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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The end of the week in Kampala

So I apologize for not updating this at the end of our last week, but we had not had a great internet connection since wed morning there.  I will just summarize our last few days there.  Wednesday was our last full day of clinic and it was a busy one.  We saw 74 patients and also had a visit from the US Deputy Ambassador to Uganda.  Since days have now passed I cannot pick out a single child from the day that really touched my heart, because they all do.  We finished clinic around 5 that evening and some of our group headed to a Scottish Dinner.  The rest of us who stayed back decided to take the adventure of playing frogger with our own lives and cross the street to check out Bubbles (the carwash/restraunt bar across the street from "that would play music all hours of the night).  I say "frogger" as I heard one person reference and totally agree.  The streets there are crazy, and if you want to try and cross it really is like playing frogger; doding cars, motorbikes, and bicycles.  Pedestrians definately do not have the right away there.  We actually had one of the volunteers help us to cross the street, we had no idea how we were going to get back but that was just a minor detail.  It was a cozy little bar.  We all had a drink, relaxed and visited before heading back across the street for dinner.  We had been waiting for probablly at least 10 min for a good time to cross the street, when a giant fuel truck put on his flashers, stopped traffic and waved us across the street.  We had never seen or heard of any vehichle stopping for people to cross the street.  It was a miracle, we were very thankful. 
After dinner I headed back to our room to get a jump start on packing to come home.  I needed to try and fit all the gifts I bought, my clothes, 12 beers, and 3 bottles of wine back into my suitcases.  I got all the fragiles wrapped in bubble wrap and ready to go.

Thursday was a National holiday in Uganda, so we did not have clinic.  Alot of us headed into town to the market for some last minute gift shopping and then spent the afternoon at Speke.  Speke is a very nice hotel with a very big pool near lake Victoria.  I spent the afternoon relaxing at the pool and took a short walk down to see Lake Victoria.  It was a great day off.  3 people from our group decided to meet up with a group they had met the night before for some mountain biking.  I would have liked to done it if my back and neck weren't already sore.  There is always next year when I am even more recovered from my accident.  :)

Friday was our last day of clinic. We started the morning with a childrens choir group from Mildmay who came and performed 3 songs for us, plus a performance from a little Michael Jackson.  The group was quite amazing and definately brought tears to my eyes and a smile to my face.  Videos of the performance will be posted later.  We saw right around 30 patients that morning and ended around 12:30 or so.  That brought our patient total to 526.  After patients we had a quick lunch and headed back to clinic to pack everything up for next year.  At this point I was not ready to go, I could have stayed longer and wanted to spend more time with the children.  We got everything packed up in time for us to finish packing our own belongings and relax before dinner.  Mildmay served us a big Thank you appreciation dinner.  We also thank them, because if it weren't for Mildmay taking such great care of us while we were there, the team would not be able to return back every year.

We headed to the airport around 7 to wait for our 11pm flight to Amsterdam.  We all arrived home safely saturday afternoon around 1.  As we landed in Mpls I started to feel nauseated.  I made it home to take a nap, but became very ill in the late afternoon.  I was very healthy the whole trip, so it was bummer to get home and be so ill all afternoon and into the night.  However I was thankful that it happened when i was at home, in my own bed, and not while i was on a 17 hour flight.  I slept all day saturday and sunday and was thankfully able to return to work on monday.

A big thank you to all my friends and family who supported me on this trip and made it possible.  Thank you to everyone who continued to pray for myself and my team.  Thank you to the 2012 team who made me feel very welcomed on my first trip there, who was very supportive, and made this trip very enjoyable.  God willing, I definately hope to be able to return next year!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Safari and tues in clinic

Saturday morning 14 of us headed out at 7:00 am for about a 12 hour drive to Paraa Safari lodge.  We drove through many small towns and villages along the way which was interesting to see.  I would love to stay in a small village in a hut just for a few days to experience thier life and see what it is all about.  Nobody hear really seems to have a sense of time and it feels like no one ever sleeps here.  It doesn't matter what time you are out driving on the road, it is always filled with people.  Sometimes i just see people standing around by themself and wonder what they are doing.  I wonder if they are standing around because they have no where to go, or if they are waiting for something?  I would just love to learn the lifes of people here.

On our way to safari we stopped in the nice town of mindcity for a wonderful lunch and then headed to a rhino sanctuary.  We got to see 3 young rhino's but they were sleeping the whole time.  The rhino's are watched 24 hours a day in the sanctuary because of the previous poaching of rhino's.  Can you imagine that being your job.  Everytime a rhino gets up and moves you have to follow it?  Or the day we were there we saw the 3 young ones that just slept the whole time, and there were 2 people there watching over them. 

