By Maureen Nakalinzi
It is 8am in the morning as I make my rounds around four villages in a taxi (Nakamini, Bunio, Butongole and Bulamagi) to pick up patients who will be going for eye surgery at Iganga Hospital. In all the villages, I find them seated outside together with their families waiting for me. One of them actually tells me, “I am not late today, I have kept Mzungu time and you have kept African time because you are 10 minutes late." During the taxi ride, most of them are quiet -- probably wondering what will happen during surgery -- and for those who were completely blind, probably pondering the prospects of seeing again.
We reach the hospital after a few minutes and it’s a sea of people outside. They are people surrounding every corner of the eye clinic waiting for their chance to see the doctor. The eye clinic is a very small room inside the antenatal ward which can only fit two patients and two doctors at a time. Luckily for me, since UVP has an agreement with Sight Savers International (the organization that sponsors the eye camp) and Iganga Hospital, my patients where already screened and diagnosed, so we are spared waiting in the long lines outside and asked to join those that are waiting for surgery in the next building.
The surgery room is a small room inside the maternity ward and while my patients sit on the ground in the corridor waiting for the surgeon, throngs of women in labor pass by and my patients pray silently for good outcomes for themselves and for those women. The doctor arrives at 4pm and we have been seated waiting in that corridor since morning. She apologizes for coming late and announces that she can only perform four cataract surgeries and everyone else can wait until tomorrow. Since my patients are among the first four people, they will be asked to enter one at a time for the surgery.
Maureen is a Uganda Village Project Program Coordinator who works on the ground in Iganga.