Founder and CEO of Project Hope for Ugandan Women, Sharon Royl, in Uganda
The bright blue sky hugged emerald trees as I traveled down rough dirt roads lined with mudstone buildings. The locals were going about their daily life: walking along on the road’s edge being shared with cows, chickens, goats, motorcycles and bicycles. The day was just beginning, but it was already busy in the Busia District of Uganda.
I was in the car with Dr. Sam Wafula, Director of Bronze Medical Center, and my husband Robert Royl, the Chief Medical Officer for Project Hope for Ugandan Women (PHFUW). We were riding through the busy roads searching for a woman named Patricia and her husband. Patricia had come to the Bronze Medical Center the day before bleeding and in terrible pain. An ultra sound showed she was retaining parts of conception after a partial miscarriage. We needed to get her to the government hospital so she could have a Manual Vacuuming Extraction (MVE) to save her life.
After a brief search, we finally located Patricia and her husband. She was clinging to him and could barely walk. Robert immediately jumped out of the jeep to assist them. I sat in the back of jeep paralyzed with fear. I have no medical training, and I had no idea how far we were from the hospital. I only knew that this woman needed immediate medical attention.
I held her tight as we traveled down the rough roads, hitting one unavoidable pot hole after the other. Her skin was so hot it felt like it was burning mine. Her entire body was trembling from pain. Her heavy breathing and trembling continued on and off for the entire 20-minute ride to the hospital. I held her and whispered in her ear, “It’s going to be OK. You are going to be OK.” But honestly, I didn’t know if that was true.
As soon as we arrived at the government hospital, Sam called in and coordinated with the staff inside as Robert took her vital signs. Robert and Patricia’s husband then locked arms around Patricia’s waist and the three of them stumbled past a line of women toward the hospital entrance. We walked into the foyer and saw many women sitting on hard benches pressed against the wall. Some were crying and some were praying. We pushed forward and were able to lay Patricia down on the exam table. As we walked outside, her husband explained how much he appreciated our help and told us that he was scared. We later learned that Patricia needed emergency surgery to survive.
In America, the condition Patricia was suffering from is treatable, but in Uganda, it commonly kills women. Patricia lived because of the collaborative efforts of Bronze Medical, Project Hope for Ugandan Women and Save the Children Action Network (SCAN). Bronze Medical brings quality health care to remote areas of Busia District. Project Hope organizes the funds to support Bronze Medical so Ugandan women can receive free reproductive health care, and SCAN brings government awareness on the imperative need to secure the foreign aid budget for programs that work.
The U.S. started an initiative in Africa to help combat life threatening health issues and preventable deaths; it is our responsibility to continue that fight. We cannot engage and then walk away. The people of Uganda are passionate, vision-driven people with the desire to make their country a place to thrive. They have ideas; they simply need the resources.