After the rhino sanctuary we headed to the top of Murchison Falls, a beautiful waterfall going down into the nile.  If you climed up to the very top of the falls, there was a beautiful rainbow passing over.  It was such an incredible site, no pictures or words could explain what I seen and felt.  It was muddy walking to the top, so we headed back down, climbed some rocks and washed our feet  in the Nile, it was awesome.  After spending about an hour watching the falls and taking it all in, we got back on the road to Paraa.  To get to our lodge we had to hop on a ferry with our vans to go across the Nile.  As we arrived on shore, we were greated by a few warthogs, baboons, and in the back we saw a baby elephant and 2 bigger elephants.  It was awesome.  When we got up to our lodge, they were waiting there with a glass of passion fruit juice, and a cool rag to wash our face from the dusty road.  We checked into our rooms and headed straight to the pool to cool off and for a drink.   The food we had there was buffet style for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  It was a lot different from what we had been eating at mild may.  My favorite was the omelette station in the morning.

Sunday morning we headed out on our first game drive.  If you know me, you know i get excited just seeing deer.  If I were in charge of the drive we would have been out there all day taking in every animal and all the fresh air I could.  We seen some water buffalo, then lots of antelope (orbi, jackson hartebeast, and kob).  After what seemed forever, we finally seen some giraffe's and that was great.  The group we had seen was a little further away but we could see a baby with them that the ranger said was probablly only a few hours old!  Most of the morning the ranger kept taking us around to try and find the lions.  We finally got word of where they might be and spent a couple hours trying to get sight of them.  Finally we spotted them standing behind a few buffalo.  The ranger says "hurry and take as many pictures as you can because we are not allowed to do this," and she directs our driver to go off road closer to the lions.  We got about 30 yards or so away from 2 male teenage lions.  Awesome!  On our way back to lodge we finally got to see some elephants which was exciting.
We got back to lodge and headed straight to the pool again.  Spent an hour or so out by the pool had some lunch and then headed out on a boat ride down the nile.  The boat ride was incredible.  We saw a lot of rhino's.  We also saw quite a few elephants that had come down to the river to drink and got so close to a few of them that they got protective and angry at us and started trumpting if thats what you call it lol.  It was so cool to hear them, and watch them drink the water out of the nile.  We headed farther down the Nile to the bottom of Murchison falls.  It was very pretty, however I liked seeing it from the top better i think.  Maybe because i caught a rainbow in my photos from the top.  Our driver told us, Murchison Falls is the best place in Uganda, if you don't go visit it while you are here you miss out.  I totally agree with that statement.  Along with the rhinos and elephants we saw some crocidiles and lots of differnt birds.  After the boat ride, we headed back to the pool to cool off, had a drink then went to dinner.  It was an early night for me, i was tired and a little sore from riding around in the safari van all morning. 
Monday morning we were up and in the van at 7am for another short game drive out of the park and to head back to Mildmay.  We saw a lot of antelope, a few elephants, and some giraffes in the distant which were running at full speed.  I took a video of the giraffes running, they are so fun to watch while running.

Tuesday was a good day in clinic; we were expecting around 80 patients however only 53 showed up.  It was somewhat of a blessing because all 53 children needed a lot of work to be done.  We saw a lot of unusual things that day.  The heartbreaker for me that day was a patient that Dr. Justin and Shelly worked on.  It was an 18 year patient with a mouth full of abcess's, she need all 32 adult teeth removed.  We had Dr. Paul talk to her, and she said she did want them all out.  I can't imagine the pain that she was in, that at 18 years old you would want all your teeth out.  It took a few hours for them to work on her, and he put sutures in on top and bottom.  We saw her getting on the bus at the end of the day and she was waving and smiling, it brought a tear to my eye.  It made it easier to handle knowing that she would be out of pain and that she was smiling and happy.  She even had eaten a little lunch that day.  There is talk that we may try to get her set up with a dentist her and get some money together for dentures for her.  We just want to make sure that she would be responsible enough and willing to make it to all the appointments.

Sorry if this blog is out of sorts, i started writing it wednesday morning and we lost internet and only part of it had saved so i tried to remember everything i wanted to say about safari and tues clinic.

