KIHEFO promotes local initiated solutions to fight disease, ignorance and poverty in southwestern Uganda
By Lauren Matera
Today was one of the busiest days in Kabale so far, but it was also one of my most challenging and for a few reasons — my favorite.
KIHEFO sponsored a health camp in a nearby village called Kyikumbi. It was a smaller version of the larger health camps that KIHEFO runs a few times a year; we had several stations set up to see patients, including general clinic, dental, eye, family planning and a small laboratory and pharmacy.
It was really interesting to see several different areas of KIHEFO working together at the same time, even if things got hectic. We saw probably a little over three hundred patients in all of the different clinics in just under seven hours!
I spent most of the morning working in the lab, drawing blood for rapid HIV tests and a few malaria screenings. Most of the HIV testing at the camp was VCT, voluntary testing for people who just wanted to know their status. Through the whole day (I’m not sure how many tests total), we only saw one positive result, which is really encouraging. I liked working in the lab a lot because I had the opportunity to gain more experience doing some blood draws, as well as running and interpreting the tests.
If the first rapid test shows a positive result, we use a second confirmatory test before providing the results to the patient. All VCT patients received their results from our HIV counselors; one woman (who was visibly intoxicated when we were drawing blood) was quite entertaining when she received her negative result — throwing her arms up in joy.
After lunch, the CFHI students swapped positions so we could work in one of the other areas and I ended up working with Casie in the general clinic area, seeing and evaluating patients.
This was probably the most challenging part of the day because it’s very hard to evaluate patients with a limited number of tests to run and only a handful of drugs we could prescribe that we had on hand. The language barrier is also really hard to overcome; it was virtually impossible for us to interact with patients without a translator, and translators were pretty high in demand throughout the day.
Many of the problems we saw were things we couldn’t help: a patient with a numb thumb that had been that way for years, a child with a recurrent rash since she was six months olds, someone with ascites who had had surgery two years earlier and had been experiencing complications ever since.
It was a really humbling experience because often the patients we saw hadn’t really sought healthcare before, or if they had, it had been in a similar setting as the one we were in. Many of them needed more advanced testing, screening, or medications; the best we could offer was paracetamol and antibiotics to the majority of complaints.
It made me feel incredibly inadequate, but it was also, I think, an experience I needed to have to finally start to knit my thoughts together on what I see every day in the KIHEFO clinic, and what life is like out in the rural communities.
Lauren Matera is going into her 2nd year of medical school at Rowan University. She recently completed a 4-week internship at KIHEFO in Kabale, Uganda through the Child Family Health International (CFHI) partnership.
Are you inspired to get involved? Visit KIHEFO’s official website – click here.