Keep calm and fix the ambulance

Bakers Posted by Paul and Tania Baker on Wed, 27 Jun 2012 | 2 comments | Bookmark: digg this Post this to del.icio.us Post this to Facebook

Sometimes, despite the incredible standard of healthcare at Kiwoko Hospital, we need to refer patients to the main hospital in Kampala. Mulago Hospital is about 75km away, on some fairly horrendous roads, but our Ambulance (a converted Toyota Landcruiser) can do the trip in less than 90 minutes…with the lights and siren going.

Many critical patients need a constant oxygen supply. In our wards we use oxygen concentrators which convert room air into almost pure oxygen. Until about 8 months ago, we used oxygen cylinders when transporting patients in the ambulance. However, these cylinders can be dangerous and the company who refill them had been having problems so we had to install a concentrator in the ambulance. Normally, running a 240 volt machine in a vehicle is not possible but thanks to a nifty piece of technology we can convert the 12 volt car battery supply to run the concentrator.

Since November last year this had all been running very well. Then, last Thursday, I got a phone call from our ambulance driver (Moses) that I didn’t want to get. He was bringing a very sick patient back to Kiwoko after having a CT scan at Mulago Hospital. The patient needed a constant oxygen supply but the machine had stopped working! Normally the ambulance would have a small backup cylinder but our supplier had let us down a few days before. To make matters worse – the ambulance’s emergency lights and siren had also stopped working so Moses couldn’t get through the traffic! Then, to make the story very ‘blog worthy’ – his mobile phone battery died!

Thankfully I was able to get a number for the nurse who was in the back with the patient. We talked about calling into a nearby hospital to borrow a cylinder but there was a good chance they wouldn’t have any either. The nurse, however, said the patient should be able to make it back to Kiwoko without an oxygen supply. Moses just had to get through a ‘Red Sea’ of traffic.

Less than 2 hours later the ambulance arrived back and the patient was immediately hooked up to an oxygen concentrator. She seemed to be doing fine.

The drama continued… another critical patient had to go to Mulago Hospital immediately. We had to fix the concentrator, the emergency lights and the siren in record time. It made sense that there was an electrical problem so Tonny, James and I started dismantling the ambulance to find the cause. After 10 minutes James found the problem behind the glove box – a cable connection had become loose and the cable had melted – not a new experience here. A few minutes later the ambulance was back on the road.

I could write another 50 stories like this. Life as an engineer in rural Uganda is a big challenge but I honestly love it. Some of the problems we face are just bizarre but we have a very dedicated and creative team here who just don’t give up. We don’t have all the tools and spare parts – a couple of screwdrivers, a can of WD40 and a roll of duck tape are usually enough. Of course, some divine assistance makes it all come together.

Paul.

Comments

Anne Moffett said Sun, 29 Jul 2012 10:14AM
Great to hear the good work you are doing at Kiwoko, Paul and Tania. You must be well settled there by now. I hope all is going well and you aren't missing friends and family too much, although I'm sure you feel the folks at Kiwoko are your family now. I had hoped to get to Kiwoko this summer, but there were too few applicants for the holiday Bible club. Maybe next year I shall be able to come out to visit you, my friend Fred Ssekiziyivu (Luweero Seed Secondary School Principl) and maybe, the Finches in Kampala as 2 of Fred's daughters are living in Kampala. God bless you in everything you do. Love Anne Moffett
jill hope said Sun, 26 Aug 2012 02:03PM
i love to hear how you are getting on and love the blog. i am now liveing in banbridge so help with the fund raising for you all god bless jill

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