Gail Taylor – Uganda

After months of planning and a few sleepless nights on my part, we are finally in Uganda. It feels good to be back! After the ritual unpacking and reorganizing we held a clinic for the children at Foodstep orphanage in Entebbe. Most of them received fluoride and the staff also had the opportunity to be checked out. We saw 99 patients in all. Not bad for the first afternoon. At 8am the next day the team was out setting up the clinic in the garden of Comfort Hotel. We had 5 chairs and 140 patients passed through. Nobody complained not even when the rains came in the afternoon. The next day we held a clinic for former street children in Karamojong. We saw 120 children and applied fluoride to almost all of them, along with the usual pain relief treatments. I was amazed at how most of the boys had very good teeth, a result of not having sugar and sodas when they lived on the streets. The boys were so polite and well behaved. When we finished the new brass band played some songs for us as a thank you.

The following day was tough and we saw a young boy who couldn’t walk, a 13 year old boy with oral cancer and a 90 year old lady who walked many miles to see us among many other patients who needed treatment. Day 5 was a clinic just east of Mbarara where 128 people were treated and 200 children were given OHI at a nearby school. We had a garden supper and I was asked to name a baby boy which was an incredible honour. We had 176 patients to treat the following day with six chairs in a spacious church hall. I was concerned that people wouldn’t turn up because of the bad weather but I needn’t have worried; they came in their droves.

This is the largest clinic Dentaid Uganda has held and it was amazing. Once again the team pulled out all the stops and saw all patients who reported to be suffering with pain and even some that weren’t. A queue of patients was waiting for us when we arrived at Kagarama, a brick built church on top of a hill with the most amazing views. Some people wanted us to look at their eyes and other ailments; this is not unusual. The pastor was called Gideon and he lived next to the church with this mother who was 104 years of age. On the way to Bwama island we passed Punishment Island where unmarried pregnant women were abandoned. Their only hope was being rescued by a fisherman.

The practice ended 70 years ago and now it’s a tiny island with only two dead trees and colonies of birds. The clinic on Bwama Island was held in the maternity ward where we saw 133 patients, mostly children. At the weekend the team went on a gorilla trek and had a great experience. We also saw zebra and had a wonderful swim in the lake. We travelled on to Kinoni, just south of Masaka, for a busy clinic and a large group of adults participated in an oral health session. We had great fun and a challenge was laid down to the parents to reduce the amount of sugar, especially soda, their children were consuming…let’s see! Later in the afternoon a couple of reporters came to do an interview for the paper, Bukede, highlighting the need for dental services and the work being done by Lwengo District to combat poor dental hygiene. On the last day we saw 80 patients in Malongo – it was a dark room and the torches and headlights were put to good use. The rain affected the clinic because people can’t travel from a distance during the downpours as it’s too dangerous.

During lunch speeches were given which were full of thanks and praise for the work the team had done and the service Dentaid has provided. There was just time for a stop at the equator for pictures and shopping before the team headed home. Over 12 days, 1505 patients were treated and are now pain free and 992 people have received oral health education. Everyone was exhausted but I feel immensely proud of what the team has accomplished.

Gail Taylor