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.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Our dear friends

It seems incredible to me that we have just completed our third mission to Mulago Hospital. I would never have imagined when we first headed off in 2005 with all our equipment for the trip in our luggage, that in such a short time we could have completed 21 pediatric cardiac surgeries and set up a PICU and cardiac ICU. There are so many people to thank for helping with this great accomplishment, but I would like very much to mention the staff that received the equipment and showed such enthusiasm to learn how to use it and become educated on how to better take care of the children.

From our time in the PICU acute care Sister Jolly has always been such a formidable and generous Nurse leader. Her hope for the PICU was as she said an answer to her prayers, and even with the chronic staff shortages and constantly high acuity of the children that fill the unit every day, which by western standards would constitute a disaster code, she takes it in her stride with a realistic compassion that is an inspiration to observe. My dear Friend (and I hope she will forgive me for mentioning) has recently suffered some setbacks, which upset me greatly to see. While she was in Bangladesh recently, studying malnutrition in children and how to use resources to overcome it, she fell and broke her hip. Although it has healed somewhat, she is in need of a hip replacement and is currently walking with the use of crutches. Her indomitable spirit is still present, but her own pain seems to be making her understandably tired. Not only are there so few resources for the sick children, there are few for the caregivers, as Jolly is trying to save for her hip replacement surgery, while still working.

Sister Grace is the Senior Nursing Officer of the Heart Institute, she has one of the kindest and most gracious people I have ever met. She has a very infectious laugh and cares deeply not only for the children, but also for her Staff. While she really wanted to be at the bedside learning how to care for the post op. cardiac patients, she realized that her role was to oversee and manage the smooth running of the Unit, and when there were any problems she was always at great pains to ensure they were rectified quickly. She is obviously much loved by her staff, and when only nine Nurses could be chosen for the "Camp" as they referred to our visit, she was very concerned and saddened that she could not have had more involved. Something I had a real sympathy for as we have a limit on staff that we take to Uganda and I increasingly have a hard time to help choose from our own wonderful PICU nurses.

Anna is a excellent nurse and very dear friend. She is very quick to grasp new ideas and will be found teaching the other nurses as well as using the new methods very quickly. I firmly believe that Anna without much more education could function very effectively in the US. She is a future leader at Mulago. After our last visit, Karla and I received an email from her. Her Nephew had been born with a cardiac defect and he died in India from post-op complications after a Truncus repair. I have been inspired since then to see Anna's diligence and calm demeanor, knowing her own family's loss.

Modena was pregnant on our last visit to Mulago and her due date was the week after we left. We heard that she gave birth to a healthy boy, that she named Keith. (Much to our pride and amusement, she told us she was to call the baby Lupe if a girl) She brought in photos of the baby with her other four children. We were all surprised to see a very handsome and healthy picture of a smiling baby with Downs. She didn't mention it, and only told us what a wonderful and good baby he was. She beamed as she spoke of him and proudly showed his pictures. My admiration for her was great last year when she was so heavily pregnant and worked so hard, but to see her photos and love for her children increased it greatly.

It is only a couple of days since our return, and I have yet to go back to the PICUand see all my dear nurse friends, that I have greatly missed. But I know that the courageous and kind nurses at Mulago who worked so hard during the "camp" will be very close to my heart and frequently in my thoughts. I am already thinking of ways I can help them, and planning our next trip. There are so many stories to tell about our camp this year, and other blogs have mentioned how wonderful the children have been and how good it was to see the healthy children visit, that had surgery with us last year. But the inspiration from my very dear friends is the one I feel most compelled to tell. I hope they will forgive me for mentioning such personal details of their lives, but their love and courage is an inspiration I really wanted to share.

Katherine Desrochers, RN, PICU

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