Friday, January 20, 2012

just a quick note before safari

So today was a great day.  We saw 89 patients, was supposed to be 90, but one escaped and got on the wrong bus home before recieving any treatment.  He did not want to be there, obviously he was smarter then everyone else and got his way.  However the bus he got on was hours away from where he lived, so they had to figure out how to get him back to his town.
Unlike the other days, I didn't have any patients that really broke my heart today.  I mean they all effect me one way or another, but in my chair I had no patients that brought tears to my eyes which was a first this week.  Dr. Richmond and I actually saw a lot of patients who had no cavaties, and many that just needed 1 or 2 extractions.  The other days this week we seen a lot of patients with mouths full of decay.  Today was a nice break from that mental/emotional feeling you deal with.

Yesterday we saw around 44 patients.  It was a short day, but nice.  We worked through lunch and got done around 2 or 2:30.  We saw a few heart breaking patients in my chair yesterday.  However the one patient that i remember from yesterday was in Dr. Sally's chair.  She was between 10-12 years old and was abanded when she was 3 years old.  The patient could barely open her mouth, and when Dr. Sally looked in there, she had no teeth on the upper left and a giant whole in the roof of her mouth, that you could stick your finger in and reach all the way up to her sinus cavity.  I can't imagine how she eats with that giant whole in there, and how food doesn't get stuck in it.  It is just heartbreaking, and then not to know the whole story behind it.  At first we thought maybe it was a cleft palate, but then had learned that she was put under general anesthesia when she was younger and had surgery done.  We don't know what for but can only assume she had some sort of complication in there.

Working on patients here has been a great experience.  Some days are harder then others, and I am thankful for the wonderful day we had today.  Other days when we see a lot of patients with multiple areas of decay it really takes a toll on you.  Sometimes we only have time to fix the things that are bothering them, knowing that other cavaties will soon get bigger and start to bother them later on down the road.  At the same time if we do have time to fix every area of the mouth, it is hard to believe that we are doing so much and numbing thier whole mouth, wondering how they are going to deal with the numbness when they leave, and how they are going to eat when we have extracted half of thier teeth or more.  I have to remind myself that I am doing what is best and i'm sure they will feel relieved when they are out of pain.  Most of the food they eat here is very soft so it should not effect them too much.

Words can not even express the feeling/emotions I have felt throughout this journey.  It is something you have to experience for yourself. 

I am enjoying my time here, and the team members I have been working with our great.  Everyone really gets along with each other and we are all having a great time doing something we love to do.

We have seen a total of 347 patients this first week, more then in previous years which is great.  I can't see what next week has in store for us.

Tomorrow morning I will be headed to safari.  I can not wait.  People dream of going on safari's in Africa, and I am really doing it!  I am so very excited for this opportunity that has been given to me.  It is about a 6 hour drive, but will totally be worth it.

Thank you everyone who has been supporting me throughout my whole trip. 

I won't be back on until after the safari on monday.....so until then!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

wednesday in clinic

So today was a shorter day then what I expected but was still long.  In the past when kids get bused in they generally don't get here until around 11.  Today they got here earlier which was great for us.  We saw a few mildmay patients while waiting for the other children to get here.  Clinic was great today, we saw 71 children. 
Dr. Richmond and I saw some older patients this morning that were seen here in the past who showed up today with no cavaties.  That makes me feel good, knowing that maybe they learn something from us when they come to see us and return each year with no cavaties.

It is amazing that we all come from different offices in the states and can all come together and have such great team work and everyone works so efficiently.  We had a sterilizer that went down, however we got one from Dr. Rose who is a dentist here.  The guys are so good at fixing everything.  A few of them fixed some tricycles by welding them back together.  A few seats were broken on the tricycles and they were able to find some wood and saw some new seats for them.  It is incredible what they all do. 

There were a lot of heartbreaking patients today.  The one that sticks with me today was a 4 year patient who was very sick and had a whole mouth full of decay which most of the teeth were abcessed.  We had to do 15 extractions on her, leaving just 5 teeth left her mouth; 1 on top and 4 on the bottom.  She was in so much pain and her face was so swollen.  It was very sad.  It was like she was actually relieved to have her whole mouth numb because it took the pain away.  She was the sweetest little girl, and you could just see how happy and out of pain she was when we were done.

So on a brighter note, the fresh fruit here is amazing.  My favorite is the passion fruit!  Tonight we had fresh avacado for dinner which was delicious as well.

God is helping us do amazing things here.  Please keep praying for our safety and our health.  Also please pray that the children we are helping can find some peace and comfort in what we are doing for them.

