Vocational training team is all heart in Uganda
Top: Members of the Rotary vocational training team and Ugandan medical team gather around Jemimah during her recovery from corrective heart surgery. Bottom: After surgery, Fatumah gives a big smile to Rob Raylman, coordinator for Gift of Life International. Photos by Salim Najjar
A vocational training team specialized in pediatric heart surgery made a profound difference in the quality of life for 11 young people in Uganda in October.
Organized by Rotary International districts 6560 (Indiana, USA) and 9200 (Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda), the 12-member team from Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis, Indiana, performed the life-saving procedures at the Uganda Heart Institute at Mulago Hospital in Kampala.
The team also spent several days monitoring their patients’ recovery. After Dr. Mark Turrentine operated on 19-year-old Onesmus to correct serious congenital heart abnormalities, he asked the youth, “What do you want to do with your life?”
“I want to help people like you do,” Onesmus said. “I want to be a doctor, if that’s what God decides for me.”
The team also shared their skills with their counterparts at the institute.
“We taught the physicians, nurses, and operating room staff not only surgical and operating room techniques, but postoperative medical care of children with congenital heart defects as well,” says Dr. Stephanie Kinnaman, team leader and a member of the Rotary Club of Greenfield.
This was the Riley Hospital team’s third mission as part of an initiative called Our Hearts Are in Uganda to improve care for kids with congenital heart defects. The initiative was launched by the Gift of Life Foundation and Rotary International in 2008 and is designed to continue until 2014, when it is turned over to the Uganda Heart Institute.
A US$33,094 global grant, sponsored by the Rotary clubs of Makindye, Uganda, and Greenfield, Indiana, partially funded the vocational training team’s mission, which addressed the maternal and child health area of focus under The Rotary Foundation’s Future Vision Plan and the RI Strategic Plan.
“It is so amazing to me that I saw 11 miracles made possible by 12 very talented and dedicated professionals,” says District 6560 Governor Salim Najjar, who accompanied the team at his own expense and recorded its achievements with photos and videos. “I saw firsthand another dimension of our Rotary contributions at work in saving young lives.”
Past District 6560 Governor Jim Graham played a pivotal role in making the team’s accomplishments possible by completing the global grant application and organizing his district’s support for the effort.
The Rotary Club of Makindye aided the team’s work by transporting members to and from the hospital, providing meals, and assisting with other needs, along with including them in club functions. Grace Agwaru, of the Rotary Club of Soroti Central -- the first person to receive heart surgery through Gift of Life in 1975 -- was also instrumental in helping coordinate the team’s visit.
In September, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni sent a message to the Zone 20A Rotary Institute held in Kampala, commending Rotarians for their support of the Uganda Heart Institute. The heart institute was established with Rotarians’ help in 1988 while RI Director Samuel Owori was governor of District 9200. Owori now serves as a director on the heart institute’s board.
In addition, Museveni lauded Rotarians for their role in preventing diseases such as polio and malaria in Uganda, and progress in literacy, safe water, sanitation, and nutrition, goals also targeted by the Future Vision Plan.
“The contribution of Rotary is visible in Uganda,” Owori says. “By networking in the community, we are well known on the ground for health and other projects, and the government appreciates our role.”