Mzungu Memoirs

Archive for June, 2011

Our First Emergency Room Visit…in Uganda

As the mother of a very active boy, I expect I will have my fair share of emergency room visits throughout Caleb’s childhood.  I just never figured on the first one being while we are here in Uganda.  Actually, if you want to get technical about it, I guess we’ve made a couple of visits to the Urgent Care before, but I pretty much knew what was wrong on those trips and they were made because we were either away from home and our normal doctor or between doctors.

This trip was different.  I really didn’t know what was wrong and I really didn’t expect to end up in what is essentially an emergency room here in Uganda.  For six hours plus.

It started out simple enough.  Caleb had become sick to his stomach since about suppertime one evening and by early afternoon the next day, when he was unable to keep even water down, I was starting to get rather concerned.  Robert came home from the office early to take us downtown to The Surgery, a clinic run by a British doctor that seems to cater to mzungus.  It was quite the feat getting a sick child there on a boda boda.

We got to The Surgery about 4:15, and ended up waiting for about an hour.  When it was finally our turn, we got to see a lady mzungu doctor but she wasn’t British or American.  I think she may have been German or something, but it really didn’t matter.  She seemed pretty good, and seemed rather concerned that Caleb had been throwing up for almost 24 hours.  And she got even more concerned when I told her that he had thrown up half a dozen times within the first two hours.

The doctor examined Caleb pretty thoroughly.  Then she gave us a cup for a urine sample and directed us to the toilet and then up to the nurse’s station.  At the nurse’s station, Caleb got his finger pricked for some blood tests, including a test for malaria which is a fairly common practice here.  Then we were taken to a small room with a bed, a little table and two plastic chairs.

Not too long after, the nurse came back with a shot of anti-vomiting medicine to give Caleb.  At first, she said that she wanted to give him the shot in his rear end, but then she gave him the choice of the rear end, thigh or shoulder.  Caleb chose the shoulder, presumably because that is where he has been getting shots recently, so that is what he knows.  Of course, we had to get ready to take the shot first.  He got into my lap (I was sitting on the bed with him), and we took his shoes off so he could wiggle his toes (a great distraction technique).  Then it was time for the shot.  Caleb was very proud of himself: he didn’t even cry.

Then we had to wait half an hour for the medicine to take effect before he could start drinking anything.

About 6:00, the doctor came in to check on us as she was getting off her shift.  She said that Caleb was very dehydrated and that we needed to get him re-hydrated before they would let us go home.  She really wanted to get some juice in him for the sugar.  Unfortunately, Caleb doesn’t really drink anything except milk and water.  Robert suggested a lollipop as it was the fasted way he could think of to get sugar in the boy.  I don’t think it was quite the form of sugar the doctor was meaning, but she was agreeable to the idea.  So when the nurse came back, we asked for a lollipop in addition to the water she had brought.  It is the first time I have ever heard of a lollipop being administered for medicinal reasons.  Unfortunately, the sugar in the lollipop didn’t seem to work.  After finishing the lollipop and about half of the bottle of water, Caleb was asked to pee again and there was no improvement.

The nurse was still pushing the juice idea, but Caleb wouldn’t have any of it.  We asked if there was any milk.  Unfortunately, the only milk they had was warm, and they would have to add sugar to it.  Then we came up with the idea of running to the closest store to buy some chocolate milk, which would have a higher sugar content than white milk.  When we asked the nurse, she said that she was going to suggest that idea as well.  So off Robert went to find Caleb some cold chocolate milk.  And again, I was surprised they were suggesting milk for medicinal reasons as I have always be under the impression that it is better to avoid dairy for upset stomachs.

While Caleb was working on finishing the milk (250 ml or about 8 oz. of it, more than he had ever had in one sitting before), a second doctor came in to talk to us.  This one was Ugandan, but I had seen him around the clinic before.  He reiterated what the first doctor had said about the necessity of getting Caleb re-hydrated before we went home.  He also said that they would give us a syrup form of the anti-vomit medicine in case we needed it.

The nurse came back to check on us, but she wouldn’t let Caleb pee again until he finished either the water or the milk.  So we worked on the milk some more.  Unfortunately, it didn’t work either, so we were on to the next step in trying to get Caleb re-hydrated.  We were also on our second round of nurses and third doctor due to the shift change at 9:00.  We had now been at The Surgery for almost 5 hours.