Until next time! 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

what i am eating and where i am staying

So for those of you wondering, we are staying at Mild May in hostels.  There are 2 of us to a room.  Each room has two double beds and a bathroom with a shower.  We are fortunate enough to have running water.  I am in the unlucky room which seems to never have warm water for a shower, but i will take a cold shower over no shower at all.
I am handling the food here well.  I have been eating a lot of pineapple.  Yesterday we had some passion fruit for snack which was very delicious.  Most of our meals are beans, rice, some sort of meat and some vegetable.  The beef is good sometimes.  Last night we had pork which was really good.  My favorite has been the tilipia.  Breakfast usually consists of eggs, peanut butter toast, and sometimes bananas.

arrival in kampala up through 2nd day of clinc

We safely arrived in Kampala late friday night.  Saturday we had a successful day setting up our clinic and working out anything that needed to be done.  Sleeping here for me is tough.  There is a carwash/bar restraunt across the street that plays music very loud til all hours of the morning.  Sunday we slept in a little and I headed into town and attended church at watoto with some of the group.  Some people headed to Speak, which is a hotel with a nice pool to relax for the day.  After church we decided to go to the market and do some shopping, had lunch and headed to the mall for a little more shopping.  We took a taxi back to mild may after shopping, which was an interesting ride.  8 of us plus the driver had piled into a small SUV.  I strattled between the back seat and the 2 front seats which was quite entertaining.  Sunday when I got back to mild may my cousin Becky from Ohio met me here and stayed 2 nights with me.  It was awesome to get to see my cousin here in Uganda.  She has been here doing missionary work since august.  We are closer here in uganda then in the U.S.  Monday was our first day of clinic.  We saw 86 patients and worked from about 9:00 am until after 7 pm.  It was a very incredible experience.  We did a lot of cleaning, extractions, and a few silver and white fillings.  Some of this is very heart breaking for me, but at the same time I know I am doing a great thing.  Yesterday we saw a 4 year old and we had to extract all of his baby teeth on the bottom and 2 on top because of severe decay.  This was very heart breaking for me.  In our clinic at home we would try to save some of these teeth with baby root canals and crowns, but here we are unable to do that kind of treatment.  If it goes into the nerve of the tooth we have to extract it.
Today is tuesday and was our 2nd day of clinic.  My cousin had breakfast and left after that.  It was great just to spend a little time with her.   Today we saw 65 patients.  The major heart breaker for me today was my 1o year old patient fred.  He was living in town with just his mom, who passed away last week.  A nurse went to check on him today and found him in bed sleeping with a burning fever.  We did a few extractions and fillings for him today.  We gave him a few doses of medicine, provided him with a few changes of clothes, and a few extra toys.  He was the sweetest boy.  Can you imagine being 10 years old and fending for yourself because I surely can't!  I saw him after lunch and he looked like he was feeling better which made me feel good. 
It is hard when we can not treat every tooth that has a problem, but knowing that we were able to do something for the patient makes me feel better.  It is heartbreaking numbing up the whole mouth and extracting 5-10 teeth on patients.  At home we would numb 1 or 2 areas of the mouth, never the whole thing. 

Tomorrow will be a long day.  We are expecting about 80 patients that will be bused in from up country.  It sometimes takes them a few hours to get here and we won't know exactly when they will arrive.  So I am sure we will be working past 7 again.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

This will be my last post from the states until I return!

It is hard to believe that I already leave tomorrow for Uganda.  All day people have been asking me if I am scared, nervous, excited, ready?  Scared?  I am not scared, I don't feel like I have anything to be scared about.  Nervous?  Not very nervous at all.  Different things cross my mind, but i don't feel nervous.  Excited, absolutely.  I have been waiting for this trip for a very long time.  Ready?  As ready as I can be.  I have spent the last few days gathering up what I need for the trip and sat down and packed most of it tonight.  I will finish up any last minute things before I head to the airport at 11.

I am excited to do my job in another part of the world and make an impact.  I am grateful and excited that while we are there I will have some time away from work to enjoy a safari weekend.  Another exciting thing about this trip for me is that I have a cousin who has been in Uganada since Aug 2011 doing missionary work and she will be about 30-40 minutes from where I am at.  So we are hoping that she can spend a few days with us at the clinic.  She lives in Ohio, so it is crazy to think that we will be closer to each other in Africa, then we are in the U.S.

Knowing that some people have not handled the food there well in the past, I did spend the last month making dehydrated fruit and jerky.  My suitcase contains a lot of snacks, jerky, dehydrated fruit, and a few camping meals just incase. 

I am not looking forward to my long flight tomorrow, but I am excited to get into Africa and get set up.

Next time I write, it will be from Uganda. 

Please keep myself and the rest of our team in your thoughts and prayers over the next couple weeks.  Pray for safe travels, and our health and safety while we are there. 

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Overview of where I will be and what I will be doing

Uganda is a small country located in East Africa, near Kenya, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Sudan lying on the equator.  This country has a tragic past with turmoil and strife.  Today Uganda is a safe country but still suffers greatly from the tragedy of the AIDS epidemic.

