“If not now, when?”

It’s Sunday, and I’ve twisted through a lot of emotions these past few days. These past few weeks feel like months, and I must admit I’m full of angst as I write this.  These are the moments when I feel like jumping on a plane and getting back to all my safeties I call home. I’m trying to remind myself that part of this journey is to access safety where ever I am, to b r e a t h e,  go within. Come out stronger.

At the very moment I was ending a conversation with my mother the other night, she was told her brother died. I called immediately as I heard her collapsing on the floor.

I’m suddenly reminded of how far away I am. Feeling defeated, as I cannot run to her to be by her side. All the questions race through my mind daily. Why now, why at all, mortality, what does it all mean, where is he now, where is she now.  I can’t wrap my head around the fact that he is gone, retracing memories. More importantly I feel her heart breaking every minute.

My stomach has been less than stellar these past few days, and well, again part of the package. I decided to stop taking Malaria pills after some obsessive research.  Worrying is a hobby of mine. This is not why i’m here, to worry about myself. I’m here to focus intently on others.

Although the  projects are never-ending,  most of them take painful amounts of time to accomplish.  My main focus is to implement maternal death audits into the Mbale maternity ward, as well as an overall assessment on meds and equipment needed. As I mentioned earlier the record keeping is lacking in most clinic/hospitals here. We are trying to get a more in-depth analysis on maternal deaths, still births, complications, why it’s happening and what we can do to stop it. Being a Muzungu, you have privileges. If you’re white and here, you’re working with an NGO. That translates to a lot of perks. Much of the implementation here is infancy stages, which translates to patience.  Picture someone telling you, with no prior experience, to walk in the maternity ward,  get access to all their records, analyze them, implement a better death audit system, figure out all the supplies they use, lack, need and make it happen ( all while lost in translation).

Luckily the team here has started the process. As serendipity would have it, I met Lisa. Lisa is a pediatrician who has worked here for four years. She often frequents a small cafe in town where we met. I told her my project for Mbale. She made a call that lead me to Dr Peter Olupot, head epidemiologist, who recently was published in the New England Journal of Medicine…kinda a big deal. Apparently he has the key to all locked doors.  I walked into the grounds, roaming around asking doctors where I could find him. All the doctors seem to know Lisa, an advantage for me.  I made my way to his office, a little unprepared and scattered. He listened and advised me. Who you know works the same everywhere. Sadly, in my last three weeks I won’t have the time to witness much change, just facilitate the process.

I will spend a lot of time at Mbale, with sister Margarite and Rose (head nurses), hoping they’ll like me, listen, and give me the information I need to help them. This is the hard part, rendering the vision, extracting information and building teams. I’ll do what I can. It’s a learning process for all of us.

Uthman, Kissito’s tech  rock star, has been working on a documentary for Mbale’s maternity ward to bring home to the States. I’m gonna help him edit, make final touches. Hopefully one’s that bring an understanding into our world.

In addition to this, I’ll be working with Carolina and Carlos up the mountain at Wanale clinic. They are starting the  Malnutrition assessment program this week. We will start assessing the children to see how many; if not all, are malnourished and treat them accordingly.

The rain is pouring down, and I’m absorbing its rhythm. This malaise is  leaving me as my headphones take over.  Music is my ballast in this chaotic world. One of two ways I know how to feel fully sated.  The doctor just came in and told me running through the rain naked with your wife is healing. I said I’d go run through the rain with him, (with clothes on). He suddenly  got shy. Until we run, I’m gonna sing very loudly in the rain.

For Valerie, my mother…more than all the moments of silence…sending you Ugandan strength!

Ignore cheesy video



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7 responses to ““If not now, when?”

  1. Sheilah

    so touching, beautiful. thank you for writing us. thank you for sharing so honestly. i wish i could hug you. sometime let’s run naked in the rain together. i’ll do it with you anywhere.

  2. Solar

    “Living in the gap between past and future.”
    I’m with you every step. Loving Val, loving you.

    Your words. This is so beautifully written.

    “What would we do with you?” xoxo

  3. Solar

    Yeah, I’m with Sheilah. Naked run in the rain on the near horizon…

  4. Love you gals, really. I’m so grateful for you i my life. These past few days I have not been inspired to write-it’s coming back. Can you please send me a Patron Margarita, with Odwalla lime, on the rocks, with salt! I’ll give you my first born, heh.

  5. Chelsea

    Mel, your words are wonderful to read early in the morning 9000 miles away. They already fill my day with perspective and determination and real f’king emotion girl. Thinking of you. THanks for sharing this.

  6. My god, I feel horrible for Val. I will write to her and give her my best. Mel, keep the music in your ears, let it guide your soul on this challenging journey. My love for you is as strong (if not stronger) than it ever was.

    I have waited
    Dined on ashes
    Swung from chandeliers and climbed Everest
    And none of it’s got me close to this

    I’ve waited all my life
    If not now, when will I?

    We’ve been good
    Even a blast, but
    Don’t you feel like something’s missing here?
    Don’t you dare

    I’ve waited all my life
    If not now, when will I?
    Stand up and face the bright light
    Don’t hide your eyes
    It’s time

    No umbrellas
    No sunglasses
    Hearing hallelujah everyday

    I’ve waited all my life
    If not now, when will I?
    Stand up and face the bright light
    Don’t hide your eyes
    It’s time

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