The next idea was to have Caleb drink the sugar water that would normally be used for an IV drip.  The idea being that if he drank it, he wouldn’t have to have the IV.  Unfortunately, he didn’t like the taste of the water and refused to drink it.  We tried to scare him into drinking it by showing him the size of the needle he would be stuck with if he did the IV, but that didn’t work.  Surprisingly, he opted for the IV.

Actually, he did amazingly well getting the IV put in.  Between the Daddy distraction factor and how smooth the nurse was, I don’t think Caleb even felt it.  Once the IV was in, we were all able to sit back and relax a little while the IV did its thing.  In fact Caleb even fell asleep.  Unfortunately, that meant that we had to wake him up to get him to pee again.  In the process of doing so, we pulled the IV supply line out from the needle and then we managed to pull the IV out of Caleb’s hand.  It was quite the sight with me holding my thumb over the IV line in one hand to keep it from squirting everywhere and Caleb’s arm that was now dripping blood all over the bed in the other while Robert ran to get the nurse.  I don’t think the nurses were very happy with us after that.

By this point of course, Caleb was awake and rather upset.  It took some coaxing and calming down to get him to pee.  Once we did get him to pee, we had to wait for what seemed like an eternity (you have to remember it was approaching midnight by now) for the results.  Finally, the doctor came back in and said that while the results were not quite where they would like them to be, there was sign of improvement so they were going to let us go home.  Yeah!  So, after almost 8 hours, we gathered up our stuff, paid the bill, which was only 165,000 UGX (about $69) and hightailed it out of there, making a beeline for home and bed.  The doctor did make me promise that I would continue to work on re-hydrating Caleb with the electrolyte drink mix she gave me.

Caleb seems to have made a full recovery (despite the fact that I didn’t get much of that electrolyte stuff in him, although he does seem to tolerate it better than the IV fluid they tried to have him drink) and is back to his normal active 5-year-old self.  All in all, it really wasn’t that bad an experience.  I have to give credit to all the doctors and nurses at The Surgery.  They were great and had a way with Caleb despite his “stubbornness.”  I’m not terribly eager to make another trip back there, but I know if we need to we will be well taken care of.

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eMi Project Trip, Family Style

We learned a lot on this project trip: about ourselves, God, and life in general.  But I think one of the biggest things we learned is that you can do an eMi trip as a family.

I was a little concerned at first with an eMi staff response of “that’s never been done before”, but we had an awesome team leader who worked with us from the very beginning on how to include Caleb.  The team responded very well to having a child in tow, not a normal dynamic of an eMi trip.  Even Agnes, the ministry contact, seemed to enjoy having a child along.  In fact, one of the days we had left Caleb with friends to get some work done, she asked where he was.

We met the team as a family from the very beginning.  Team members trickled in one by one for breakfast after their late arrival the night before.  After breakfast we sat down for the first time as an entire team.  We started off with testimonies and expectations, a standard first activity on eMi trips.  Andy, our team leader, started and then invited Caleb to share his testimony, which mostly consisted of what he likes about living in Uganda.  Then he went off to play on his video game while the rest of the team shared their testimonies.

With some of the initial “business” out of the way, it was off to the project site, about an hour drive north of Kampala.  At the site, Caleb was already making himself comfortable with the rest of the team, just randomly grabbing the closest hand when he needed help.  He also made himself at home with some local children huddling under a tree to get out of the rain.

Then it was back to Kampala and the eMi office for orientation.  While the team was busy learning the eMiEA way of doing things, Caleb kept himself busy outside playing with whomever was available: the guards, the interns, the kids of other staffers, he’s not picky.

Finally, it was back to the guest house for a late dinner, team meeting and devotional.  Caleb managed to make it through dinner, but crashed on the couch during the team meeting and devotional.  It was quite the trick to figure out how to get a sleeping child home on a motorcycle.  Unfortunately, one of the sadder moments of the trip occurred when Caleb’s backpack fell off the back of the boda where it had been tied.  We had decided to tie it on the boda rather than try to put it on a sleeping boy because Caleb was sandwiched in between Robert and I rather than riding in front where he usually sits and where he could wear the backpack on his front.  Despite retracing our steps all the way back to the guest house once the loss was discovered, the backpack was nowhere to be found.

