It’s hard to find where to begin when trying to describe the magnitude of the profoundly life-changing experience that was the PNSO Uganda 2016 trip. It took no more than a few minutes off the plane to realize what the theme of the trip (and, I would imagine, many trips to Africa) would be: ‘roll with it.’ Getting to baggage claim and realizing that two surgery bags filled with surgery supplies had gone missing set the tone. We had lost surgery bags, we had nights where technical difficulties made it impossible to clean instruments, we had three hundred people waiting in the Uganda heat in June to get seen with only four or five medical students to screen.
But there couldn’t have been a team more ready to roll with it than this group. Losing our bags could’ve been substantially more detrimental to the team’s operations if our local guides, Michael and Ronnie, were not as helpful and accommodating as they were. Profoundly long days were filled with a line of people ready to tap in for whoever needed a break. People would pile up dinner plates to run back to the recovery room for anyone staying late with their patients. Every extra step taken, every collaborative move, was returned tenfold in gratitude from the patients that came from all over the island to be seen by US doctors. Even with the language barrier, the non-verbal communication said it all. The overwhelming hand and arm squeezes from the mothers of young boys having hernias fixed, the enormous smile and look of relief with a “thumbs up” after a successful post-op catheter was placed- these small moments made the trip and served as a reminder to each and every one of us what this week meant to the Bussi Island community.
On a personal note, I would add that there have been few moments in my life that left me as wide-eyed and exhilarated about my future as I routinely felt throughout this trip. As a fresh out of first year medical student, I could never have imagined getting the exposure and opportunity to learn, connect, and dive in quite as hands-on as this experience allows. I am so deeply grateful to PNSO for what it has given me, and what it continues to give the world.