Sunday, February 26, 2012

Prayer requests

Quick update because I'm thinking It'll be a week or so before I post again. I'm headed up to Karamoja tomorrow morning (that is if I can get off the computer and get packing!). My plan is to spend a few days  in the peace village teaching the village health workers and a bit of time "entertaining" the District Health Officer and visiting the Christians and at least see my possible home in Kangole and possibly help the CLIDE staff in Moroto and sort and consolidate medicines and medical equipment that has been left in various CLIDE locations around Karamoja. My expectations may be too much but aim high right? I'm not sure when I'll be back but I have enough food packed for 4 days if I'm feeding several people and at least 5 days if I'm feeding only myself.
A bunch of prayer requests:

  • As always, that God would guide. I have these plans but my plans are nothing. I want to do what God sees as important while there. 
  • With the village health workers the topic this time is parasitic helminth infections, mostly of the intestinal variety, and even though I'm sure they will be captivated I want to also be sharing information that is for their eternal benefit. But few are believers so I need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit's leading. 
  • I'd really like to deepen relationships with local believers and begin discipleship but at the moment language is a barrier. Pray that I find the right language tutor and have opportunity to begin learning Nakaramojong. 
  • There are some very high expectations that I'll begin working in the clinic offering medical services. This needs to be approached very carefully and with much prayer as I'm not convinced this is actually the right step. 
  • And then there is always travel and housing and food and water and safety and health and most of all that God would be glorified through it all!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

More Kampala and car stuff

I was essentially told that the pictures of my new truck were woefully inadequate so, Dad because I love you, I just wandered around the truck for the last 10 minutes taking pictures much to the dismay of the watchman who I'm sure is contemplating who will now pay his salary since I've been bewitched. For those who aren't as into car engines as  my father, above the pictures I've shamelessly stolen teammate Karen's blog post.  She did a much better job of recounting our adventure. Thanks Karen!!

The Kampala Whirlwind

Waking up from a good night of rest, I can now reflect on my whirlwind trip to Kampala with 
my team-mate Jennifer.  Jennifer had to go down country to pick up a vehicle for her to take 
to the remote lands of Karamoja, and she needed someone to go with her.  I was able to 
finish up my other work and clear my calendar for a few days to join her on this road-trip 
south.  Thursday morning I went to town and booked tickets for the overnight bus to Kampala.  
I was handed a business card for a the bus' taxi van to come and pick up.  We called the 
taxi at 10 pm and the driver told us to call at 11 pm again to remind him of our location.  
Shortly after 11 we called again and the driver said, "7 minutes".  How true he was!  He 
came honking on to our road, waking up many neighbours, I'm sure.  We loaded up and 
were delivered to the bus stop on Main Street in Soroti.  The bus was supposed to leave
 at 12 midnight, but it was closer to 1 am before we pulled out of town.  We hardly slept at 
all on the bus, as every 45 minutes or so the bus pulled over to drop off or pick up more 
passengers... that meant all the lights went on and people were rearranged.  I also couldn't 
rest well because I was in the middle seat... being spooned by the man next to me... a man 
who had long legs and put them half way into my seat to spread out and I'm sure he was 
using me as a pillow.  So hot!  We arrived in Kampala at 6:30 am, just before sunrise.  We 
walked a couple of blocks up the street to a store called Shoprite, and sat under a lamp post 
there to eat an apple and some muffins. We also toured a local Hindu Temple and were 
saddened to see the blatant idol worship and couldn't help but talk about the hopelessness 
and pointlessness of it all.  At 8 am the shop opened - we used the latrine and then called 
the mechanics to see if Jennifer's vehicle was ready.  Yes it was! From the previous blog 
post... you can see that we rode Bodas (motorcycle taxis) out to the mechanics and spent 
the next few hours learning all sorts of fun things about the Land Cruiser.  Thankfully we 
had a GPS with us, because we needed it greatly to find our way around the city for the 
afternoon's activities.  We first went to a small shopping centre to get money from the ATM, 
but poor Jennifer's card was swallowed by the machine and the bank wouldn't give 
Jennifer back her card until the next day.  I pulled out money to cover the costs of a few 
things, we grabbed lunch to go from the grocery store and drove over to the car dealership. 
Thereobtained a new rim for a spare tire that I need, and I was able to begin the 
paperwork to get a TIN (Tax Identification Number) and transfer the ownership of my Subaru
 into my name.  Once all the fees were paid, Jennifer and I sat at Cosmos (a car lot) and at 
our cold chicken and side salads.  Then off to another larger store where we purchased 
groceries, appliances, non-perishable foods and other items for ourselves and the team.  
We were quickly running out of energy, so we headed for the Baptist Mission Guest House 
for a relaxing evening.  We arrived around 3:45 pm, showered, watched a movie on VHS, 
and ordered in pizza.  Wow, what a treat!  Believe it or not, we were sound asleep by 7:30 pm.
  I slept a good 12 hours.... then woke up to go back to the bank where the ATM card was 
swallowed.  After showing her passport, Jennifer was given her card back.  Then we 
grabbed a few more groceries for the team - this time - fresh fruits and veggies, bacon, 
hotdogs, and other treasures, and quickly stored the goodies in cooler bags before heading
 home.  Heading out of the city at 10:30 am we only had a few more stops to make.  We 
bought 7 palm trees at a roadside garden and had fun trying to lay down cardboard - to 
stop dirt from destroying the inside of the "new" vehicle.  Pulling back into Soroti around 
5:30 pm, we were glad when the Tiesenga's invited us over for dinner.  The last thing I 
wanted to think about was preparing something to eat.  We divided up every one's groceries,
dropped them off, and then I went home to bed.  A great trip!
Her blog is here.  Then for the car pictures....

