This is the continuing story of a desperate missionary mom in search of medical help for her children. If you want to start at the beginning, click here.
When I dialed the number of the Ugandan doctor, I got his office in Mbale. I was slightly skeptical that he could help me anyway, so I was surprised at the disappointment I felt when I found out that he wasn't even in the office. Turns out he spent several days of the week out in the village--his hometown, so to speak--taking care of medical needs out there. He wouldn't be back in the office for two more days.
"But you can go to the village and see him there," I was told.
Yeah, right. Like that was going to happen.
"It is not far," the voice on the phone insisted. "Right outside of town. Very easy to get to."
That still left the matter of directions. Most Ugandan roads are not named. You can't tell someone to turn by the Walgreens on the corner. Although you might tell them to turn by the crooked tree that sticks out over the road. And you certainly couldn't plug "fourth hut on the left" into a gps unit.
"We have someone here who is going to the village today. If you come to the office and get her, she will direct you to the village."
Well wasn't that convenient. I don't pick up strangers, and I certainly don't follow their directions.
"Tell me how to get to your office," I surrendered. I still had sick kids. I would do what I must.
We swung by the office and picked up a young woman in her early twenties. We asked again how far the village was and were assured it was no more than twenty minutes. So we crammed the eleventh person into our Trooper and headed out of town.
We exchanged a few pleasantries and then everyone fell silent while we drove.
"How much farther," I asked after forty-five minutes.
"We are very near."
Our passenger had directed me to take several turns, and I was quietly running them over and over again in my head to make sure I didn't get lost. I glanced at my cell phone and realized we were too far out to get any service. That's when panic hit me.
We were two American women out in the bush with eight small children. We were totally at the mercy of our passenger in getting anywhere. If anything happened to the vehicle, including a flat tire, we were basically stranded. No one knew where we were, not even our husbands, since we had neglected to call and tell them what we were doing.
And yet, we were "very near", whatever that meant. Surely it couldn't be much farther.
About thirty more minutes of driving finally put us at the edge of village. There were a few buildings as well as huts and booths. Our passenger directed us to the building where the doctor kept his office. As we pulled up, it was clear this village didn't see many vehicles. And it was even more clear that they didn't see Americans very often. It must have seemed like the circus came to town when our bright red SUV pulled up, and ten Americans climbed out. We had a curious crowd surrounding the vehicle and following us into the doctor's office.
Our passenger introduced us to the doctor and then wandered off somewhere. We didn't see her again before we left. The doctor greeted us graciously, and escorted us into his office as though we were honored guests. The villagers crowded in to peer through the doorway and the windows while I spoke with the doctor and he examined my children. It was kind of an early version of a reality show, I guess.
The doctor spoke excellent English, with a trace of accent. He asked the history of the boys' illness, checked their vitals, looked into their throats and diagnosed them both with a bacterial infection. He would give me antibiotics and he could give Joel an injection to control the vomiting. He was very glad we had come to see him, and I was very glad that he knew what he was doing. We discussed treatment for a few moments and then he turned and asked his assistant(?)--she was the person standing at his elbow while he spoke with me--to bring him certain items.
He kept up a steady stream of gentle small talk as he measured out medicine to give to Nicky. He then handed me the bottle with instructions for dosage. He then prepared an injection for Joel, after I checked to make sure the needle he used came from a sterile package. Then he sent one of the spectators down to the marketplace to buy a Sprite. He gave it to Joel, who was thrilled to have a whole bottle to himself, and told him to sip on it slowly. For all of his special services, including the Sprite, I paid 25,000 Ugandan shillings.
That's about $10 in American money.
Relieved that I had finally found some help for my children, I wanted only to get back to the civilization of Tororo. Such as it was. As dumb as we had been already in this quest, I didn't want to be out on the roads at night. And I surely didn't want to be out in the bush at night. But we were delayed by the doctor. He wanted to show us the hospital (small clinic) that he was building there in the village. And he insisted we take a tour. As we went through the building, he went into great detail about his plans for this place and how he wanted to help his people.
I appreciated his dedication, but I didn't really see what it had to do with me. Only later did it occur to me that all Ugandans think Americans are rich. He was looking for donations. Sponsorship. Money.
He was disappointed.
We finally left the village (without our guide, who was staying there) and headed back. We were a little unsure of one or two turns, but eventually we did make it back to Tororo, pulling into our compound just as the sun was setting. I was exhausted, but we were home safe, my two boys were on the mend, and I now had a great story to tell my husband when he got back. For one day, I got to be Indiana Jones.
Gotta love that adrenalin.