Last Week at Kiwoko Hospital

August 2nd, 2016 by INMED


The Ugandan medical students rotating at Kiwoko found out I hadn’t taken any trips on the weekends so they orchestrated quite the experience for me on Saturday.  One of their friends from Kampala drove up to pick us up and take us to the National Museum and the theater in Kampala, then we went to Entebbe to visit the zoo (my safari) and hit the beach on Lake Victoria.  Against my better judgment, I swam in Lake Victoria, but I picked up some praziquantel at the pharmacy when I got back, so no schisto for me!  We got back around 11 pm.  It was an exhausting, awesome day.  I did, however, feel like the only white person in all of Uganda for most of it.  It has been really eye opening to experience being a minority for a whole month.


Then, Sunday.  I went to church in the morning and had coffee afterwards with the hospital’s medical director, Dr. Rory.  He’s a physician from Northern Ireland that has been the director for some ten years.  It was great to get an opportunity to pick his brain about working here and life abroad.  Later, I was meant to play soccer with some of the guys I play with after work.  One of them told me they were getting together to play somewhere a few kilometers away and that he would pick me up from the hospital.  He showed up around 3:30 and we headed into town so he could round up the rest of the guys and stuff them + his family clown car style into his car, which was kind of a minivan type thing.  We were riding low for sure.  The whole time I was made to feel like an honored guest.


Anyway we get to this pitch (pitch is excessively generous – ‘area with no trees’ would be more apt), pile out, and it’s a legit game.  I had been recruited to play with the Kiwoko team in a friendly match against some young men from a nearby village.  We had full kits, they found me some boots, and they gave me the captain’s armband.  I was pretty moved by it all, honestly.  I promptly twisted my ankle 10 minutes into the game (total mzungu move) and sat out the rest, but all the same it was certainly an unforgettable experience.  The match was a little crazy, and on two occasions the sidelines emptied as men from the village and Kiwoko rushed onto the pitch.  I wasn’t really sure what was going on either time, but the men looked very upset.  Kiwoko won the day, 3-1, we all piled back into the minivan-thing and dropped everyone off.  Then they drove me back to the hospital and I tried to process what had just happened.


Soapbox moment:  Some of these guys can ball.  Two guys especially, Wilson, 21, and Joel, 19, are really good.  There’s at least a handful of other guys that are really good, too.  I can hang with them because I had coaches for 16 years of my life, parents that drove me to practices/games/tournaments (thanks Mom and Dad!), opportunities to lift and run and train in other ways.  i was fortunate enough to play in college, to train a couple hours a day several months out of the year on great, well kept fields (with occasional cone-covered sprinkler heads), and to eat three squares a day in the dining hall.  These guys just play.  All the time.  And they play good soccer – it is fun to watch them.  One touch, two touch, combining with each other, touch like a pro, but in cleats so worn out they’re turf shoes now, and on fields so busted a Land Cruiser would have trouble going end to end.


A handful of them could have played really high level college ball in the States, maybe pro.  They were talking to me about life and football (soccer) in Kiwoko – they said they’re born there, they grow up and play football as long as they can, and they get old and die there.  Occasionally a team from Kampala will come play on their ‘pitch’ (aforementioned D-Day beach), and they play friendlies against villages near them, but who else sees these guys play?  And for that matter, if these footballers are buried out here, in the bush in Africa, imagine all the scientists, physicians, composers, and engineers buried out here.  I once heard a speaker challenge the claim that Rory McElroy (or some such person) was the best golfer in the world because so few people in the world have had the opportunity to play golf.  Maybe he’s the best out of the <1% of people who were handed a set of clubs and given green fees.  I am humbled by my privilege.


Beyond that, medicine has been interesting.  Clerked a patient on Friday with AIDS and pneumonia, and today I evaluated a stroke patient and an AIDS/tuberculosis patient with a spontaneous pneumothorax.  Sick dude.  The ‘normal’ pathology out here is stuff fit for case reports in medical journals.  I have just a few days left – hopefully tomorrow I’ll be able to join the community team and see some of the public health outreach activities.  I’ve also got one game left to play for the operating theater team in the “Kiwoko Chase” tournament.  Rolling right now with 3 goals and a couple assists in the last two games, but feeling properly beat up.  At home if I found a rock on the field I would carry it to the sideline – here I just try to make a mental note not to fall in certain areas.


Tonight one of the male nursing students I have become friends with made me some ‘posh-o’ (dunno how to spell it) for dinner.  I think it’s corn mashed into something I thought was mashed potatoes + beans.  It was really good, but I had just finished playing and they say ‘hunger is the best sauce’.


That’s all for now – probably won’t post again until I have been back a day or two and had an opportunity to think about what I have learned this month.  Thanks for reading!