Medicine for Humanity in Uganda

November 18, 2017 Blog Post

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Every September  UCLA doctors, nurses, and volunteers with Medicine for Humanity (MFH) travel to Mbarara,Uganda, for a two week medical-surgical “camp” where they perform life-changing fistula surgery on women in need.  Dr. Chris Tarney, UCLA’s Chief in Female Pelvic Medicine, shares his extensive knowledge of the latest procedures with doctors who travel many miles to learn from him at Mbarara University of Science and Technology, a teaching hospital in Southwest Uganda.

According to Dr. Tarney:  The healthcare situation for women and infants in Uganda is dire.  As a result nearly 2,000 women each year in Uganda develop an obstetrical fistula, a devastating injury to the birth canal causing constant urinary or fecal soiling. It is currently estimated that 200,000 Ugandan women are still living and suffering from this condition. Many factors contributed to our decision to refocus Medicine for Humanity’s work to just one country.  Our current goal is to reduce the societal burden of fistula in this part of the world.  We offer a surgical cure one woman at a time.  We provide surgery, transportation, housing food, medical support, and postoperative care free of charge.  More importantly we are building capacity, through our medical training we can have a larger impact on a new generation of Ugandan doctors.

This is the third year Dollies Making A Difference has sent Dollies and Teddy Bears with Dr. Tarney and his group. Pooja Parameshwar is a medical student at UCLA who traveled this year to Uganda and shares these reflections:

“This year, we had two pediatric patients. One of the girls had to have a procedure done under anesthesia, and all of us on the MFH team saw the impact that her dollie had on her sense of wellbeing and comfort during the procedure. It was surreal to see her laughing in the Operating Room as we showed her her dollie’s heart, as she pointed to her own. One of the nurses on our team, Anna, put a little piece of tape on the dollie’s hand to mimic the piece of tape that the patient had on her own hand for her IV. 

For the past three years, I have witnessed these beautiful gifts of your one-of-a-kind Dollies and Teddy Bears bring about such a universal joy. Each year that I have served as a Dollie Ambassador, I have seen the dollies take on such immense meaning and hope. Seeing the kids so immediately form a bond with their new companion reminds me of the childhood innocence and joy that every child should experience. These kids have been through a lot, as have their moms, and it is with the fullest heart that I am writing to you to express my gratitude on behalf of them. We are incredibly grateful for all that the ladies of Dollies Making A Difference done to support and so meaningfully impact our work in Uganda.”
Shelley O’Connor is the executive director of MFH.  She says the children love to wrap their Dollies onto their back to carry them around, just like their mothers carry them! THANK YOU to the many ladies who crochet these beautiful Dollie blankets for us.