Bloody mornings and impending terror…

Between spitting up blood each morning and the likely terrorist attack that will occur here in Kampala, it’s been quite a week.

And we’re only halfway through it.

It’s common for me to wake up each morning, go to the sink, and spit up a bunch of phlegm. My sinuses are constantly draining junk. But when I spit on Monday morning, it wasn’t phlegm. It was blood. Not blood in the spit, but straight blood.

My CT scan from today's hospital visit.
My CT scan from today’s hospital visit.

I quickly examined my mouth, thinking maybe my gums were bleeding from something, but they weren’t. I spit again. More blood. This went on five or six times until eventually it wasn’t blood anymore.

If you know me well, you know I’m a bit of a hypochondriac. Needless to say, spitting up blood while living in Uganda wasn’t exactly the best of feelings in the entire world. I have God to thank for keeping me calm through my phone call to our personnel director who said she would escort me to the doctor.

My blood pressure was fine. Temp was fine. Chest sounded clear. They took blood- all of my counts were good. I wasn’t in any pain. It was quite perplexing to both me and the doctor. She determined that maybe I had a cut in my throat that bled, and that would be the end of it.

However, I woke up Tuesday morning and spit up even more blood. Back to the doctor I went. This time they did a chest x-ray to rule out something like pneumonia. Chest x-ray was fine. She referred me to an ENT.

Today I was at the hospital from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., waiting to see the ENT doctor, seeing him, and then waiting even longer to get a CT scan. When I first saw the doctor, I showed him the pictures I’ve taken of the last two mornings and the blood I spit up.

“Whoa. That’s a lot of blood,” he said.

After the scan, the doctor did an initial review of the film. He didn’t see anything wrong, but said that doesn’t mean my sinuses aren’t irritated, possibly from the change in environment. What I find odd is the fact that I haven’t been in any pain, nor do I feel any sinus pressure.

He said the complete report might show something different, but that whatever it is, it isn’t that serious or it would have shown in the scan. Still, I’m a results girl. I don’t like not knowing the exact reason why I’m spitting up blood every morning. He prescribed me some antibiotics and a steroid, as well as nasal spray, and I’ll wait to hear what the full report says.

My mom wants to know why I’m handling this so well. To be honest, I haven’t had much of a choice. What good is freaking out going to do? I did have a few breakdowns today, just simply from feeling like a lab rat with all these tests and not knowing what’s wrong with me. But I definitely have faith that God is with me, and that I will get through this, whatever it is.

As if that wasn’t enough to worry about this week.

It started with a few discerning emails from the American Embassy stating that Americans should avoid shopping malls, festivals, large gatherings, and other places frequented by white people, until further notice because of the attacks in Nairobi (which is around 400 miles away from here).

Sure, we can do that. We don’t go to places like those very often anyway.

The city of Kampala. Please pray for our safety.
The city of Kampala. Please pray for our safety.

However, the American Embassy also has visited our school for the past three days. We’re a clear target for terrorists. While this is true even on a day-to-day basis, it’s never been more imperative that we increase our security at school.

I know, terrorist attacks can happen anywhere. They happen even in the United States, and violence occurs at movie theatres and elementary schools and shopping malls. But when your own government (both U.S. and Ugandan) flat out tell you that you’re a prime target for an inevitable attack in Kampala, it’s kind of scary. It’s more than kind of scary.

Ugandan police have increased our security at school until further notice. Luckily, we’ll be surrounded by armed guards until things settle down.

Today my roommate and I went to the grocery store. As we pulled into the parking lot, soldiers not only took out our backpacks and searched them, but they also went through the backseat as well as the trunk of the car. While it’s reassuring that they are thoroughly searching every vehicle, it’s a little unsettling to know that it’s come to this here in Kampala.

But what breaks my heart more than anything right now, is the fact that one of my Kenyan students lost more than a handful of friends in the Nairobi attack. The attack there not only occurred close to us physically, but it has broken the heart of a student I love dearly. I can’t even imagine what he’s going through.

Please keep us all in your prayers. I’m not the only one dealing with confusing health problems, and there’s an entire school and city on edge right now just waiting to see if our home will be the next victim of senseless violence. I’m learning to have faith like I’ve never had to before.

