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.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A long and winding road

The long and winding road
That leads to your door
Will never disappear
I've seen that road before
It always leads me here
Lead me to your door

And that is how it feels to me. This time we had a winding road that started much earlier and continued even up until we left, but we still made it to the door of Uganda and the Ugandan Heart Institute nonetheless. We saw our supplies being carried on to our flight from Amsterdam to Entebbe which made their final arrival on Monday afternoon for unpacking.

Over the next several days, ten children were able to have their congenital heart defects repaired. They all recuperated beautifully and with their own personalities shining through on the ward. Mary, who was one of the first to undergo surgery, is a stunningly, beautiful teenager who was very quiet. Peter, another teenager, who was very stoic, perked up when he was given a baseball cap to wear! The two of them loved to have competitions, however, when spurred on by our nurse John. And we discovered that Peter had such great artistic abilities ---a fantastic drawer---one to keep our eye out for in the future.

The younger ones, Regan, Joan, Hellen, Babu, Jesse, Joachim, and Grace all had their own way to tell you what they were feeling even if you didn't understand their words. You still knew what they were trying to tell you. And finally Ruth, who was the last one to have surgery on Monday, and the one we didn't get to know as well. She still was apprehensive of the entire goings on, but aware that her heart was fixed and she was on the mend.

On to the nursing staff, who each time have brought us many laughs, challenges, and learning experiences in return. This year was no different. New and old staff were set to go with their schedule just as busy as ever. They have shown great progress each time. This year they had such great organization in their approach from setting up the bedsides, deciding on who would receive the patient, getting report, giving sign out to each other, and keeping up with changes with the children. An added twist to their repertoire from Dr. Dorostkar, was to give report on the children "resident style". They did this beautifully and without hesitation.

It was impressive to see along with the questions that arose from these interactions. It has been like watching flowers blooming from seedlings....slowly but surely and with such grace, beauty, and wonderment. And to the rest of the Ugandan team including the surgeons, OR nurses, anesthesiologists, perfusionists, and physical therapists, your efforts have not gone unnoticed. If there is one thing that we have seen in Uganda, is that there is a group effort in many settings, this one not withstanding.

I can't thank all of the UNC staff enough for all of their hard work over the last two weeks. We couldn't have done it without you. And to Stacey Peterson-Carmichael, Jeannie Koo, Parvin Dorostkar, and Gene Freid who took time away from their different hospitals and lives to work with us. You were wonderful to work with these past two weeks.

And so the long and winding road lead us to this door. This door that we hope will be open for many years to come as this program grows. The door that leads us to help the Ugandan Heart Institute and its team to repair and care for more complex heart defects. A long and winding road, the one that I have been fortunate enough to have been on twice before and continues to lead me right back to a country full of gracious, welcoming people. And if I remember correctly, the lyrics to this song written by McCartney have been described by him as coming from his inspiration of his home in Scotland. It has been an honor to come to Uganda. A home full of inspiration, away from my original home.

Karla Brown, PNP
CT Surgery

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