It has been a fantastic few days here in Malawi. We travelled up to Nkhata Bay hospital and saw first hand how a hospital functions with only one employed doctor. We visited Lake Malawi and also enjoyed being welcomed into the local church for a lively Sunday Morning service! We have also tried the traditional Malawi food kindly cooked by our hospital guide and served at his family home.
In ward rounds, we observed what it was like to not have curtains and privacy between patients. We saw how patients had to bring their own linen in as there was none in the hospital.
Finals are done! Now we get the exciting task of going on our medical electives to finish off med school. Imperial have kindly funded partial bits of it and first stop: Malawi.
I am travelling with my good friend in my year, Emma Larsson. We are joining an e-health research project here in Malawi. To put it into perspective on the Human Development Index, Malawi is placed 171 out of 189 countries.
We travelled around the local hospitals today, meeting the teams we will be working with. I have done 2000+ days of med school but today was the most important day of them all.
Hello! Sorry it has been a while since we last posted- Internet has been very limited in Rushere as the shops had run out of data for our network, and we had spent too much of our data spending money on cups of tea and accidently ringing up the talking clock!
We are now in Entebbe- the town by the airport relaxing before we fly tomorrow afternoon. It is a luxury to be here after the last few weeks – we even have a fan, a TV and fast wifi!
The last couple of weeks at Rushere have been busy. We have enjoyed helping with more theatre cases- one week we had nearly one caesarean and one gynaecological operation a day, which is a lot here- it got to the point where we had nearly run out of clean instruments!
Sorry for the lack of blog posts. We have been having Internet issues. We bought some more data for our modem only to find less than 5 minutes later it had run out (it was to last us a fortnight!)- turns out our Imperial ipad had used all the data to update it’s apps. As a result it is banished to the suitcase!
The last couple of weeks here have been interesting.
Medicine-wise we have spent a lot of time in theatre seeing lots of caesarean sections (done to prevent serious problems, not cosmetic!) and a finger amputation!
On the wards we have helped manage lots of challenging cases of malnutrition which at times has been heartbreaking, as well as lots of paediatric and neonatal cases which has been great revision.
This weekend we visited Ugandas capital city: Kampala.
Travelling there alone was different: We travelled on public transport with the guest house manager to show us the ropes. Public transport here is different to back home- there are no trains so people rely on intercity buses. We squeezed onto the coach packed with luggage, people, children, and the occasional chicken. There are few seat belts to be found on the buses and they travel in excess of 100-120km/hr which is exciting on the bends to say the least! Fortunately after a while people got off and we managed to sit together by a window.
This week has been quiet in the hospital- we have had a lull in the number of patients- apparently this is the calm before the storm, as malaria season is about to start!
Despite having less patients we have still been challenged by many cases. I was particularly surprised after seeing a case of domestic violence, to discuss the issue with the nurses on the ward. They were very shocked to hear that this is not routine in the UK and that women can seek legal protection. They explained that many here see domestic violence as a way of showing love.
Again this weekend we feel ourselves lacking power! There was a heavy storm last night (even by British standards!) which we think took down some power lines. This is great news for Sam who is in charge of the candles.
This week has been better than last as we’ve started to settle into life here and get to know more staff. We were even told we have become ‘more Ugandan’ this morning at Church. They described this as being more at ease, but we think it’s that we seem to be late for everything however hard we try!
Medicine this week
Herbal medicines are used a lot here, compared to back home.
This weekend has been different, with no electricity. It has been great for avoiding doing the ironing, but not so good for technology and warm showers! We had put this power cut down to a storm, but were surprised to find out that it’s because nearby they need power for insect hunting. At night they set up very bright lights next to insect hills to tempt the insects out so they can catch them to eat and sell, so were diverting our power for their lights. Very different!
This week we have seen lots of infectious diseases again, including lots of malaria, pneumonia, TB and HIV.
One week down, seven to go. This week has been different to our usual placements and we have been challenged with our clinical knowledge, skills and our communication skills.
Suitably for studying medicine 5000 miles from home, the very first condition we encountered was a snakebite. Here, medical students are expected to know a lot about a variety of different bites, but as we only get 100 snakebites a year in the UK with few venomous snakes, our knowledge was sparse to say the least!
Other differences here include the lack of what we would consider basic investigations and critical emergency drugs in the UK- for example there is no ECG machine and imaging relies on ultrasound and X-rays.
We have already fallen in love with Uganda- a country of great sunshine and fantastic views. Between these there has been a lot of rain (to remind us of home), insects, gecko lizards, outdoor and cold showers and unusual toilets.
Culturally things are very different here. So far the biggest difference has been the language. There are many local languages in Uganda, depending on the region, but the official language is English. However this has not been easy to understand, with heavy local accents. We are more and more aware of the advanced English we use to speak and are slowly learning to choose our words more carefully and slow down!