Medical Teams International | Official Blog

Stories of hope, health and lives transformed.

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  • Staff Story: Nodding Syndrome in Uganda

    by Tyler Graf | Apr 23, 2015

    The following is a story by Patty Hutton, Medical Team International's manager of Africa Programs, about a recent experience she had in Uganda.

    I felt the hot sun scorch my face, as I bolted from the car to the nearest tree with shade I could find.

    I was in Pader, Uganda, visiting a program where Medical Teams International provides medicine and assistance to children suffering from Nodding Syndrome. The syndrome itself is somewhat under-researched, as no one has yet been able to truly pinpoint what causes it. The disease targets children in certain regions of Uganda, South Sudan and Tanzania.

    The mysterious disease causes children to have seizure-like episodes, especially when they smell food. These episodes cause the children to be stigmatized, and because of Nodding they are often stunted or malnourished. I watched as a mother took some Depakote, an anti-seizure drug packed by our wonderful volunteers at the Distribution Center, and gave it to her child. Immediately after, she fed her son. Only with the medicine could he eat without having an episode.

    As I scanned the area, my eyes met with a girl making necklaces who gave me a sly smile. Her name was Eunice and although she looked as though she couldn’t be older than 9, she was actually 15. She had Nodding Syndrome, which had stunted her growth.

    Through the assistance provided by MTI, 90 kids with Nodding Syndrome have been able to go back to school because of occupational therapy, medicine and assistance. Mercy, an occupational therapist in Uganda, explained to me that the therapy helps children do a variety of activities, from holding a pencil to finding work.

    As I sat with Eunice, I asked what she wanted to do when she grew up. She said she wanted to be a doctor. I asked the other kids what they wanted to be as well, and the answers were teacher and a policeman, just to name a couple. I smiled as I told them, “Yes, I think you will be a good one,” knowing that I can say that after seeing what MTI has been able to do. 

    -- Patty Hutton

    Providing equitable health services in Northern Uganda, where Pader is located, remain big concerns. HIV and AIDS flourish in the area, and Nodding Syndrome continues to befuddle medical experts. Your donations help children afflicted by these diseases.

  • Medical Supplies Shipped: South Sudanese Mother, Son saved

    by Tyler Graf | Apr 22, 2015

    Doctors thought the baby was dead. They couldn't hear a heartbeat and expected the worst. 

    The baby's mother, a young South Sudanese refugee, was struggling to give birth. Crippled and disfigured by polio, she strained with each contraction. There was no way the baby was coming via traditional means. He wouldn’t fit even if the mother had the physical strength to push him through.

    Although Kuajok Hospital in South Sudan is desperately short of supplies and training, doctors there nonetheless decided their best option was to perform a cesarean section to extract the baby. This might save the mother, even if the baby was dead.

    There was no way of telling. The dusty operating room was bare-bones, lacking an ultrasound, x-ray or a fetal monitor. So doctors worked fast, using a few new tools and know-how at their disposal.

    Just days before, a shipment arrived at the hospital, brought by a volunteer nurse who’d arrived to train health care workers. It contained medicine and supplies. Some of those supplies were used in training sessions with health care workers focused on troubled births. The medicines included antibiotics, useful in the event of a C-section birth.

    So only a short time after the shipment had arrived, the hospital’s health care workers were using what they’d learned during the training sessions to keep mother and baby alive. Doctors used the antibiotics to prevent the mother from becoming infected. The volunteer nurse assisted in the operation.

    South Sudan, baby Mike, Kuajok Hospital, shipment of supplies
    This baby survived a troubled birth in South Sudan.

    The mother would have died otherwise. The baby, too. They didn’t.

    Baby and mother survived because of your donations. Thanks to your generosity, this hospital had the supplies and training to save this mother and child. To provide more care to South Sudanese refugees, make a donation.

