Birthday Fundraiser

Sunday, August 2, 2009

My Permanent Souvenir

Written Friday, July 31 – Sunday, August 2

I now have one fewer body part than I did when I arrived. Unfortunately, I lost a finger holding a stick of sugar cane while someone chopped it with a machete.

Kidding. (But the above is something I fear.)

Actually, the missing body part is my appendix. My body decided that while I was half way across the world was an appropriate time to come down with appendicitis. After two days and nights spent in a nearby clinic, I am back home (my Kampala home) with a scar and a story.

The symptoms were stomach pain and a fever. Convinced that I had a parasite (delightful, I know), I popped into the clinic around 10:30 am Tuesday to get checked out. Thought it would take ten minutes and I would go to work afterwards. Imagine my surprise when nine hours later, I was not only still there (I did get a lunch break) but informed I’d be staying the night to be monitored. The doctor suspected appendicitis, but was very hesitant to send me into unnecessary surgery. It felt like an episode of House; I’d never been the subject of such a thorough medical investigation. Around 10:00 pm he made the call and I was transferred by ambulance to another clinic for my first real operation. It seemed pretty surreal at the time. An appendectomy in Uganda. …And I intended to pop in for 10 minutes!

Random note about the ambulance: I had to laugh at the fact that literally the day before this, as Jo and I watched an ambulance attempt to “rush” through the congested streets of Kampala, I commented that I would hate to need an ambulance in Kampala. And the next day… I find myself in an ambulance in Kampala. Granted, this was not an extreme emergency, there were no sirens, and the streets we took were not busy at that time. But still…

Jo has been my personal angel during the whole thing. She has been my mother, my maid, my counselor, and my physical therapist and has barely left my side from the time I entered the clinic until now. She has been the liaison with my parents and with the other AIESECers and interns. The poor girl didn’t sleep the night of surgery and dealt with all my complaints. A gold star (or two) for Jo!!

All week (pre surgery) I’d been insisting on attending the last week of work and had to constantly be convinced by Mommy Jo not to. Unfortunately I missed a full week with the NGO and three out of four days teaching at my school. It was, however, really important to me not to miss the finale of our project called “Come and Ask Day.” This was a chance for the kids from each of our schools to showcase what they learned over two months. I had set the final week aside to plan and practice with my kids but I unfortunately had to relinquish most control to my substitute, Isaac.

Despite the speculation, I did make it to the ceremony. I was released from the clinic Friday morning and was at the school that afternoon. It was so nice seeing my kids again. I showed up a bit late and when I walked in I spotted my group and caught the relieved expressions on their faces. Made me really happy. I saw one kid (my favorite… don’t tell anyone) sort of throw his hands in the air and thank God. He was set to make a speech during the ceremony and told me afterwards that he could not have possibly made it without me there. Aaww!!

Now that the project is over, I can say that it was so wonderful working with these kids for two months. The group wittled down to just about ten kids by the end. But I feel like I really got to know them. They were all really appreciative of the class and let me know ho much they enjoyed it. They all expressed their sadness that I would be leaving them to go back the US so soon. Despite all the challenges we faced, this made the project very worthwhile. And they tried to get me to stay home…

The principal deserves a word, too. He has been just spectacular during my entire stay. Making sure I don’t miss any of Uganda’s greatest attractions, making me feel comfortable in his school, inviting me to lunch with his family, and being very cooperative when I asked the school to host Come and Ask Day. Not to mention that after my surgery, he was the very first to visit me with bananas and apple juice. He also arranged to have me picked up in a car so I could to come to the ceremony (since taxis and bodas are out of the question at the moment).

I don’t remember if I had mentioned my proposed trip to Nairobi or not. Anyway, our proposal turned to reality early this week when Jo and I purchased round trip tickets and our visas. And then crumbled (for me at least) when I cancelled my trip Friday. I debated but realized that I had a lot of reasons not to go. I’m now certain I made the right choice. Just gives me another reason to return to Africa. After a debate of her own, Jo is still going. We have accumulated lots of contacts there during the planning process, so she should be set with people to stay with and show her around.

While Jo is away, I will have plenty of support. Everyone has been super in terms of visiting me in the clinic and now at home. The AIESECers and interns. My Uganda family. The guys from work. The principal. Makes the healing process much easier.

Before ending, I’d like to give a shout out to my lucky stars. My illness was smacked right in between a trip to rural Kumi and a plane ride to Nairobi (flying and inflamed appendices don’t’ mix). If it had to happen it Uganda, this was the time.

So, I’ve left a little piece of me in Uganda. Some leave their hearts; I’ve left my appendix. And Uganda’s left its mark on me on the form of a scar. A permanent souvenir.

Home in exactly one week! (sad, exciting, scary…)

Much love,