I try not to post photos that may be too descriptive of life here. This photo of a child with measles, however, captures the current feeling of our medical ministry. This blogpost is mainly to ask for prayer.
Over the past two months, we have averaged over 35 patients (and often over 40) in our pediatric ward that has beds for 28. This means that we are stepping over patients and their families as we move from bed to bed to treat sick children. Currently, there are 2 nursing staff scheduled to work on the ward in the mornings for rounding and at least one overnight and on the weekends. That means there is usually just one nurse per 35 sick children. As a result, the staff are exhausted and it has become hard to fill shifts. We often have only one in the morning for rounds and none over the weekends. The leadership at the health center is trying to figure out solutions. The bottom line is that it is hard to work in such conditions and those willing to make the sacrifice are taken advantage of and burn out. We need prayer for grace, courage and patience to be given to our Ugandan partners working so hard to bring healthcare to this remote but over-populated area.
The increased patient load is due to a number of factors. First, we are at a season where there is low food production. This leaves many people hungry and those bordering on starvation are tipped to the brink of death by normal illnesses such as colds, diarrhea and malaria. Their starving bodies cannot fight of the illnesses and they come to our health center with pneumonia, severe edema, skin peeling and glazed looks. These children are admitted to our malnutrition ward where they get life-saving formula given by UNICEF.
We also find that there is an increase in premature births. Our premie room becomes filled with nursing mothers kangarooing their tiny infants. We supplement the feeding with droppers of formula and add presumptive antibiotic treatment.
It is rainy season and malaria count is high. Children with chronic illnesses such as malnutrition or sickle cell disease present weak or obtunded with hemoglobin counts (blood level) of 2-4 (normal is 15). Because government money has not reached the health center for 3 months, we often find that we have no blood to transfuse. We then scramble to find transport money and send someone to the regional blood center (3hours away) to collect blood and return. Unfortunately, they have returned too late a few times lately.
As noted previously, we continue to be in a nationwide measles outbreak. The government has organized a national measles vaccine campaign. Our tireless friends at the health center have gone into the villages to find those who have not been vaccinated. The stream of measles has slowed to a trickle, but we maintain some very ill children in our hospital.
Lastly, we have been struck with a dysentery illness that is likely cholera. There have been a couple of adult deaths. The children on our ward have thus far survived. Most have recovered after receiving the necessary IV resuscitation fluids and antibiotics. Currently, we are determining what level of partnership we should take as a mission. The local area has a rapidly increasing population that has outgrown its safe water supply. They also have tightly packed in housing that leads to difficulty maintaining good sanitation. The new road is coming- something we are thankful for. However, we are bracing ourselves for a possible six-month time period where the current water-line will be completely disrupted. The District Government has been very helpful in discussing solutions. We are still trying to reach some level of cooperation with the local council. I fear what we are receiving now at the health center may only be the beginning.
So, please pray for wisdom, funding for the government, endurance for our Ugandan partners and relief from the illnesses. Pray for Oliver, Jessica and Chrissy as they kick off the Outpatient Malnutrition Clinic and Education program in two weeks. We hope this will catch children before they are sick enough to enter our ward. Pray for Josh as he works with the government regarding safe water. Pray for wisdom for the CSB leadership on how to house 350 students with a minimal safe water supply.
We are urgently needing a PA or physician to work 6-9months with us (most urgently from January to May 2013) and an engineer apprentice to work 6-9months with Josh on the road projects. Interested?