Pauline Agwang, 34, is the only anaesthetic officer at her facility in Eastern Uganda.
Away for just four days during the Lifebox training and annual meeting of the Uganda Society of Anaesthesia, she eats lunch with her left hand and fields phone calls about her recovering patients with her right.
In between, she tells stories of patients she has saved, and lost – and how a pulse oximeter would help.
“It’s very necessary – especially with caesarean section mothers, who bleed a lot – most of our c-sections are emergencies, with the mothers already in a bad state.”
Pauline’s hospital was designed to fit 100 beds, but today it holds more than 200: rows of patients line the floor, bringing their own blankets or buying mats from the stalls that spore in front of the building. With so few other resources, the early warning provided by a pulse oximeter is a powerful one: it can pre-empt a life-threatening loss of blood or oxygen in the operating room. And so often, as we heard again and again during our stay, there is no blood, there is no oxygen to give.
Pauline went home with one of the Lifebox pulse oximeters. For us who had gotten to know her a little, it was a small personal relief as well as professional satisfaction: when we met her in July she was 28 weeks pregnant. “I will deliver in the very hospital I am working in,” she explained, smiling. “For us in Africa, you work till you deliver!”