Magazine article Anglican Journal

'My Contribution Made a Difference': Retiree, 77 Years Old, Serves Volunteer Placement at Ugandan Hospital

Magazine article Anglican Journal

'My Contribution Made a Difference': Retiree, 77 Years Old, Serves Volunteer Placement at Ugandan Hospital

Article excerpt

HILDA SHILLIDAY IS no typical overseas volunteer; she is 77 years old, but like many others she has always wanted to help people abroad.

"When I was 16, I wanted to be either a medical missionary or a Shakespearean actress. Now I am wondering how old Lady Macbeth was," said Ms. Shilliday, a retired public health nurse.

After being told she was too old to work in Africa, Ms. Shilliday met a Friends of Mengo Hospital (FOMH) volunteer who had just returned from Uganda. The people behind this Victoria-based, non-profit organization had just the place for the upbeat and energetic Ms. Shilliday: the Mengo Hospital HIV/AIDS clinic.

The clinic, referred to as the counselling department, is one of the programs supported by FOMH donations and volunteers.

On Sept. 28, Ms. Shilliday arrived for a two-month stint in Kampala, and got down to work, easing pressure on the overworked staff. On busy days, the clinic can see over 125 patients, with only three clinicians, six nurses, and five counsellors.

"The numbers of patients is increasing, but the number of staff isn't increasing," said Dr. Edith Namulema, the program manager. "The more volunteers we have, the less the burden to us, the staff, and to the patients [as] their waiting time is shortened."

Each day Ms. Shilliday arrived at the clinic and worked in whatever capacity was required.

"I function as a nurse, sometimes that nurse means being a pharmacist, sometimes it's interviewing patients, and I really enjoy that," Ms. Shilliday said.

As clients arrive at the clinic they discuss with a counsellor the issues of HIV transmission and living positively. People who are being tested for HIV can receive results within 10 minutes of their blood being drawn.

Ms. Shilliday spent much of her time split between triage and pharmacy. In triage HIV-positive patients are asked questions to rule out tuberculosis, and their weight, temperature and blood pressure are recorded. TB, a dangerous co-infection to HIV, affects nearly half of the HIV-positive patients.

In the pharmacy Ms. Shilliday counted antibiotics, anti-retrovirals (ARVs), vitamins, painkillers, and anti-malaria medication, packaging them into small plastic bags and writing dosage instructions.

ARVs are provided by the Ministry of Health and the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda, but everything else is donated by drug companies or purchased with financial donations. …

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