These next 9 pictures are a 3x3 grid starting in the upper left, as requested.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Land Cruiser

Today was one of those days that if I didn't experience it myself I may not have believed it. Last night around 11 pm Karen and I hoped on a matato that took us into Soroti. We got on the night bus and by 1 am  were headed up country. Around 6 am we arrived in Kampala and did a bit a "sightseeing" while waiting for the shops to open. I managed to get a hold of the mechanic who had my truck and we set off on bodas to find him.
Mid morning we finally found the place and volia! my new truck!
I'm now the proud owner of a 1993 Land Cuiser! We spent the remainder of the day getting things like spare tires, registration, tax id numbers, and grocery shopping for the team. We can't possibly go back with an empty truck! We need a few hours to get a bit of sleep because you really don't get much on a Ugandan bus but first thing tomorrow morning we'll be headed back to Soroti. 
And for dad and the brothers here is an engine picture though when one is taking a picture of an engine I'm not sure what one is really supposed to capture. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


Everyone here seems to be talking about rain. In the past 4 days it has sprinkled a couple of times and we seem to be on the cusp of rainy season. The biggest reason that I say this isn't because of the little precipitation but that suddenly the days are 20 degrees cooler.  And I'm not exaggerating. At the peak of the day it would hit 110's without hesitation and we would be lucky if it dropped below 80 degrees at night. In one afternoon last week, the clouds blew up, the temp dropped to 60 that night and it hasn't been above 100 again since. There are clouds in the sky and rain- which hasn't happened since early November.
But here is where the discussion lays and why everyone is talking of it. Is it really rainy season? It seems a few weeks early. If it really is, then it is time to till the soil, get seeds in the ground and hold on for when the rain really arrives. If it isn't yet, people need to conserve their hard earned seeds. There isn't a second chance on this one. If they get the ground ready and put the seeds in and the season hasn't really changed yet those seeds are a loss.  The sun will bake them, animals will eat them and there is no getting them back. If it is the season but people wait to make sure, then they will miss their window of opportunity. Plants all need a certain amount of time in the ground before they will produce their intended product. If people wait and it is a short rainy season and dry comes again before the plant have had enough time, then there won't be enough of a harvest to have both enough to eat and enough to put away for next planting season. So we continue to watch the sky and talk about rain...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What is that little thing for anyway??