Saturday we left Caleb with friends so that Robert and I could get some work done programming with the ministry and planning with the team.  Sunday Caleb and I were going to join the team for church while Robert went to our home church to help with the collection.  Unfortunately, Caleb woke up with an upset stomach and we had to stay home.  Fortunately, he had recovered enough by the time Robert returned home from church to head out with us to meet the team.  We arrived at the guest house late and thought we had missed our ride, but they were running later that we were and came in a few minutes behind us.  We met up with the team north of Kampala and made a quick transfer of vehicles so that the survey crew could take the vehicle we were in and we could join the rest of the team in the minibus.

Then it was off to a retreat center for lunch and for Agnes and others from the ministry to share what they liked about the facility in terms of its design.  After a nice lunch of chicken or fish (for those who were a bit more daring) and chips, we headed off to an orphanage/school to explore more design features.  Caleb again made himself right at home with the orphans and asked to go play basketball with them.  He was the only mzungu child in the bunch and easy to spot, so I figured we would not have any trouble finding him again.

Finally, our design exploration was done for the day and it was off to dinner.  Unfortunately, after a late departure from the orphanage and heavy traffic coming back into town, it was another late dinner.  While we were waiting for our dinner to be served, we took the opportunity to get a team picture.  Caleb was hestitant to join us a first, saying he wasn’t really part of the team, but we insisted and he consented.  Then Andy entertained Caleb by teaching him how to play “Thumb War” and showing him a straw and water trick.  By the time we got back to the guest house, we decided to excuse ourselves from the devotional to get Caleb home and in bed before it got any later since it was already 10:00.

We thought the next few days of the project trip would be fairly dull for an active 5 year old boy, so Caleb was able to play with friends while Mommy and Daddy slaved away with the project team.  Each eMi family as well as the interns took a turn looking after Caleb.  But Grandma Maggie took the lion’s share, arriving early in the morning to watch Caleb until the family watching him that day arrived, and returning in the evening when the family brought him back.  She even watched him all day Wednesday and overnight so that Robert and I could stay at the guest house as late as we needed to work on the last push of the project.

By Thursday, we had cycled Caleb through all of our eMi family, so we asked Monica, one of our house helpers to come watch him on her day off (it was a national holiday).  It allowed her to make a little extra money, but it really wasn’t all that expensive for us as babysitting is really cheap here (a little over $4 for the day plus a little extra for her ride home).  Then we paid one of our trusted boda drivers to bring Caleb to where the project presentation and celebration dinner was being held.  Due to Africa Time, Caleb actually arrived in the middle of the presentation but did a marvelous job entertaining himself with the facility’s playground.  Then it was one last dinner with the ministry to celebrate the completion of the project portion of the trip.  We all gave Agnes one last hug, but I think she relished Caleb’s the best.

Friday we headed out for our “closing” time.  The first stop was the Friday Craft Market.  We arrived about an hour before the rest of team and scoped things out.  When the team arrived, Caleb decided to pal around with Andy.  Then he switched and joined Robert, and then he went off with another team member.  Finally, he ended up with me.  Once the team had completed their shopping, we headed to Garden City for lunch.  I think we go there too often to eat because he was greeted with recognition by the wait staff at the place where we always order his pizza.  After lunch, we headed to a retreat center in Jinja where we would stay for the night and have our closing time.  Caleb joined the interns on one of the hammocks on the grounds, swinging and generally being silly with them.  He was right at home.

After dinner, the team was going to have our “closing time” where we process the trip and prepare to return to our daily lives.  I figured it wasn’t really something that Caleb needed to attend, so we set him up with a movie and told him go to bed when it was over.  At one point during the evening, I went back to check on him, and sure enough he had done exactly as we had told him.  I guess our little boy is growing up.

Saturday was filled with more fun with the team and travel back to Kampala.  The hardest part of all was saying good-bye when the team dropped us off at our house and set off for the airport.  Hugs were passed around, of course, but I’m sure the best hugs were given by the littlest team member.

