As you've probably read, the first days were spent unpacking supplies and organizing the CT PICU (Thank you to all the many generous donors!). I met all the Ugandan nurses and physicians, understanding immediately the love our team has for these people. Prior to the first cases, we taught formal classes but most learning occurred informally as we teamed with them in the minute to minute post-op care of the kids. That being said, I learned as much from them as they learned from me. As with all things new, there were a few kinks to work through but each case got smoother until it felt almost like home.
The work was hard and the hospital environment less than ideal but in the end the mission was successfully accomplished. All the children did remarkably well--only two required short term ventilation; the rest were able to be extubated in the operating "theater" (thank you Gene Freid). The gratefulness of the families, staff and Mulago Hospital administrators touched me deeply. They understand the needs of the Ugandan people. What we achieved in this far away country was a mere drop in the proverbial bucket and they realize the need to be able to continue the program after we are gone. It is a big concern.
As I reflect back, I feel a lump rise in my throat. I am so humbled by their generosity and kindness, especially in the face of such deep needs. The bonds formed with the nurses and families will last my lifetime. And it was hard to say good-bye... we pledged to see each other again.
Thank you to Keith, Craig and everyone who made this possible. This is why I went into nursing.