I will be leaving MPLS on Jan 12 in the afternoon.  We have about a 9 hour flight to Amsterdam with a layover there, then another 8 hour flight from there to Kampala.  We will be arriving in Kampala Jan 13th around 10:00 pm.   I will be staying at a hospital near Kampala called Mildmay Health Center.  We will be spending satuday unpacking supplies and setting up clinic.  (About a month ago we had a packing party and packed about 15 boxes full of dental supplies, toys, games, bibles, clothes and ALOT of shoes and shipped them over there.)  Sunday we will finish getting settled in and finish setting up anything that is left.  Monday the 16th we will start clinic. 

While we are there, we will be providing free dental treatment to orphaned children infected with the HIV/AIDS virus.  We will not just provide dental treatment but we also pour out our love and support for the children and their caregivers by caring for them and sharing with them a message of hope through games, crafts, Bible stories and gifts.   In past years our group has seen between 500-600 patients in the two weeks we are there.  We see not only just the children at the hospital, but they also bus children in from surrounding cities.  A van that would normally hold 15-17 kids, get 30 or more kids packed in and not one of them complain.  From the stories I have heard, most children do not complain and our just grateful to be able to see a dentist.  I was shocked by how many shoes were collected to ship over to give out to the patients.  There were a few pairs of cute little Ugg boots that I was laughing about sending there and Dr. Paul assured me that some little girl would love them and wear them every where she went even if they made her feet hot and sweaty.  It is hard to believe something as simple as a pair of shoes bring such joy to these kids. 

We will work long days providing the best treatment we can to as many children as we possible.  I will have the weekend off which i will be taking a very long bus ride to Murchison Falls National Park for a Safari weekend.  I will leave early Saturday Jan 21st for this.  We will be visting a rhino sanctuary and in the afternoon we will visit the top of the falls for a amazing view of the Nile.  The National Park is cut into half by the Nile where it has to squeeze itself through the legendary Murchison Falls, an impossibly narrow 7 m gap in a cleft rock creating a powerful explosion of white water rapids.  The falls are believe to be the most powerful natural flow of water any where on Earth.    We will be staying the night at Paraa Safari Lodge.  The next morning we will go on a game drive followed by lunch and then an afternoon boat cruise safari down the Nile.  We will stay one more night at the lodge, wake up early monday morning for another game drive and arrive back at Kampala.

We will return to work in the Clinic on Tuesday and wednesday.  Thursday is a National holiday in Kampala, so maybe do some shopping, relaxing, and sight seeing around the area.  Friday we will finish our last day of clinic, pack everything up and leave Kampala around 11:30 pm.  I will be arriving back in MPLS on saturday Jan 28th in the afternoon.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

what's all this about Uganda?

Well as you all know I will be leaving next thursday Jan 12th for Kampala,Uganda.  Since I was young I knew I always wanted to do a mission trip to some other country and touch others lifes who are less fortunate.  When I was an intern at my work, Dr. Richmond, Tami, and Jenny had just gotten back from thier first trip there.  I thought it was incredible what they had done, and I knew that I definately would want to do that.  I have been telling Dr. Richmond for the past few years that I would love the opportunity to join with the team and go with her.  Finally my dream is comming true.  At first I wasn't sure if I could make it happen after the challenges I faced this last year, but after a lot of prayer and talking it through with people I decided that tis couldn't be a more perfect time.   After being in a coma for a week in highschool and over comming all of the challenges that followed, to breaking my neck this past year and overcomming those challenges; I know better then a lot of people not to take life for granted and to cherish every moment and make the best out of every possible situation.  With the positivity still flowing through me and the enormous support from my family and friends I knew I could make this mission of a lifetime possible.  
 A very special thank you to my MOM who put in a lot of time and effort in helping to raise money to make this trip possible for myself and others.  I know you are not too crazy about me leaving the country and will be a nervous wreck the entire time I am gone, but again thank you so much for all of your love and support for this trip.

Some people have asked.....why would you want to go to Uganda and help children when there are so many people here to help?  My answer is this.........I have volunteered at Give Kids A Smile Day (free dental care for children in need) for the past 6 years, I have volunteered a few times at the Union Gospel Mission (providing free dental care for adults in need), and I have volunteered for many children's events and charities throughout the years here.  I love to travel and experience new things.  This is just my way of seeing life in another country and being able to help children in need while I am doing it.  Why Not?  I know that this is just going to be another amazing, eye opening experience for me. 

Next Entry:  An overview of what will be going on while I am there.