Saving eyesight together in Kampala
With great joy, I returned to the Mengo hospital in Kampala, Uganda for another week of voluntary training in eye surgery. It was here during my first stay in October 2016 where I could support the great local team performing some complicated procedures. At the same time, I could help Dr. Ludo, the eye specialist at the hospital in Kampala with macular surgery.
Still in Austria, I could solicit from my colleagues several surgical instruments as donations, which I brought to the Mengo hospital. Also, I was able to arrange for a retinal laser on loan to be used during my stay. Fortunately, I had found out in time that the Mengo hospital still does not have such a device yet. Using this laser, the detachment of the retina and resulting blindness of the patients can be prevented. As a result, it facilitates the necessary surgical care significantly.
When I arrived at the clinic, Dr. Ludo, the other doctors, and the nursing staff welcomed me warmly. Some of them were already working here during my last stay, and I was delighted to meet them again.
Dr. Ludo wants gradually to retire from the hospital, so one of my most important tasks in the next few days would be to train the young specialist, Dr. Dan as her successor in retinal surgery.
Monday morning, we started and selected ten patients for surgery. Since this time, my visit had been announced much longer in advance, the planning of the local team worked perfectly, and we could start our work without any major loss of time.
As always, I thoroughly examined the patients before surgery. Unfortunately, we found one patient with high blood pressure, which could not be controlled even with medication. Because an operation under such a circumstance is far too risky, I had to cancel his surgery.
Most cases are very delicate because many are already totally blind in one eye and can see only very poorly with the remaining eye. This is why it is particularly important to preserve the eyesight of the remaining eye. Therefore, I performed the majority of the surgical procedures myself, but with the alternating assistance by Dr. Ludo and Dr. Dan, who thereby could advance their knowledge.
From Tuesday to Friday we conducted the surgeries all day long which was very strenuous for all of us, but also a very enriching experience. During this time, we also deepened our personal contact and had a lot of fun together.
In the operating room of the Mengo hospital, conditions are rather unusual for us. During my first stay, I had experienced these already, but in the meantime almost forgotten about them.
The equipment had been considerably improved since my first stay, and my back was very grateful for the better chairs for the surgeon. They offer much better comfort during lengthy surgeries and cause less fatigue.
For patients, the new ergonomic operating chair is a great improvement, because, during the surgery, patients are less uncomfortable than before. Unfortunately, I could see this new chair only from a distance because for reasons unknown to me they were used just for cataract surgeries which don’t last very long. But who knows, maybe there will be a surprise next time.
Although the two doctors mainly assisted me during the procedures, the feedback was very positive. We discussed in detail individual cases and the surgical options during and after the surgery. I noticed with joy that the “Teaching Effect” was substantial.
Together we were able to successfully treat some very severe cases and save people from total blindness:
Four patients came with retinal detachments respectively recurring retinal detachments. We were able to successfully treat these patients with vitrectomy, laser and subsequent tamponade.
One patient had a severe diabetic tractional retinal detachment of the center, two patients had macular holes, and one patient had a persistent vitreous hemorrhage and possible retinal defect following a trauma.
The case of one patient was particularly dramatic. While working with a hammer and chisel, he got injured with a perforation of his bulbous and a fairly large intraocular foreign body. Fortunately, we were able to remove it successfully and could save his eye.
Still during my stay, I was able to get initial feedback from our patients during the follow-up, and I am very proud that the results were very nice. I will follow their postoperative development from a distance because I then can address any further upcoming questions and can continue to observe the recovery process.
After completing this exhausting but rewarding stay, I was especially pleased when I was asked to continue to act as a “Mentor on a Regularly Basis”. The medical achievements, as well as the personal contact with colleagues and patients, make me proud and I am pleased that I could help with my feedback and my assistance with some severe cases to save precious eyesight.