An ounce of Prevention
The ‘heart’ in healthcare
by Ally Cirenza
Jan 11, 2018 | 689 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Imagine bumping along an unpaved road in the middle of Uganda. You are about a six-hour drive from the nearest city. The taxi van you’re in has a cracked windshield and painted in large letters on the side is “Maximum Capacity: 12.” However, you’ve counted 17 adults, two children, and six live hens squashed into this van. The rain is pouring down and you can feel the van slipping and sliding on the mud road. You are on trek to a tiny village called Bududa. There is a medical clinic in this village that normally sees around 70 to 120 patients a day. The clinic has a laboratory where patients are tested for malaria, HIV, and other common sexually transmitted infections. There is a wound-care room and a maternity ward where there is a single birthing bed.

Day-to-day life in Bududa is relatively rudimentary compared to other communities around the globe, but the issues that affect its residents are far from simple, and more similar to Moab than you may think. In Bududa, deep-rooted health issues affect the lives of families. Some young people struggle with substance abuse. There are couples that deal with infidelity and domestic violence. Some families wonder where next month’s food money will come from and don’t even have the energy to think about how to pay for prescriptions. There are elderly people still working to support their family, but their bodies are failing them. Here, you can begin to see the similarities between this tiny village in Africa and our rural town of Moab because you may see the same health issues. But, these aren’t rural town issues — they’re human issues. This is an important distinction.

There are many interesting activities that I saw in that medical clinic in Bududa. Mike, a nurse, cared for 10-year-old Fred by redressing his thumb wound every day. Fred cut his thumb off while chopping bananas from the stalk with a machete two weeks prior. This injury was traumatic for Fred, but he still visited the clinic every day with enthusiasm, and stuck around for hours after just to spend time with Mike. A common tribal ceremony involves the circumcision of 16- to 18-year-old men, where the act is traditionally carried out on a mountaintop in the region. Now, many circumcisions are performed in front of the medical clinic because the families know that if something goes wrong, the young men will be taken care of quickly.

Sarah, a midwife, carries out obstetric care for the expecting mothers. Sarah is extremely knowledgeable and professional, but she also cares for the mothers like they were her own family. Musa, the clinic’s social worker, finds challenges in counseling his HIV-positive patients and fighting the stigma associated with the disease. In response, Musa founded an HIV-positive post-test club. Members not only receive support in managing their disease, but also have opportunities to improve their entrepreneurial skills, communication skills and relationship-building skills. In Bududa the clinic is greatly intertwined with the outlying community. It is quite a beautiful phenomenon to witness.

On the surface level, the medical clinic was serving the needs of their patients, but more importantly they were attending to their neighbors and family members. This is where I see the parallels with Moab. You may be thinking, “Machetes? Tribal ceremonies? Widespread HIV? Africa has nothing to do with Moab.” You are right! What I see every day is the same kind dedication from community members in Moab as there is in Bududa. For example, at Moab Regional Hospital, a clinical social worker is implementing group therapy for patients suffering from substance abuse and addiction. Some parents have approached the hospital because they want to have their teenagers participate in deep discussions about sexual health. The hospital brought in experts to hold education sessions for teens at the hospital. I also see the labor and delivery nurses work tirelessly to ensure expecting mothers have the knowledge they need for childbirth by offering orientations, educational sessions and breastfeeding classes. In addition, I’ve seen that the business office director at the hospital meets with patients daily to assist them with pursuing financial aid.

What makes all of this so special is that the people working on these hospital programs do it all because they care about the community in Moab. They are working to help their neighbors and family members be healthier.

I came to Moab because of an AmeriCorps position at Moab Regional Hospital that began less than a year after my fellowship in Uganda. The road that leads into Moab from Salt Lake City is quite different from the road that leads into Bududa; here in America, we have access to medical technologies that they don’t in Africa, so there are differences in healthcare delivery. However, in my position at the hospital, I have seen the genuine compassion, devotion, and heart that people have for this community — and I must say — it is equally as beautiful and important here as it is in Bududa.

Ally Cirenza is a Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) representative at the Moab Regional Hospital. She can be reached at 435-719-3500.

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