharmacy in the hut. We filled a couple prescriptions and it was pretty unorganized. Some of us were frazzled and unsure how to continue. Luckily we decided to focus and the weather agreed to work with us again. The sun came out again and we moved our pharmacy back under the tree outside.
We set up our pharmacy which had two lines. A patient would bring their records and prescriptions which were recorded in a small blue book similar to the books used for testing. The first person in the “pharmacy” would sign the patient in and then call out the needed medication. We had a system down and vigorously worked hard to fill out every prescription. For example Kevin would say I need Cotrim, 2 by 1 for 30 and we would fill up an envelope with 60 pills. But a little bit after we had reestablished the pharmacy under the tree we ran out of envelopes.. WE RAN OUT OF ENVELOPES! So we asked the nurse what we should do and she sadly stated that maybe we would just have to do as much as we could. I was sad too. But what happened next was the best part. We all decided together that if we still had drugs, and people still needed drugs, then we would find some way to get them their drugs. Somehow we decided to rip pages out of the blue books that served as medical records and made cone envelopes. We used make shift envelopes and filled out the prescriptions as needed! It was amazing the villagers helped us make the envelopes too it really was a community event and everyone helped out and in the end we were able to provide as much as we had. After working for almost 5 hrs with a nonstop line I was so happy that we were able to give the medications out. This was the best day because I saw what a positive impact we could make and I also was able to learn a spirit of not resting until everyone was served. It was also a good day because I learned something that I want to be committed too. While filling prescriptions we often noticed that we had to write ‘o/s’ or out of stock for something like Vitamin C or multivitamins that the villagers needed. When I thought about this it frustrated me. So I decided that when I return to the US I will try to acquire donations from pharmacies, NGOs or whoever will listen. We were able to bring in prenatal vitamins for the clinic (which is a looooonnnnngggg story which I will tell in the subsequent entry) but these people needed more. So I hope that in the future we can provide more to the people that need them.
We drove back to Bugembe/Jinja exhausted but satisfied. We were excited at the day we had been a part of but so tired from the ceaseless work we were a part of. I am grateful to be a part of that day. I slept in the car, the kind of sleep I must imagine a marathon runner has after the day of his race, the satisfied feeling of accomplishing something. But unlike the marathon runner I feel as if there is so much of the race to be run and I hope that I can finish it in my lifetime by continuing to provide services to those in need.