A Reflection of My Life after living in Uganda as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer

Sunday, August 15, 2010


A few days ago Annet and I heard that our friend Pauline was dying in Mulago. Pauline used to be a teacher with Annet but was transferred out to the village last year. Of course Pauline's phone was not on and we didn't have any more information on how to find her. Mulago Hospital is very big and I was unsure if you could just show up and find the person you want. Also, Annet couldn't remember her other name so it would have been very difficult going there and asking to find a Pauline who is possibly dying but we don't know why.

Yesterday morning Annet ran into a lady in the market who also knew Pauline. She told Annet Pauline was staying at her sisters right here in Gayaza. She said Pauline was not doing well. So Annet and I set out to visit Pauline at her sisters. As we neared our destination Annet started to question which place was the sisters. She couldn't remember. A few of the places had dogs in the yard and as most Ugandans are terrified of dogs Annet didn't want to go into any of those yard. For a Saturday evening it was surprisingly empty of foot passengers or even people sitting in their yards. I became annoyed with one girl who kept staring at me from her door way and yelling mzungu then laughing hysterically. I marched right past the dog in that yard to this girl and asked her where the sick woman was staying. I skipped the whole respectful greeting because I was so annoyed. She pointed to the house next door with another dog in the yard.

Annet gripped my arm as we walked past the dog around the house to the back. There we found Pauline's sister who showed us into the sick room. As Annet says, “I couldn't even look at her face at first because I thought I was looking at death.” Pauline's hair was missing in clumps, her lips had boils and dried blood, her voice was so deep and raspy it was scary, she was extremely thin, and whenever she coughed, which was often, blood stained her handkerchief. I wanted to cry looking at her.

This is my friend who raises goats and grows all her own food. She teaches P5 and tries to make ever child in her class feel loved. Pauline brings food to her neighbors. She washes laundry for the jja jja's (old women) in the village whose backs are permanently bend double and whose hands hurt with every movement. Pauline would have an orphanage of old people if she could. But now she's the one propped up in bed with pillows being spoon fed porridge that is even too rough for her esophagus to let go down more than 1 or 2 small sips an hour.

Much to my and Annet's surprise we were told Pauline is doing much better and improving dramatically every day! She had overworked herself leaving her system low and open to infection. Then she got a cold which quickly turned into pneumonia and bronchitis that she left untreated for much too long. When she finally realized she was really sick she then had to ride a boda boda (motorcycle) for a coupe hours to the main road letting immense amounts of dust and cold air into her lungs. The doctors at Mulago told Agnes (Pauline's sister) that if she'd come in a day later she wouldn't have lived. They kept her in Mulago for a month. She's only just left to stay with Agnes.

We stayed for some time and left with promises to pray for her. As we were leaving Pauline asked us to contact someone in the village to inquire to the status of her goats. It truly amazes me at how ill people can become, and look, and yet still find the will/strength to fight and live. I'm thankful Pauline is healing and will recover.

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