Just a morning trip to Surgery…

It’s quite disturbing that the clinic the school sends us to is called, “The Surgery.” It gave us all quite a scare the first night we were here and were told, “If you start to feel sick, have a fever, chills and body aches, let us know and we’ll take you right to Surgery.” (Imagine hearing that and NOT knowing “Surgery” had a capital “S.”)

With my poor excuse of a digestive system, I figured I might end up there eventually. I just didn’t think it would be only a few weeks into my stay here in Uganda. But sure enough, some nasty things started happening on Friday, and by Monday, they were no better.

And I wasn’t the only one.

Many went to the Surgery over the weekend, and three others were headed there in IMG_20130819_084704the school van on Monday morning. It was suggested that I go, just to make sure I didn’t have a parasite or anything.

Richard, one of the drivers at school, took us downtown to Surgery. Once we registered, they asked if we wanted to go in as pairs to make things go faster. We agreed. ANYTHING that would make the process quicker. Wayne and I were having similar issues, so we went in as a pair.

HIPPA does not exist in Uganda. Patient confidentiality…none. Let’s just say Wayne now knows my entire medical history, including the starting date of my last menstrual cycle.

After talking about my symptoms, I was handed a small Dixie cup for a urine sample, a clear little bottle for a stool sample, and a paper for the lab where they would take blood. I was shown to the restroom where I would uh… you know, and then told where to take everything.

So there I was, walking with my urine-filled Dixie cup and stool sample (in a clear bottle) to the different places they were to be taken. Dropped off my stool sample a few doors down, and then took my urine up a flight of stairs to the lab.

Then came the really tough part. If you know me well, you know I hate having my blood taken. I have horrible veins and am often poked and prodded multiple times until they find a vein, and then it’s a matter of finding a vein that doesn’t collapse or “roll.” Can you imagine my horror hearing they were about to take blood from me… in a clinic… in Africa?!

I was led to a room where I was told to lie down on a padded, wooden exam table. I looked around and saw a few spider webs in the corners, wide open windows with no screens, a couple of giant canisters of helium, and I told myself not to freak out.

Another nurse came in and the two of them searched my arms high and low for a potential vein. Finally, they found one in the back of my hand. They ended up using a butterfly needle that they typically use for infants, and the pain began. They were young, very kind ladies, but it was frustrating to hear them frantically speaking in Luganda and me having no earthly idea what they were saying.

IMG_20130819_095811I felt like the process was taking forever. Naturally my anxiety began to kick in, but then something stopped it. What was there to be afraid of? Of course God had me safe in His arms. Sure it hurt as they moved the needle around to get the vein, but I had faith that the pain would be over soon. And it was.

I returned to the waiting room to wait for my results. It had completely filled up since I left. There were people of all nationalities spread from one side of the room to the other. Once Stephanie came out we decided to get some fresh air. As we did, we saw Richard talking to a young man with both his hands completely bandaged up and some nasty open wounds on his legs.

“Boda accident?” Stephanie asked.

“Yes!” he said, shaking his head sadly.

I asked if he was the driver or the passenger, and he was the passenger. He went on to tell us how he is a musician. He can’t work without the use of this hands, and from the looks of things, he wouldn’t be using them for a while. I told him that I’d pray for him, and I loved the look of joy on his face when I said that. I feel like today God gave me peace in that clinic and also to this young man we met.

Finally, after we had been there for a few hours, I got my diagnosis: food poisoning, bacterial infection, and a yeast infection in my stomach (same as a few other people from school). Apparently my digestive system is depressed. Who knew that your digestive system could be depressed? Poor thing. So it was all kind of a chain reaction- food poisoning, bacterial infection, depressed digestive system, yeast infection in my stomach. I got a whole bag full of pills I’ll be taking for the next week or so.

The doctor and nurses really were wonderful, and the facility was clearly better than any I could have gone to in a village. What I’m really thankful for today is the fact that school administration wanted us to go see a doctor. I’m so blessed to work for people who care about the wellbeing of their teachers. Although I’m still feeling icky, I realize that I’ve still got so much to be thankful for.