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  • Bonnie Ruder

Field notes from Uganda: ‘Pure gold’ reminders of how important our work is

Two smiling women in a fistula hospital ward

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to return to Uganda in early February for some intensive work with Alice Emasu, the Executive Director of Terrewode Women's Community Hospital, and the Terrewode team. This trip was my first opportunity to meet Terrewode’s new doctors, Dr. Mary Aono and Dr. Henry Achidri, who began working at the hospital in March 2023. Dr. Aono also serves as the hospital's Medical Director. 

When I arrived at the hospital, I was immediately greeted by a group of patients relaxing in the shaded entryway, where they often enjoy their morning tea. Stepping inside, I quickly saw that the ward was full of patients and the staff were busy preparing several women for surgery. 

Observing the nurses and caretakers with the patients, watching the patients interact with each other—laughing and sharing stories—this is pure gold, such a joy for me to experience and a potent reminder of how important this work is. Whenever I spend time with patients, I think about all of Terrewode Women’s Fund’s supporters who make this work possible.

A complex surgery in capable hands

My last day at the hospital was the most incredible. I was able to observe a surgery for a 64-year-old patient who was suffering from a complete prolapse (when weakened muscles and ligaments in the pelvic floor cause the uterus to protrude out the vagina) and severe incontinence. 

This mother of seven had gone through 11 pregnancies; four of her children passed away. That morning, she was nervous about the surgery, but also very hopeful that she would be cured. I watched as Dr. Aono listened to the patient and explained the steps of the surgery in detail. 

I am in awe of Dr. Aono’s incredibly tender bedside manner— she took her time with this patient and helped her to feel safe and in good hands. She didn’t leave her side until she was confident the patient was ready.  The Terrewode nursing team were also so sweet and gentle with the patient—I was incredibly moved by the experience. Dr. Aono also explained to me that the surgical methods they are using to repair prolapse are more advanced than she had previously been trained in Uganda. 

Advancing the quality and standard of care in Uganda to meet international best practices has always been a goal of Terrewode Women’s Community Hospital and another example of why the hospital is now a Center of Excellence. 

One step closer to Terrewode Maternity

The other highlight of my trip was participating in a planning workshop for Phase 2 of the hospital, Terrewode Maternity. Phase 2 has long been a dream of Alice’s, as she knows that without a change in the quality of maternal healthcare in the region, Terrewode Women’s Community Hospital will be treating preventable childbirth injuries indefinitely and will never be able to meet our shared strategic objective of eliminating obstetric fistula forever. 

As a mother and a midwife, I believe that women everywhere deserve high-quality, respectful maternity care. Our dream is to begin to provide this type of care to women in eastern Uganda. Terrewode Maternity will be a Maternal Center of Excellence that advances our goal of integrating best practices and improving maternal and neonatal healthcare in the region and throughout Uganda. 

You’ll be hearing much more about this exciting program in the months to come! 


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