NEWS FROM LACOR HOSPITAL – FALL 2019
Sixty years ago, a handful of Comboni Catholic nuns set up a small hospital in the heart of northern Uganda; today it is one of the biggest non-profit medical centres in Equatorial Africa. Did you know that sixty years is also the average life expectancy in Uganda? Lacor Hospital is as old as the wise men and women of its homeland, and wisdom grows with each day’s experience.
Its longevity is an achievement that makes us all feel very proud, and at the same time heightens our awareness of the huge challenge facing Lacor and its staff. Our aim is to keep building on the solid groundwork established by Lacor’s founders.
Each year, almost 250,000 people enter the hospital’s gates in search of health and a hope for life. They come here to receive treatment, give birth, or have surgery that will allow them to continue working for their children, the community, and the whole country. Health means development: this is always true, but now more than ever before. For sixty years, Lacor has been supporting all these possibilities, yet it does so far from the spotlight.
In this issue, you will get an intimate glimpse of the life Lucille Teasdale and Piero Corti led in their own home, which was built on the hospital compound. We will also share news about the hospital’s most recent achievements.
Happy Birthday, Lacor Hospital, and many happy returns.
The Teasdale-Corti Team
Together, married couple Lucille Teasdale and Piero Corti spent over thirty-five years developing Lacor Hospital into the formidable healthcare facility it is today. During their long residence in Uganda, Lucille and Piero lived in a 1950s-era pavilion, which initially housed the first Italian nuns who worked in Gulu. After Lucille and Piero passed away, it was bequeathed to their daughter, Dominique, who stays at the house for three to four visits each year. It is also used as a guesthouse for Lacor’s donors and other special guests.
Surrounded by magnificent trees, the house is divided into two parts. Back in the day, the largest part of the home was occupied by the Teasdale-Cortis, and the second part by Bruno Corrado and his wife Valeria. Bruno was an Italian doctor who also acted as a director of the hospital. The house has two entries.
Bright and spacious, the interior walls are lined with bookshelves stacked with many English detective stories and Italian classics. Next to one of the shelves is a huge shell about the size of an umbrella stand, in which are fixed spears of Karamoja warriors. On the walls hang African paintings—mostly brightly coloured walking scenes from a trip to Zaïre—and hunting trophies. Below the paintings stand a series of large bullet casings fired from tanks during various wars, such as the Tanzanian war against Idi Amin. There was a time when Uganda was full of these casings, which local nuns often used as flower vases. In the Teasdale-Corti home, the casings hold the gifts from several patients: arrows, spears, knives, and sheaths.
The house is very clean. While the Teasdale-Cortis lived there, three servants would take turns washing the floors, doing laundry, and cooking. The couple would eat mostly Italian food; nuns had taught the staff to make pasta, rabbit, and other dishes the family enjoyed. However, there was always Canadian maple syrup, corn flakes, and grenache caramel on the breakfast table.
Lucille did not cook much in her life—and she was delighted about it. She did not start cooking until she was 64 years old, when her illness forced her home. Her specialty became torrone ice cream (Italian nougat) and maple syrup, which would make her laugh.
The entrance hall, featuring a large bay window and colourful curtains in the style of the sixties, served as a living room—a space where colleagues would join the family to listen to the BBC’s World Service and relax after a long day of work—Piero would enjoy a glass of whiskey, while Lucille preferred John Collins gin. This part of the house was originally left open to the outdoors, as was customary in the region. But the Teasdale-Cortis eventually installed glass windows, as the numerous tropical rainstorms and strong winds threatened to damage the interior.
Two couches are aligned along the left wall. On the shelves to the right, a television set can screen video tapes (since it was impossible to capture a cable in northern Uganda) next to wooden carvings, an Inuit sculpture, ostrich eggs, shells and a Buddha brought back from Thailand. Family photos rest in frames on several surfaces around the room. The coffee tables are stilted elephant legs. On one wall hangs an ebony crucifix. With this diverse collection, a sense of home comes from the combination of objects from around the world.
Dominique’s bedroom was on the far left. It is a small room with many books, including books written by the Countess of Ségur, and other classics: Tintin, Astérix, and Anne Frank. Piero and Lucille also enjoyed reading novels, essays, and Catholic or medical journals; they were subscribers to Time and the New England Journal, which allowed them to follow the latest developments in medicine. They also had a stereo, including a CD player. Lucille was very fond of Albinoni’s Adagio for Strings, Yves Montand, and Edith Piaf. In fact, when Lucille broke her leg in 1994, she dragged herself into the house on her crutches, singing aloud: “Non, rien de rien. Non, je ne regrette rien…” It was a moment of optimism and energy that so defined her character, as well as the feeling that still pervades the house today.
At Lacor, 900 students sing their loyalty to their mission every morning. I’m proud to be a nurse: these are the first words of the students’ anthem. Tenacious, determined, and passionate, they want to study so they can serve their people. And every morning, 700 medical staff go to work in service of the poorest, most vulnerable people of the Gulu region of Uganda: women, children, the elderly, the chronically sick, and the disabled. The devotion of the students and staff at Lacor mirrors the reason for which it was founded and why it continues to operate, day after day, sixty years later.
And there is much to sing about: almost 250,000 people benefitted from the services provided by Lacor Hospital and its three peripheral health centres during the 2017-2018 fiscal year. Good health is a gift of inestimable value, one that carries the possibility of having a future.
Compared with last year, even more women and mothers—almost 130,000 of them—placed their trust in Lacor Hospital’s staff. Thanks to the midwifes, nurses, and doctors, approximately 8,500 babies were born in the hospital’s maternity ward and in the three health centres. Lacor’s operating theatres performed almost 1,600 caesarean sections: an impressive figure. The number of patients under six-years-old has fallen compared to last year. This is good news: it means that the battle against malaria is paying off, largely thanks to the decision by government authorities in Gulu and in the surrounding districts to resume the indoor insecticide spraying campaigns in homes.
We are very grateful to all our donors for your continued contributions. It is because of your support that Lacor has been able to continue its good work for so many years.