Our Visit to CURE Children’s Hospital

as beruruia wrote in her general outline post, we visited CURE children’s hospital on tues afternoon.  CURE is a pediatric neurosurgery center which specializes in treating babies with hydrocephalis, spinal bifida (spelling?), brain tumors and cleft lip / palettes.   basically all different kinds of physcial deformities.  we heard abt the hospital from our friend michal gross, who stayed with us in Putti last shabbat and is a medical student volunteering in a hospital western uganda fo the summer.  last week, she took a patient to CURE to treat hydrocephalis.  my friend shaanan meyerstein also told us abt the hosptial as a good place to go in case of a medical emergency, god forbid.

anyway, we showed up at CURE around 1:15 in the afternoon and went to speak to the front desk receptionist.  she told us someone would come around to give us a tour in a little bit.  while we waited, we all took advantage of the bathroom with running water.  a real luxury for us.   after a few minutes, collin, our guide, came to meet us.  collin is a social worker in the hosptial.  the hospital focuses on both medical and spiritual healing since many of  the children who go to CURE for treatment have been shunned by their communities fort heir physical deformities.  so the social workers and spiritual workers spend a lot of time counseling the brave mothers who bring their children to CURE.

our extremely thorough tour started at the out-patient clinic.  we saw where intial intake is done, basically lots of information gathering (medical history, psychological history, etc).  then we went to see tge biochemistry adn microbiology labs.  an eager lab attendant showed us every single machine in both labs, from specimen collection to blood testing to blood storage.  it was amazing how mcuh time he took to explain everthing to us.  that would never happen in the US.  from the labs we continued to the X-ray room, and then one of the most incredible machines in the hospital, the CT scan.  i was pleased to see that USAID had donated the equipment.  nice to see US foreign aid in such a tangible way.  the CT scan is the only operating one currently in eastern uganda.  apparently  the machine in kamapala is out of order now.  so crazy.  afterwards we tried to estimate how many CT scans there are in NYC alone, but its an unfair comparison.

from there we continued onto the pediatric ward.  again, something that would never happen in the states: collin showed us what kind of patients were currently in the ward (all babies recovering from surgery for hydrocephalis, resting with their mothers).  he asked the nurse if she had any spinal bifida patients to show us (show and tell), but she said they didnt have any at the moment.    we also went into the ICU.  saw 2 babies recovering from surgeries.  the nurses were super friendly and told us to come back again adn volunteer.  i totally want to but we dont have enough time.

then wnet to meet with the spiritual director of the hospital.  bru will have to write more abt that later b/c the internet is super slow now and making me crazy.

last stop was the operating room.  dont worry, they didnt take us into the actual operating room, only the entrarnce area and post-op area.  but we could have gone in.  the nurse in charge was like, “you know you can’t go into the operating room…in those clothes.”  so we could have changed into scrubs and gone in, but we opted out.

ok the internt is too slow, but so much moret o write.  bru will have to finish this post another time.  time to head back to putti for shabbat.

Some additions from Bru as promised by Mindels:

First of all, when Mindy says she was being driven crazy by the slowness of the internet–well we have photographic documentation of this.  Internet is okay, but Picasa is slow, so that will have to wait too.

Anyway, Mindy said I would write some more about CURE, and so I will:

Like many places in Uganda, the hospital staff was incredibly welcoming.  Unlike most places in Uganda though, this is a hospital and so not necessarily a place we would expect to welcome us with open arms to come see every aspect of the institution.  But they did, and we appreciate it a lot.

When we got there, they told us a bit about the hospital.  It’s a special place for a lot of reasons, but two are that

–it’s a religious hospital and has a strong emphasis on spiritual (Christian) healing.  They want every patient (and patient’s family) to leave healed both medically and spiritually.  This is crucial in these areas, because families usually come from villages where they are told that the baby is a demon brought because the woman is cursed.  Because of these beliefs, mothers are often ostracized and encouraged to kill their babies.  CURE is a hospital in that it is a center for medical healing, but spiritual guidance is crucial to their vision.  Instead of beliefs that blame and literally demonize patients and their families, CURE tells families medical facts about the illnesses, and promotes beliefs in a God that loves them.  This is certainly a form of missionizing, but it also saves lives–holistic lives.  The spiritual emphasis resonated with me so strongly, even though my religious beliefs clearly differ drastically.  And I also am ambivalent about the potential imperialistic undertones of missionizing, but in this context, it seems to do such powerful positive work.

–The other special thing that I wanted to highlight is the care CURE gives to the whole family of the patient.  In addition to the spiritual healing for family members, CURE also takes care of daily logistical needs, such as doing laundry for the families, feeding family members, providing beds for them to stay at the hospital.  CURE also teaches the women beading while their kids play in the playroom so that they have a craft they can use to support themselves.  They sell some of these necklaces in the hospital, and proceeds go to the hospital.

Anyway, I’ll tell about the rest of the tour, which was mostly focused on the spiritual healing component:

After we saw the labs and CT and social work room and wards and ICU, Colin, the social worker who took us around, showed us the room where they have prayer each morning.  On some days, they just have prayer.  Other days, they also read from the Bible and/or have preaching.  On the blackboard, a song about belief in Jesus was written, as was another song in Luganda.  A traditional drum lay on the floor between some chairs.  Colin told us that families of patients are also welcome for prayers and sometimes come.

After that, we saw the playroom, which is also part of the spiritual center, and so has much about Jesus and faith written on the walls and door.  Here is where the mothers’ beading was displayed.

Next was what was my favorite part of the tour.  We got to speak to Sister Miriam, the head of the spiritual side of things.  She asked us for questions, and this is when she told us about how these children are seen as curses in their home villages.  The spiritual side is separate from the social work side, but they have some overlapping functions.  The first woman who introduced the hospital to us, Harriet,

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