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Final week of medical elective!

Posted by on 9:46 am in Blog | 0 comments

Final week of medical elective!

A fascinating week in the Jinja Regional Referral Hospital, Uganda, for medical student Sarah Read- working in the chronic disease ward and a very busy emergency room.  

Today marks our last full day in Uganda, and I can’t believe how fast this past month has gone. It’s been even better than I even imagined and I have learnt so much and had so many incredible experiences that will stick with me for a long time.

This week has probably been the week I’ve found the most interesting in the hospital. I spent a couple of days on what is referred to as the chronic diseases ward – most children on this ward have sickle cell anaemia, something really common here but something I have not come across in the UK. Surprisingly, I find it really interesting and have learnt so much about it whilst here. However, the complications of sickle cell can be severe, especially somewhere like Uganda where disease management is limited. I’ve seen so many children who have had strokes due to sickle cell, in varying stages of recovery – the impact of the disease on their life is massive, both financially and physically.

Life on the wards.

I also spent more time in the emergency room where I was able to see lots of interesting cases – there seemed to be many babies with congenital problems brought in this week. It was interesting to see how congenital problems are dealt with here, particularly with regards to cardiac disease. Generally, this is associated with poorer outcomes than it would be in the UK due to only one hospital in the country offering surgical procedures for children. Most children present too late for surgery to be effective anyway. It’s interesting how the lack of antenatal care here has such a massive impact on children’s health. However, it was nice to here that mother to child HIV transmission has decreased due to improvements in obstetrics.

A very busy emergency room! Something that has shocked me is the problems with oxygen supply they have here. All oxygen comes in large cylinders, but lots of the necessary equipment to set it up is broken or held together with tape. Oxygen is only available in the emergency room and so is only available to the sickest of children.

I was also able to make it to Brownies this week where I was able to see more of the work they are doing around female empowerment and inspiring the girls to aim high and work hard. They also wrote some lovely letters for me to bring back to my Brownie unit in Liverpool – something I am really looking forward to sharing!

It’s been such an amazing four weeks it’s hard to believe we fly home tomorrow! We ended the week in hospital by giving over the medical supplies from the UK, all of which were received so gratefully. I’ve been so privileged to have this opportunity and so grateful for all the support we’ve all received from everyone. I’m so excited to share all the pictures and more stories when we are back! Thanks for all the support throughout this last month, now it’s just the flight to get through! 🙂 x

Sarah Read – 27 July 2018


100 miles! We must be mad!

Posted by on 10:47 am in Blog | 0 comments

100 miles! We must be mad!

Martin Smedley, Act4Africa chief exec, looks forward (?!) to this weekend’s 100 mile cycling challenge!

“We must be mad!” my daughter, Grace, said to me last week as it dawned on us both that neither of us had ever tried to cycle 100 miles in under 8 hours, with two challenging hill climbs (Box hill and Leith hill en route).  OK, we had successfully completed the Coast2Coast cycle ride together some years ago but that was 140 miles spread over 3 days!  We are both what I would term, fair weather, occasional cyclists rather than lean, lycra-clad athletes, and this is an altogether tougher event.

As a charity, Act4Africa has been encouraging supporters to take part in the Prudential Ride London event for the past 5 years, but this will be the first time that either of us have taken part.  So far, I have been busy getting my bike serviced with new tires and having a “bike fit” to ensure everything is ergonomically correct to make it easier to ride.  I have gone out several of times on training rides to get some miles in my legs, but poor Grace, has been experiencing a very busy schedule at work, which has limited her time for much training.

However, Sunday morning 29th July at 8am we will both be on the starting blocks in the Olympic stadium in London ready to cycle the 100-mile Olympic course out to Surrey and back to finish on the Mall.

We are doing this to raise much needed funds to fully equip Kathy’s Centre in Mayuge, Uganda. We are very proud of this community facility which arose out of my late wife Kathy’s dream to give the disadvantaged children of Uganda the best start in life with first class early years education. We have had some brilliant help along the way from the amazing Alistair Bryce Clegg at ABC Does and, last September, we opened the doors of our brand-new kindergarten to welcome twenty-five children to start their educational journey with us.

Grace and I will be pedalling all day in conditions which are forecast to be as hot as Uganda and it will make it much easier for both of us to know that each mile is contributing to raising funds for the education of another deserving child.  Thank you for your support.

Martin and Grace

Martin Smedley is chief executive and co-founder of Act4Africa and his daughter Grace Smedley has recently joined the charity as a Trustee.

You can sponsor Martin and Grace for their cycling challenge here.

End of Week 3 – Nearly Time to Come Home!

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End of Week 3 – Nearly Time to Come Home!

A week of eye opening and tough experiences in the Jinja Regional Referral Hospital for medical student, Sarah Read – grateful for just how lucky we are in the UK. 

I spent most of my time in hospital this week in both the emergency room and the malnutrition unit. Before I came to the children’s hospital, I had no idea just how much of a problem malnutrition is here – Uganda is a relatively stable and relatively prosperous African state so the extent of malnourishment seen here was such a shock.

A lot of children admitted to the hospital for other reasons are found to have some degree of malnourishment. But it’s seeing the severely malnourished children that is utterly heartbreaking. There are still children here dying through lack of food which is something that should not be happening in 2018. The death of one child on Friday hit me particularly hard – despite doing everything possible to try and save them, they were just too malnourished to survive. Despite being 18 months old they were similar in size to the 6 month old next to them and were so fragile when trying to do any sort of medical intervention. Seeing this child made me so grateful for food banks in the UK – despite the fact that no one should be desperate enough to need a food bank, having the system in place has invariably saved so many lives.

However, the malnutrition unit is also a place of optimism. Behind the building they have an area of garden where the dieticians teach and assist the parents in what to feed their children and how to grow staple foods – something I am sure makes a massive difference when the children are discharged.

After a tough week, we were able to have a nice relaxing weekend – our last in Jinja! As well as doing some souvenir shopping and going on a nice walk in Mabira Forest not too far away (including seeing some monkeys!), Beth and I decided that Sunday would be a good day to venture down the Nile and over its rapids in a rather small inflatable boat. Despite getting rather sunburnt and getting thrown out of the raft over one particularly scary rapid, we had a great time and definitely experienced a massive adrenaline rush!

It’s crazy to think that our time here in Uganda is so nearly over, and despite looking forward to coming home, I’ve had such a great time and gained so many experiences! We still have this week left in the hospital and I plan to make the most of it! Thanks for all the support and we’ll be back soon! 🙂 x

Sarah Read – 23rd July 2018