Obule church is the place I attend Sundays and on Wednesdays ladies of the church visit the sick to encourage those that we would call marginalized. It isn’t really socially acceptable to visit those with HIV or the dying so I’m really glad this church isn’t following with society and culture and they are doing it anyway. I joined them last week on their visits and we went to the home of an older woman who is HIV positive. She has living with her some of her grandchildren whose parents have died. One of them is a 14 year old girl who I was introduced to because she had “surgery” that morning. Trying to understand what surgery and why proved challenging then unbelievable. I’ve since seen the child again and gotten a more complete picture. (Warning: the next paragraph isn’t for the weak of stomach) The girl has had a cough for a long time that is especially bad at night so the grandmother brought her to a local medical practioner (witch doctor?) who did an uvulectomy. (They cut out the uvula, a large part of the soft palate of the back of the throat) But picture mud hut, household knife, no sedation or pain killers. O.K. I’m going to stop there but you at least get an idea. I can say this, when I looked at the back of her throat I was absolutely speechless. When I saw the girl (a few hours after the “procedure”) she was still bleeding quite significantly and the cough, that the removal of the uvula was supposed to treat, was exacerbated by the blood dripping down the back of her throat and then her strong cough most likely was keeping a good clot from forming so the bleeding continued and the cycle went on. Well, about 20 minutes after some Percocet both of us were breathing better. (The acetaminophen was for pain and the oxycodone for cough relief was how I justified it.) By the time I left I had her sleeping pretty soundly. I’ve done a bit of teaching since as to what the uvula does and under what circumstances it should be removed out in the village (NONE!) Somehow, the girl doesn’t have an infection and shortly I’ll have her under treatment for TB (technically I’m still waiting for a chest x-ray but all symptoms point that way and honestly even if a “radiologist” reads it as negative I’m confident I’ll be treating her for it.) 

Monday, February 20, 2012


“Insightful” morning…I’m learning that I strongly dislike the educational system in Uganda almost as much as the medical system.
I now support 3 siblings in a private school here that is slightly better than the government school options and it is run by YWAM (Youth With A Mission) so it has Christian roots. However, it is run by administration that isn’t unlike any other school here.  (Speaking of education- how do you like that double negative?) And the teachers are all Ugandan trained and not necessarily Christian.  So, I’ve paid roughly 4 times as much as a public school and possibly gotten something mildly better. Smaller class sizes, teacher that I know are actually getting paid (public school teachers can go months without money from their employer, the federal government) and at least I know they are learning more about the bible than the Koran. But students are still expected to learn everything by rote, only the brightest will learn to read and a child will still be beaten if they don’t know the answer. (But last week Betty assured me that they don’t beat children nearly as often as in the public schools.)
Anyway, I’d gotten a letter (hand copied by the students from the chalk board) Friday about an 8 am meeting Monday. So like the proud member of democracy that I am I figured an opportunity to have some input was a good thing and like the idot that I am I showed up at the school at 8 am today. I was the second parent there and the first was the school’s bus driver (only they don’t have a bus, they have a truck that the kids just pile into the back of) and he left to take the nursery school kids. It took me about 5 minutes of standing around to see that my expectations of an 8am meeting and what was actually going to happen did not coincide. I located the headmaster and asked him when the meeting was going to start and his answer of 8 wasn’t pleasing to me as it was 8:20 already and there were two parents present at 8 but now he was back down to one. So tried again- what time will the meeting end? Maybe 11. Good grief. But should have seen that coming. So in not very Ugandan fashion I got straight to the point. I’m not staying here 3 more hours. What is going to be discussed at this meeting? And then I learned about Remedials.  These are extra “lessons” for students who are behind and not understanding the material, after school Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. As I type this it seems like a really good idea. But you also need to know that ¾ of each class qualify for remedials. They are 3 extra hours of lecture (that’s right lecture- even for 3rd grade students and that’s right- it is just an ineffective as you would expect) so the kids will be staying until after dark, they won’t be given an additional meal and the truck won’t be bringing kids home past its 4 pm run so they will have to walk the several kilometers home 3 nights a week and both ways Saturday. Remedials translates to a significant extra payment for me and if the child is struggling from bad teaching 8 hours a day, 5 days a week why do they think that 3 more hours of bad teaching on 4 more days will improve that?!? I remember once that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.
On top of all of these reasons, Betty and Manuel, being older, have responsibilities at home that don’t go away just because they are at school 11 hours a day. Those responsibilities just take place after dark and keep them from going to bed at a reasonable time. They don’t have a mother at home who has dinner waiting for them and who will wash their clothes and go to the market while they are at school.
So the reason that I’m still typing this unreasonably long post is now I have a decision to make. I’d really like third grade Joyce to learn to read someday. She really needs extra time with a teacher. But I don’t actually think remedials will provide that.  I just wish I had the time and ability to help her but I just don’t. So what do I do? 

