Baylor Medical Mission Team To Serve AIDS Orphans In Uganda March 7-31

March 2, 2005

by Judy Long

As spring breaks go, students at Baylor University's Louise Herrington School of Nursing will probably travel the farthest, stay the longest, return the most exhausted and possibly even change the world the most.

The four graduate students, already licensed RNs, and their faculty sponsor will fly on March 7 to Uganda, located in sub-Saharan Africa, to give health care to two children's homes, a city orphanage in Kampala and a rural home in nearby Rakai. The capstone medical mission trip for the master's family nurse practitioner (FNP) degree provides a chance for the nurses to set up clinics, dispense medicines, test the children for HIV and dispense hygiene supplies, such as soap and toothbrushes, to the homes.

They also will travel to the city of Kiwoko to spend some time working in a hospital. Since most of the students work at the Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, nursing professor Lori Spies expects her students to witness an interesting contrast between a United States hospital and a hospital in a developing country. Though the nurses will have an afternoon off from time to time, the trip will be labor intensive.

Spies, a lecturer in the family nurse practitioner program, said she and her students will not be able to take toys, but they do plan to find room for some soccer balls and art supplies. "We wanted to take at least a few fun things for the children."

"In Rakai, to keep costs down, we'll stay in the children's home and eat alongside them. It's a no-hot-water, rustic sort of place. Needless to say, we won't be taking our hair dryers," Spies said.

The students will stay in the home of the adoptive father of Ugandan nursing student, Rose Nanyonga, while in Kampala.

When Spies met Nanyonga, the idea for the trip was born.

"I wanted to develop a hands-on capstone experience for soon-to-graduate students, and then I met Rose, who shared part of her story with me," Spies said.

Rose's unusual journey to faith began with childhood training to become a witch doctor, a prestigious career usually reserved for men. Her decision to embrace Christianity at the age of 15 angered her family, and she was forced to flee for her life. Her journey eventually led her to Dallas, where she is completing her master's degree and will graduate as a family nurse practitioner in May. After graduation, she plans to return to Uganda to make changes in public health care policy.

Even though Spies had cared for HIV positive patients for years and had lamented AIDS and its disruption of families in Africa, the horrid devastation of HIV in Africa took on a human face when she spoke with Rose.

"She had grown up in Uganda and was the first in her family to come to Christ. Her father and three of his wives, Rose's stepmothers, had all died of AIDs. The personal suffering of my sweet and extraordinary student who had come to Baylor to get her graduate degree so she could return home to battle this epidemic touched my heart," Spies said.

The students, who will pay their own way for the trip, have been working to earn money to help defray the $2,500 cost of the trip, Spies said. She also has solicited support from professionals in the Dallas medical community for monetary contributions and donations of medications and supplies.

"We know that the more money we raise and the more medicines are donated, the more good we can do in God's name. We speak to everyone who will listen, not only about our needs for this trip and future trips but also about the needs of the Body of Christ in Uganda," she said

The trip to Uganda fits in with the future plans of many FNP students. They study tropical medicine throughout the FNP program, Spies said, and the degree is designed to prepare students equally who plan to use their nursing skills in developing countries or in the United States.

Spies realized a yearly trip to Uganda would be the perfect FNP capstone medical mission trip.

Working with the Ugandan Children's Charity Foundation, the students will provide medical care in their children's homes. They plan to provide check-ups on approximately 500 orphans as well as the adults who care for them and supply them with the medication they need.

"We will also conduct HIV testing on all the children and help to arrange follow-up care. Besides HIV, we expect to see malaria, various parasitic infections, intestinal worms, ringworm and scabies--a small insect that burrows into the skin and itches ferociously. And we want to give each child a toothbrush, soap and vitamins.

"It is my plan to return each year with a team of Baylor students to offer check-ups, medicine and testing to these children who live in such great need," Spies said.

Uganda is the country of origin of the AIDS virus. Because of the disease's devastation, the Ugandan population is 77 percent children and youth, 30 percent of whom are orphans.

The students will return on March 31.

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