NEWS FROM LACOR HOSPITAL – WINTER 2022
Lucille Teasdale was twelve when she heard a story about an orphanage in China and became enchanted by the idea of becoming a doctor.
In our deep sleep, we have no control over our dreams. They simply rise out of our semi-conscious minds. Daydreaming, however, is something we can give direction to. We can escape from reality and let fantasy take over, exploring infinite possibilities for our lives: a new job, an exciting assignment, or a distant journey. And sometimes—with courage and concrete action—we can transform our daydreams into real achievements.
Women face more challenges achieving their goals due to societal pressures that often result in guilt. It takes women a lot of courage and determination to overcome these significant challenges.
Over the years of her successful life, Lucille Teasdale became one of the first female surgeons in Quebec, devoting her life to treating the most vulnerable. At Lacor, Lucille fought for the creation of the school for nurses, which today also trains midwives and those who wish to pursue a career in health. 60% of Lacor’s staff are women, and over 55% of the patients who come to Lacor every year are women and mothers. Lucille is an exemplary model for women’s empowerment since, as the statistics show, women now play a huge role in Lacor’s reality.
In this issue, we talk about Pamella Aol Mwa, a pediatrician, and Adyero Norah, a sonographer, who both followed in Lucille’s footsteps. In the last article, the words “Apwoyo, Apwoyo!” (“Hello and thank you!”) are directed at Lacor’s staff and the donors who give generously to the hospital year after year. These words also say a lot about the strength and confidence of the mothers who bring their children to Lacor.
We would like to express our warmest wishes for a happy holiday season and a wonderful New Year.
All through her childhood, Pamella Aol Mwa daydreamed of becoming a pediatrician. Thanks to her dedication, and to the commitment of support from two key foundations, Pamella specialized in pediatrics at the Makerere University School of Medicine.
Pamella was twenty-six years old when she decided to return to school to study medicine. The fifth daughter of a large family in northern Uganda, she had worked a couple of years running a mobile clinic in a refugee camp. She recalls: “After seeing so many sick children and realizing that I was not able to help them as I should, I decided to go back to school.”
Since then, Pamella has worked assiduously in pediatrics; the opportunity to pursue the specialization was presented thanks to the arrangement between the Corti Foundation and the Maria Bonino Foundation, named after the pediatrician who dedicated her heart and soul to the most fragile in Africa. Towards the end of her life, Maria Bonino also worked in the pediatrics department of Lacor Hospital.
“Working in the Pediatrics Department of Lacor, I was convinced that this was my place,” explains Pamella. “Seeing the relief on a mother’s face when her child improves, or that of a child who, the day before, was very sick and today smiles at you, is a priceless satisfaction. And now that I’m done with my studies, I hope to help Lacor continue to serve my community.”
Pamella’s thesis focused on pulmonology in children suffering from sickle cell anemia, a disease widespread especially in northern Uganda. According to the Ministry of Health, more than 30,000 Ugandan children are born with sickle cell anemia every year; eight out of ten die by their fifth year of life. For others, the disease is debilitating and very painful. Unfortunately, the only possibility for these children is to try to improve their quality of life by keeping symptoms and pain at bay.
At Lacor’s dedicated clinic, about two thousand patients with sickle cell anemia are treated every year.
With her experience and expertise, Pamella brings not only much-needed medical care to Lacor, but also a chance for new dreams. Let us hope that Pamella’s involvement with Lacor’s Pediatrics Department, and the knowledge she brings from her medical research, will help improve the lives of these children.
Adyero Norah is a sonographer at Lacor Hospital. She studied for four years to obtain both the certificate and a diploma in obstetrics; she then completed her training to learn how to perform ultrasounds.
Attention to the prenatal path is increasing more and more. Thanks to the widespread work of midwives who go to the most remote villages to explain to women the importance of check-ups during pregnancy and giving birth in the hospital, the number of prenatal visits performed at Lacor and its three peripheral health centers has increased.
“I have been working at Lacor since 2009,” Norah says. “I like the environment—it’s a very active hospital where there’s always a lot to do.” Her goals? Improve her expertise in order to perform other types of ultrasounds, a skill that is so needed in the hospital. “It’s an area that interests me a lot,” she explains. “And I think it could be useful because there are still so few sonographers for the large number of patients who come to Lacor.”
Norah sees an average of thirty expectant mothers every day; she performs control ultrasounds to verify that a pregnancy is proceeding safely and the baby is growing well, verifies that there are no abnormalities of the amniotic fluid or placenta, and makes sure that all measurable parameters are normal. Hemorrhages, hypertension in pregnancy, and infections are among the most frequent causes of complications in pregnancy. And preventing these complications often depends on the early detection Norah offers with her ultrasounds.
Norah’s work helps reduce Uganda’s high maternal mortality rate, which is still one of the highest in the world. Last March, the Ugandan Statistics Office reported that in 2021, the maternal mortality rate was 368 mothers per 100,000 births—a figure still very far from the global average of 152 maternal deaths per 100,000 births.
The reason for Uganda’s high rate is found in the delays in seeking treatment and in reaching a health center. It is fundamental for health care workers and community leaders to reach women and to convince them of the importance of health care visits, ultrasounds, and prenatal check-ups.
There is still a long way to go, but Norah believes that supporting pregnant women with education and offering them prenatal services like regular ultrasounds exams will make a difference.
Lacor Hospital has adopted various solutions to reduce waste and the consumption of resources. Here are a few of those solutions.
Improved stoves: The hospital’s kitchens, where lunches for patients and students get prepared, are equipped with stoves using improved wood (no charcoal). The wood is able to
Lacor’s Pediatrics Department and the maternity ward reflect Africa’s tears, but also its bright smiles.
Tears: The room for children’s chemotherapy treatment is almost full. Many have a life-saving red drip connected to their arms. Blood is more precious than gold. Meanwhile, seven-year-old Martin has contracted malaria. His mother is anxious while they wait for Martin’s hemoglobin bag from the lab. The malaria parasite destroys red blood cells and the only solution is a transfusion, but it is not easy to get blood. The nurses ask relatives for donations; the future midwives or students from Lacor’s schools are called to the rescue, even in the middle of the night.
Another challenge is the distance between some villages and the hospital. Some patients come from villages 150 kilometers away. For example, Alan, who recovered from cancer a year ago, had to return to Lacor to check that his lymphoma was just a bad memory. Nurse Clare went to pick him up at Apac village after driving three hours by jeep on the red earthy roads. Clare spoke with his mother and the village elder, and arranged for the cost of transportation. The next day, Alan was admitted at Lacor. If everything goes well, he will be able to return to his village soon.
Smiles: Behind the glass of a packed maternity room, a father is touched by a loving sight: the tenderness with which a new mother—his wife—breastfeeds their baby. The little boy cries desperately and, when he sees his father, a stranger, he screams even louder. All of the maternity patients and nurses try to distract the baby, but the screams just increase. The mothers laugh loudly at the infant’s tenacity—a sign of life and health.
“Apwoyo, Apwoyo!” they cry, jubilant: “Hello, and thank you!” From the bottom of their hearts, they send their gratitude for your continued interest and support for our mission.