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Karamoja Pictures

On this last trip up there were some photographers on the team- Aaron and Kristin Byrum from North Carolina . Here is some of their work. 

You see now why I go?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Pediatric consult

Any of my medical friends want to weigh in on this? (And sorry about the poor history- it is almost impossible to get straight answers and accurate facts.) 

4 month old male
Chief complaint: Vomiting several times a day, only stools every few days, more than 1 pound weight loss over last week (estimated by fellow missionary who saw him last week.)  Generalized weakness and lethargy. 
Physical assessment: 7.5 kg, normally developed male. No indications of pain or fever. Abd soft and non-tender. Bowel sounds absent. A few indications of slight dehydration. 
History; Birth by C-section. Sepsis (? highly unlikely as I've yet to meet a neonate here who survives sepsis in that hospital but I guess it is possible) immediately after birth possibly due to infected cord.  Per pt’s mother he had normal bowel movements for a short time after birth but not since. Often only stools ever few days. Fevers off and on (per pt’s mother but this may be untrue as mothers here often tell me that there is a fever when there is not. When it is 112 degrees babies are just warm.) Pt has been under treatment for malaria twice but tested negative for me. (It’s common to be treated when not infected and it isn’t malaria season so is pretty unlikely he has ever had.)  Also has been on 6 different antibiotics since birth but none given in correct doses for correct amounts of time and not for correct reasons. 
For me the weight loss and vomiting is concerning. I’ve counseled the mother to ONLY breast feed at this time as she was supplementing with cow’s milk and broth. She should let him suckle every few hours and drink more herself. He is not refusing to eat but often only takes a little then vomits. I’ve also encouraged them to write down (date and time) of stools, feedings, fevers and vomiting. I’ll try to take his weight daily and see how significant the loss actually is and try to get them to get a stool sample for me. Over the past two days I've seen no fevers but he is fussy. 

At this point any suggestions or ideas? Am I being overly concerned about nothing?

Hydroponics system "dry run"

This e-mail that I just received is far too good to waste just sitting in my read folder on yahoo. So I've copied it and will paste it here for you to also enjoy. But first just a bit of background: Last post I mentioned that my home church is sending a work team and they are going to building a hydroponics system (and feel free to google this but contrary to practically every site you find we will be doing nothing with marijuana).  They are coming in few weeks and were doing a dry run of the system in the church basement. So here Don Hendriksen's e-mail to me:

Below are a few more questions but 1st I'd like to tell you of our experience with the flushing/flapper system last evening:
After gaining much needed insight from our water, gravity, siphon and flapper consultant, Steve Kragt, we decided to give the system a go.  Like school kids, Jim and I said, "lets fill it up and see if it works."  Mind you, we did not think ahead to what we were going to do with gallons and gallons of water afterward.  He also were not bothered by the fact that nothing was glued together and that cadet and maintenance equipment was surrounding us with no clear path to the exits.  A phrase, we can no longer use on this project is "it's a dry run".
So we found a garden hose and hooked it up to a sink in the back of the cadet room.  We started filling the flood tank while scratching our heads wondering how this whole siphon/water bottle/see-saw mechanism would work.  Our consultant had left for another engagement so we were left with only 2 inexperience, bright eyed young men (51 and 72 years old); curious to see how the thing would work.
As perhaps 25 or more gallons of water filled the upper tank, we could not imagine how the siphon would draw water into itself and out to the waiting water bottle.  The entire system was connected with scotch tape and florist wire.  Sure enough, when the water increased to a correct level, just where Steve Kragt had told us it would, it began to siphon out to the receiving water bottle. The bottle began to fill and drop along the siphon tube.  There was joy in the cadet room until we realized that when the bottle filled completely, it would trigger the toilet flapper, inside the flood tank, to open and water would start pouring through the PVC pipes; PVC pipes that we had not glued together.  So Jim climbed up on a chair and held the drain pipes in place.
At about that same time, the water bottle filled up and the see-saw tilted to open the flapper.  However, the force on the see-saw was much greater then imagined and all of the florist wire snapped off, causing the washers, other sundry of weights, and the water bottle to go flying.  This now left the siphon tube open to pour out water while at the same time the flapper opened, flushing water out of the flood tank.  At this point Jim, up on a chair, has one hand keeping the flush pipes from breaking apart under the force of the open flapper, and the index finger from his other hand in the siphon tube, like the Dutch boy with his finger in the dyke (a 72 year old Dutch boy).  Meanwhile, I'm laughing hard, and the water from the sink is still running hard through the garden hose, so the "flush" process has no way to stop.  I'm still marveling at the distance the weights and bottle traveled and the strange contortion my friend is holding, trying to hold everything together and stop the water flow, when Jim yells, "shut the water off".
After the water is finally shut off and the siphon is safely directed into the lower barrels, we decide to let the water work it's way down to the fish barrel.  Now, this is where we should have been smart a said, "perhaps we should figure out a way to empty the fish barrel before we try this again."  But of course, we did not.  Instead we found the flown washers and weights, cut and re-rigged more florist wire, and proceeded to fill the flood tank again.  This time we tightened the wires and weights securely and watched in amazement as the system worked surprisingly well.
So now we have 50+ gallons of water in the fish tank and, of course, the lower PVC pipes for the pump system, are beginning to leak more water onto the cadet room floor.  This makes sense because we never glued or tightened any of these fittings.  The next question is, how do we remove the heavy fish barrel with all this water while it is leaking?  We find a cart and we "lift" the leaking barrel with 50+ gallons of water onto it, right?  I think it was like when old ladies pick up a Volkswagen when a baby is stuck under it.  Somehow, these two strapping young men (Jim and I) lifted that tank onto the cart and began looking for a way out.  The problem was, there was cadet stuff, a lawn tractor and club cadet blocking the garage door.  So instead, while holding the leaking pipes tightly,  we proceeded to move the full barrel into the church and out the back doors.  Thankfully, only a trickle of water leaked on the way out, and we are hoping the carpet was dry by this morning:)
After moping up the cadet room and putting everything back in place, Jim and I just stood there and marveled at the ingenious system presented before us.  I'm so glad we decided to make one of these 1st in the church basement!

A few bullet points.

Internet and power at the same time! Let me go check- if city water is on buy me a lottery ticket! Nope, no water. Well, two out of three ain't bad.  So... I haven't posted in a few days again. What has been going on? Maybe this is a good time for some bullet points.

  • Remembrance Church (my sending/home church)  is sending a work team next month and it always takes a bit of time to get ready for a group. They are going build a hydroponics system to raise fish and vegetables. I'm personally pretty excited because what a cool thing to make this will really be a great project to provide the street kids with some life skills and good food!
The working prototype that I saw in North Carolina 
  • I joined Mandy teaching out in Obule. There were 35 women and girls for a purity study. We talked of sexual sin and its results, what the bible says and how they can practically apply it to their lives.  It never ceases to amaze me what they know, or don't know about some of this stuff.
  • And how can I forget about this one! I'm purchased a truck! I haven't seen said truck but I've signed the documents and paid the deposit and some time next week I'll head up to Kampala to get it! I've heard that it is really a great deal and in good shape but as I'll pay easily 6 times the amount I'd pain in the states for something comparable I'm a bit anxious over this investment. I find myself worrying about money because of it and it is a bit of a daily battle to remind myself that when I'm worrying it is saying that I'm not trusting God to provide. And provide He does! I can't wait to get my hands on this truck! 
  • I was at Amecet yesterday.  It always makes me sad. They have a little girl, just a few months old with a vaginal/rectal fistula most likely from molestation. The baby was being raised in the prison (as that is where her mother is) but at least now she is at Amecet getting some medical care. They have another little girl who was brought in by the police. They were told she is 8 months, the Amecet staff is guessing 12 months and I personally am guessing more like 14 month but she doesn't weigh more than 7 pounds she has been so neglected. She is pretty sick as the reason that the police picked her up is because her family was starving her to death but she wasn't dying so they tried to poison her. Little Raphael is still there. He was in Amecet and then came back after more extreme neglect. (a bit of his story.)
  • Here is a fun one. Yesterday, I baked some cakes and muffins. Not a big deal as I do this at least once a week but this time I did it in Jim's wood fired oven! Margaret did a nice post on it here.

  • What else? Soroti is ridiculously hot and dry. I don't think I've written yet this season whining about the heat so here it is. Yesterday before 11am I noticed the thermometer  reading 109 degrees. I'm tired of sweating but not sweating isn't a wise option. I discovered last week that both of my mercury oral thermometers ( I know, danger!, but I need ones that don't have stupid little batteries that have to be replaced so I use them even though they are known to cause cancer in the state of California) have been broken by the heat. Their uppermost reading is 108 and they are cracked at the tip where the mercury has forced its way out. Around 2pm you can hear the wind pick up and you think there is going to be a bit of a breeze.  Then tree branches start whipping around and you realize that the air is getting a red cast to it because there is so much dust in the air and the "breeze" feels more like the air from a blast furnace and there are rather large dust devils being whipped up.
  • I guess that is it. Does that make up for a week of no posting?  

Monday, February 13, 2012

New house

I'm still in Kaiser's house but the boy's quarters over at Tiesenga's is getting closer so I anticipate moving into my new home in the next few weeks! They just finished painting and check out these colors!
The Ugandan's picked out the colors, not the Tiesenga's (though I would not have put it past Steve.) 

The kitchen still needs stove, fridge, cabinets, etc... but how nice of them to use all three types of tile! 

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Hundreds of bananas in a bunch. 
I am seriously tired tonight but I’ve had this post floating around in my head for a bit so I’ll take a minute to hammer it out. Here at the place I’m currently living there are tons of banana trees. Several are in the process of producing fruit (they don’t have one set season like other fruit trees. When the tree is mature enough it produces so a good size stand of trees can fruit continually if well maintained). I couldn’t help but notice one afternoon while hanging out in the mildly cooler area under the trees that bananas don’t mess around when they are producing. I counted far more than 100 in the bunch. As it seems to be happening more and more I couldn’t help but think about the spiritual application. “I want to produce fruit like a banana tree” was my thought.

Tree needing to be propped up because the of weight of bananas.
I had intentions of blogging about banana trees (they are cool because they aren’t at all like Michigan fruit trees) with a few pictures but hadn’t gotten around to taking the pictures. Went outside yesterday with the camera only to discover the tree is destroyed! The weight of the ripening fruit has pulled the whole tree over. I found the gardener and he didn’t seem nearly as upset as I was. Together we propped the tree back up a bit (and man is it HEAVY!! Next time he gets to lift while I shove the sticks under to prop it up!) Anyway, I was reassured that the fruit is very nearly ready and the tree will last until he can cut the bunch off. But then what? I asked. He’ll just finish cutting the tree down. Come to find out banana trees pour so much energy into the fruit that they are wrecked in the process. Tonight as I write, I’m sure that again there is a spiritual application there but I'm not sure I'm up for making it....
Different tree with bananas at a younger stage. You can still see the big purple flower at the bottom. 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Seen on the back of a bike

A mattress on the back of a bike. 

I haven’t filed many pictures under this heading lately (here are old ones if you were unfortunate enough to miss them)  because I just don’t find as many things shocking anymore. But here is a fun one. 

And then this one. I’m not sure I’ll ever see anything top it. Look closely at the bike in the front. 
This picture was taken by a fellow missionary in Jinga- right on Lake Victoria and the source of the Nile. I have got to stop swimming there. That fish does not appear to be a vegetarian.  
And one last picture tonight before I unhook the car battery from my computer. 
Impact Institute Driving School.The other side of the sign says School of Driving right above the "drive under instruction" part. But the passenger (instructor?) started telling me to go away when I went around the car to take another picture. I tried to joke about how I was helping him advertise but he wasn't buying it. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Just a broken arm

I see a medical rant coming on. Brace yourselves. Tonight, I had some evening plans to spend a bit of time with Betty and her little sister Joyce but as I went to pick them up one of the neighbor boys that I know, Kenneth, showed me a cast on his left arm and told me how painful it was. I had heard that he fell from a tree and had a compound fracture a week or so back but his mother brought him to a doctor in town and I kind of figured I didn’t need to be involved as broken bones seem to be something that a doctor would be able to handle here. Well…. Kenneth’s thumb was swollen to twice it's normal size and there was a large ugly wound where the unpadded plaster was ripping a large ulcer on the inside of his wrist. The cast went from just below his fingers to just under his arm pit but was obviously too tight from top to bottom. The wrist wound was clearly deep and infected and so tight I couldn’t even lift the plaster away from the skin. There was absolutely no padding so the sharp edges were cutting all the way around and it was evident that given just a little more time he would have some matching wounds on the upper arm as well. I couldn't figure out how he had managed this long.  Deep breath…. It is 5:30 in the evening. Ken’s mother was told 4 days ago (by Beckie) that she needed to take Ken back to the doctor and Ken says his mother knows it's bad but there is no money. So option #1, which was getting his mother to take care of it seems like a bad choice. Option #2 is to take him back to the clinic that put the cast on in the first place. But the odds that I’ll find a doctor there this time of day seems slim to none and if they did this shoddy of a job in the first place why should I pay them to do it again? Option #3- Try to deal with this myself. I’ve taken several casts off in ED and kind of enjoy it and I have the plaster to put a new one on and I love casting….this shouldn’t be too hard. I picked option #3.  In hindsight option #3 wasn’t as easy as I thought but I still don’t know what a better choice would have been.

The first problem was getting the old cast off. It was the tightest cast I’ve ever seen so there was no margin of error between plaster and skin. I don’t have a cast saw so a hack saw blade seemed like it would do the trick. I took Ken into town with me to purchase one. The mechanic’s shops were rapidly closing and I just couldn’t find one that had blades to sell. I’m sure I checked at least 6. Finally I called Steve (a team mate and bit of a handyman) to see if he had one. He didn’t but he was pretty sure he could do it with his sawzall.   So just as the sun was setting we pulled into his yard and got Ken settled into a chair. For some crazy reason he trusted us so Steve started sawing. It was slow going as Ken’s arm still hurt and the wounds were very tender but he was tough and without bloodshed we got the cast off. But it took a long time. There was old blood inside the plaster in two different places and poorly healing sores inside from the initial accident. There was also much dirt and it was really evident that they just slapped the plaster on. As I was putting the new cast on, Ken told me that last time they rubbed the plaster over and over, pressing it down. No wonder it was so tight! I explained that once I had it in place he was just to sit still and not touch it. (For those of you who care- because of the wounds, both the newer ones from the plaster and the initial ones, I just put on a partial sugar tong and held it with elastic bandages. I know the bones aren’t quite as well protected but I can’t stand the thought of putting that big infected sore under solid plaster.) So that was my evening. Not what I planned at all. I can’t stand the thought that even a broken bone can’t be treated correctly here. I had asked Ken to see his x-rays (anything that we would put in a medical file here becomes property of the injured/sick person to take care of) but Ken said that his mother hadn’t paid all of the doctor’s fees so they won’t give them their radiology stuff. I’m a tiny bit glad that I didn’t see them because I can only imagine how well lined up his compound fracture is. I just hope and pray that he still has good functional use of his arm when all this is done. 
Hey! Tanya took pictures!

Steve cutting the cast off.  Ofcourse there was no power so we were doing all of this by flashlight.
"Peeling" the plaster out of the wound.
I could still feel the bone edges not sitting well and Ken clearly still had pain.
Ken recovering after I put the new cast on.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

New wheels?

Will you pray with me?
I have a line on a 1993 Toyota Land Cruiser that I'm thinking very seriously about purchasing. I really need a vehicle to get myself back and forth from Karamoja and this one seems like it would be up for the challenge. But it is a tough decision. I'll pay easily 6 times the amount I'd pay for something similar in the states so it is not a decision to be taken lightly. But I haven't seen it and I have to take the word of a Ugandan mechanic on its reliability. And there are other challenges. I'm not sure how to get to Kampala to pick it up and even physically getting the cash to pay for it.  (Banks, payment methods, none of it works like you are used to.) So, I just need some wisdom...

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


I’ve been feeling quite oppressed lately by the heat but today I felt just a little better about the sun. I have my own solar system!

This little work of art has been in process for months now (though knowing my dad he has had it tumbling around in his head for far longer than that) and tonight I’m typing away on my computer even though it is a power out night and I usually feel compelled to conserve battery in case something comes up and power doesn’t come back tomorrow or whatever. But not tonight!! I now can harness and possess the power of the sun! And I have absolutely no doubts that there will be sun tomorrow so my computer is assured a charge.
More importantly the next time I head up to Karamoja I’ll be able to keep my phone charged (still can’t guarantee that I’ll have reception but at least I’m a step closer to being in contact with the outside world), a few lights and possibly even my camera battery should the need arise and I feel so inclined.   
Here is dad, the mastermind behind this whole thing, and Benji with quite a bit of “help” from Izaac while building and assembling back in December.