  • Mobile Dental: New Van Arrives

    by Tyler Graf | Apr 21, 2015

    With its tooth-white sheen still glimmering even after a long road journey from Texas, the newest mobile dental clinic recently arrived at Medical Teams International's headquarters. 

    The addition of the fully outfitted mobile home means that MTI's fleet of dental clinics has reached 11. Right now, the van looks like a blank slate; but soon it will be wrapped in bright red and turned loose on the roads, where it will ferry volunteer dental workers to locations throughout Washington and serve the state's most vulnerable populations.

    Weighing in at more than 24,000 pounds and reaching 40 feet in length, the clinic is MTI’s largest. It’s also the most modern.

    The inside of the van is decked out with state-of-the-art equipment, which will help MTI serve thousands of in-need patients – people who can’t afford or don’t have access to dental care, who are hurting because of chronic pain. Thank you for your support growing the Mobile Dental Program to be able to reach the largest number of people in the community.

    Check out some of these photos of your support manifested.

    Mobile Dental Clinic MTI HQ
    The Mobile Dental clinic in MTI's parking lot on April 21.

    Mobile Dental clinic MTI HQ 2
    Have a seat! A look at one of the clinic's two chairs.

    Mobile Dental clinic MTI HQ 3
    ‚ÄčThe Mobile Dental Program serves more than 18,000 people in Oregon and Washington every year.

  • Mobile Dental Story: Mike Seeks Mobile Dental to Save

    by Tyler Graf | Apr 17, 2015

    Mobile Dental_Mike_April 2015

    When Mike's teeth begin hurting, he knows where he can turn.

    He's been to three Mobile Dental clinics over the past couple of years. They're resources he has learned to trust. The volunteer dentists onboard treat him with respect and dignity, he said, and he comes away knowing the job was done correctly. The most common problem that brings Mike to a mobile clinic is tooth pain, the result of decay. 

    Although Mike has a full-time job, he doesn't have employer-sponsored dental insurance. He first heard about Mobile Dental when his girlfriend suggested the program when the two were living near McMinnville, Ore. He went to one of the clinics and was blown away. He received terrific, professional care, he said.

    Since then, he's sought out mobile clinics to ease the sting of the pain in his mouth. Sometimes, it gets so bad he has trouble eating. 

    There's also the stigma of tooth decay. Mike doesn't feel comfortable smiling, or showing his teeth. He wants to feel more confident, and the extractions conducted at the Mobile Dental clinics are steps toward having higher spirits. He's willing to take the last steps himself.

    There's another reason he feels blessed to be a Mobile Dental patient. It allows him to save his money. He has long-term plans for his dental health, and he's socking away cash to ensure they happen. Soon, he hopes to replace his decayed or otherwise extracted teeth with dentures. 

    Thanks to your donations, Mike's dental pain is treated. Because of your generosity, he feels good about himself. And he'll have those dentures soon enough, because he's saving his own money for them.

    The reason is simple, he said: "I want to feel good about myself."

    Your donations to the Mobile Dental Program are deeply felt by those without insurance or access to dentists, as they go toward combatting the country's hidden health care crisis.
  • Dental Success Story: A Patient Becomes a Donor

    by Katie Carroll | Apr 15, 2015

    It's typical that a person will donate to a cause that has touched their life. It's not as typical that a beneficiary will become a donor in the very same day. That's just what happened recently at one of our mobile dental clinics in Oregon.

    At the monthly River of Life clinic in the rural town of Grants Pass, our volunteers have regularly provided dental care to a local man. He could not afford the $700 worth of dental work required to save his tooth, so his dentist arranged for him to be seen by the MTI clinic.

    This man was extremely appreciative of the van and that he was able to be seen on such short notice. He asked the volunteers how and why the van was there and how it is funded.

    After his successful tooth-saving procedure, he left the van and returned a half hour later with an envelope. He said that it wasn't much, but he wanted the dental program to have it so that we could come back and help others. That envelope contained $200.

    Thank you for your generous donations to our mobile dental program. Your gifts help our neighbors in their time of need.