But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD. – Joshua 24:15

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Small Ministry Projects

I have heard several say that eMi’s heartbeat is the design project trips, many of which I have been blessed to have experienced since 2002.  Although an average eMi project involves a donation to ministries of what would cost $80,000 in professional fees, hosting a design team also usually involves a cost to the ministry we are serving of simple meals and lodging, in-country transportation, one airfare for the team leader and project sponsorship of up to $8,000, if the ministry can afford it.  Many small national ministries cannot afford to host a full team.  The East Africa office has begun offering design services (feasibility studies, master planning, etc.) for these small growing ministries that could make use of fund raising documents or design assistance to help them as they grow and develop their often God-sized visions.

Now living in Kampala, I have been able to work on several of these small projects in between the larger projects.  A teacher called to transform an entire nation by developing a school that incorporates Biblical teaching, a Ugandan man that endured civil war as a boy now feeling called to provide healing for orphans left in the wake, a ministry serving Christian university students or a mzungu woman called to educate and house orphans.  I wanted to share some of the recent small projects I have been working on.

Growing up in a rural village in Northern Uganda, Dr. Toli Simon endured the tyranny of Idi Amin and many of the atrocities of the long civil war that ended only a few years ago.  Many abandoned their faith after years of hardships, yet Dr. Simon’s family held firm.  Witnessing the murder of an uncle, he now feels called to minister to the many orphans left in the wake of the civil war.  Some children lost parents from the war, others from AIDS prevalent and spread in refugee camps.  Dr. Simon has a God-sized vision for an orphanage, primary school, secondary school, vocational school, clinic and staff housing.

Visiting the site and surveying the property almost two months ago, I was amazed at what I witnessed the day we visited.  Initially a small site that would have only accommodated a small primary school and some of the intended orphans, the village elders sat down to discuss a land dispute that had erupted while we were beginning the survey.  Dr. Simon’s amazing ability to be a peacemaker and the intent to provide much needed education, orphan housing and a clinic resulted in the village elders granting more land, enlarging the property 2.5 times the original size!  You can read more about the site visit in a past blog 10 Apr, “First Mzungus in the Village.”

These images show the phasing and proposed complete development of the now larger ministry site for True Life Ministries International.  In an e-mail message, Dr. Simon wrote, “This is an amazing master plan for our project.  It is a great donation.  It has enlarged our vision, considering the miraculous expansion of the land during the surveying process.  It is an affirmation of the Bible truth that ‘we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.’ Romans 8:28”

I have also been working on renderings and drawings for the Ukarimu House in Nairobi, Kenya.  Adjacent to Daystar University, the Ukarimu House seeks to serve students by providing a facility for outreach, mentoring, counseling, fellowship and discipleship.  Named for the Swahili word for hospitality, the Ukarimu House would include several residential rooms for students, several meeting rooms, a kitchen and dining room, study areas, a large veranda, a separate apartment and two-bedroom guest house.

Having been under construction for about ten years, this ministry is anxious to finish the project.  Currently, it is a concrete skeletal frame without a roof, windows, doors or finishes.  There have also been several revisions and errors through the construction.  eMi was asked to provide as-builts of the existing conditions, develop fund raising renderings and develop documents to complete construction of a roof.  A design team was sent from Colorado, with a representative from our East Africa office.  I have been working on developing presentation renderings and will continue developing architectural floor plans, elevations, roof plan, and drafting structural roof framing plans and truss details.

A third small project I would like to share with you is Mary’s Little Lambs, a ministry serving Ugandan orphans.  Started by a mzungu woman from New Jersey, Mary’s Little Lambs has purchased a site in Bulama, about 1.5 hours west of Kampala.  Mary has the vision of serving Ugandan orphans with housing, education and the love of Christ.

This fully developed master plan would house 80 orphans, educate 200 children, provide staff and teacher housing, a multipurpose building, offices, guest housing and a peaceful garden with water features and meditation spaces.

Living here in Kampala has made working on these small projects possible.  Heather & I continue to see more confirmation of our calling to serve here in Uganda…more stories later.  Thanks to all of our supporters who have partnered with our ministry to make all of this possible.

Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” – Matthew 9:37-38

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