It's been two months since my heart was changed forever. I have a little notebook with a ton of half written thoughts about days and experiences from Uganda that I wanted to remember. This is one that truly opened my eyes and changed my perspective.
Our night started around 10:30pm when Moses came to pick my friend Christy and I up for hospital duty. "R", a boy from one of the remand homes had been in the hospital for a week already and the UG Sixty Feet team had been taking turns staying with him all day and night. We all wanted to bless them and at least take a few nights off there hands, I was nervous but I knew God wanted me to go. We drove through the busy streets of Kampala while Moses shared his heart for SixtyFeet and a little about how God had brought him to where he was now. Listening to his story I was in awe of the perseverance and devotion God had blessed him with. Moses is completely sold out for Christ and the crazy thing it just seems so natural to him to give every ounce of his being to God's work.
We arrived and immediately I knew this facility was vastly different than any we had back home. We walked up towards the pediatric ward at the top of the hill and passed a building that Moses pointed out as the triage area. He told us the first night 5 babies died. 5. We entered a set of metal doors and came inside a dimly lit room . It was much different than I expected and what kept running through my mind was a perfect setting to an old horror film. The room was full of metal cribs covered with mosquito netting. Babies, toddlers, and young children filled these beds while their families attempted to sleep on mats on the concrete floor. Looking up, the ceiling was exposed wooden beams and at close look there were gaps around the edges that opened to the outside.
"R" was in the only private room that I saw. This room was made up of 3 free standing walls and the top was open to the rest of the large shared room. Inside there were two hospital beds and a small sink. "R" slept on one bed and the other was for whomever was staying with him for the night. There was a round bucket that sat under one of the beds that was used for washing the soiled laundry. The recently washed clothes were draped across the bed rails attempting to dry in the damp Ugandan air. Sweet "R" was resting on his bed and aroused when we came in. He had just started eating solid food again a couple days prior and had developed a very big appetite, whenever he was awake he wanted to eat some more. We all helped him up and we changed his diaper, clothes and bedding. We were out of diapers so Moses had to leave to go to the store to buy some more and since all of his clothes were still damp Christy gave her extra shirt for him to have something dry to wear. We sat together and let "R" listen to music on Christy's phone until he seemed to be tired again and then we helped lay him back in his bed. He dosed off for a little while until Moses returned with the diapers. After a brief lesson on what to do if "R" had a one of his seizures he left and we were on our own!
The hospital is so short staffed that at night all the staff leaves except 1 nurse! After getting him settled again I took my trusty flashlight and went on search for a bathroom. After multiple attempts down a very dark hallway I decided to just hold it and wait till morning. Christy and I talked for a while in between helping to settle "R" back to sleep a few times. He was pretty restless and kept trying to get out of bed so we sat and rubbed his back and sang songs to him which helped calm him down. When he was quiet a while we decided to try and rest ourselves. We got cozy in our little twin hospital bed and I laid there praying for "R", hoping he wouldn't have a seizure because quite honestly I don't think we could find that 1 nurse if we even needed to. I looked up at the ceiling and could see a swarm of mosquito's circling around the dim light and I was trying to fight off the thoughts of getting malaria because we didn't have a mosquito net. Then in the corner of the room above the window I saw movement and I freaked out. There was a mouse and now he was climbing down the wall and down the window curtain..... So now both Christy and I were wide awake and trying to keep an eye on this little unwanted guest. We spent the next hour or two intensely watching the window making sure we knew where he was at all times. There were a few close calls that we thought he was literally going to jump right into our bed but then he finally decided to take his leave and we finally felt like we could rest a little.
Laying in the quiet I could hear the sounds coming from the other room. Babies crying and coughing so much they were gasping for air. It was so hard to hear such pain and desperation and I couldn't do a thing about it. The remainder of the night we dozed off and on between jumping out of bed to keep our little guy from trying to climb out. In the morning our ride came bringing the young man who was there to help for the day and we said bye to "R", I thanked God for how much better he was doing since he had first arrived (read about it here and here) and hoped he wouldn't need to stay there much longer.
Leaving in the daylight brought new thoughts and observations. There were lines of people sitting around waiting to be seen, entire families living at the hospital while a sick family member was there. Almost immediately after we pulled away from the hospital and towards the busy down town area the first shop I saw was selling wooden coffins... and lined up along the front were rows of tiny little wood boxes the size for infants and toddlers... thinking back to what Moses had said about the first night it hit my stomach like a brick. Children were dying, mothers were burying their babies everyday and many for easily treatable illnesses.
I remembered the last time I was in the hospital with my daughter Evelyn, she was really sick with Rotavirus. We were in the hospital for 5 days and at times I was really scared but we were blessed that they could just hook her up to an IV to get her what she needed. We had a large room with a TV, comfortable beds, available staff, clean linens and clothes, plenty of diapers and wipes, good food, and plenty of medicine and clean instruments. I remembered the silly things I complained about... being "bothered" too much and the remote not working for the television. I pray that I will never complain again about US healthcare, despite it's own issues nothing compares to that night and the reality of millions across the world with no access to decent healthcare.