About UNC Project-Uganda

In 2004, a group of UNC physicians established the Amal Murarka International Pediatric Health Foundation in memory of their colleague, Dr. Amal Murarka, who died unexpectedly in 2003. The foundation sent a medical team to Kampala to establish the country's first pediatric intensive care unit at Mulago Hospital, Makerere University, where Dr. Murarka had previously conducted research. Subsequent work in 2007 and 2008 focused on pediatric cardiac surgery. The foundation not only built a cardiac ICU, but also performed a total of 21 life-saving pediatric cardiac surgeries.

In 2008 the foundation partnered with the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases to establish UNC Project-Uganda.


The UNC Project-Uganda was established to support sustainable delivery of compassionate and competent health care to infants, children, and adolescents in Uganda; to improve the medical knowledge of the Ugandan health care workforce through in-country training and a physician exchange program; and to provide advanced medical equipment, medications, and services necessary for the delivery of compassionate and competent pediatric care in Uganda.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Home from Africa

This was my first trip to Mulago Hospital with the heart team. My role, working side by side with the Uganda nurses, receiving and caring for children after their open heart surgeries, proved to be eye opening and sometimes heart wrenching. We taught and mentored, building on their knowledge from previous visits and watched them assume the primary nursing role with increasing confidence. They are so eager to learn.

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.

Sandra Hawkins, RN

No comments: