Interns visit Ugandan hospital

Interns report on visit to Uganda’s largest hospital

Save the Mothers’ executive director Dr. Jean Chamberlain Froese stopped by for a visit, when the interns accompanied Dr. Eve Nakabembe to work at Uganda’s largest hospital. Pictured above (from left) are: Dr. Jean, Jess Huston, Anne Cameron, Dr. Eve, Beka Bushby.

The classic ‘take your child to work day’ was recently put into action at Save the Mothers. Three STM interns dressed in matching scrubs reported to Uganda’s largest hospital, eager to experience a day in the life of Dr. Eve Nakabembe.

While Dr. Eve serves as the director of the Save the Mothers’ Mother Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (MBFHI), she also works full-time as a gynecologist at the largest public hospital in the country. People from all over Uganda are referred to this facility for its increased access to medically trained staff, equipment, and resources.

Dr. Eve’s territory

While the building stands six stories tall, the fourth floor is Dr. Eve’s territory. This floor houses the labor and delivery ward, the operating room, and the high dependence unit, similar to an intensive care unit used to treat mothers with specific complications after delivery. Within seconds of stepping foot into the sea of chaos, swimming with pregnant mothers, midwifes, medical students, and doctors, we were put to work! As Dr. Eve conducted rounds to assess the health status of each mother, we took their blood pressures, using a digital blood pressure machine.

Within the hour, we were geared up for surgery, led by Dr. Eve. Dressed in surgical scrubs, masks, gloves, and rubber shoes, we witnessed our first C-section of the day! A C-section is a simple, yet life-saving procedure. Many health facilities do not have access to the proper equipment and medically trained staff necessary to perform this surgery, which is a contributing factor to the high maternal mortality rates in Uganda. Thus, we watched in awe as Dr. Eve and her team successfully delivered healthy babies to mothers with obstructed uteruses and high blood pressure.

Seeing lives saved

While we had witnessed a newborn being resuscitated back to life and a critically ill mother who would have died from sepsis and kidney failure without the care of Dr. Eve, it was the last and final C-section of the day that spoke volumes to us. A young mother was expected to have twins. An ultrasound machine, which a majority of health facilities cannot afford to have access to, showed improper positioning of the twins. Thus, a C-section was recommended as the best and safest delivery method. Since this was the mothers’ 9th pregnancy, she had requested to have a tubal ligation following the C-section. This procedure is commonly known as “having your tubes tided” to prevent women from having more children.

Without access to an ultrasound machine, many mothers do not know the sex of their child until delivery. This mother was no exception. Upon Dr. Eve’s delivery of two healthy baby girls, the mother instantly retracted her tubal ligation. As Dr. Eve explained, this is a part of African culture, which still defines having a boy as superior to having a girl. Determined to have a boy, this mother was willing to put her life at risk by trying for a 10th pregnancy.

A remarkable day

Clearly, the issues of maternal mortality, reproductive health, and family planning cannot be solved at the hospital alone. Such issues are rooted in culture and require education at the community and household level. It is a true testament to the necessity and effectiveness of the Save the Mothers’ Master of Public Health Leadership program. By training health professionals to work within their own communities to change the culture surrounding women’s health issues, mothers like the one who gave birth to beautiful twin girls, will realize the power of a girl and the importance of family planning to ensure a healthy future for her and her family.

From seeing the passion and work ethic demonstrated by Dr. Eve, to the eye-opening stories of mothers that capture the potential for what a growing network of Save the Mothers’ graduates can do within East Africa, our day at Uganda’s largest hospital was truly remarkable.

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