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Assumption Students Donate Blankets To Ugandan Hospital

by Fred Musante | Nov 18, 2012 12:13 pm

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Posted to: Ansonia, Education

Photo: Fred Musante

A project by some local school children to donate hand-made blankets to other kids in a hospital in New Haven took a surprisingly pleasant turn this week when the blankets went instead to children in a hospital in the heart of Africa.

The members of the Student Council at Assumption School in Ansonia met Friday (Nov. 16) with Dr. Doruk Ozgediz, a pediatric surgeon at Yale-New Haven Hospital and assistant professor at the Yale Medical School.

The Assumption students gave the doctor 14 brightly colored, fleece blankets they made themselves.

Dr. Ozgediz was scheduled to travel over the weekend to Kampala, Uganda, a troubled nation in central Africa, to provide medical care for children in the pediatric ward at Mulago Hospital, something he does every year.

He promised to deliver the blankets to the Ugandan children, some of whom are so poor that many of them don’t have blankets or bed linen for their hospital beds.

The health care system in Uganda has problems that are extreme compared to the U.S.

In parts of Uganda, families travel hundreds of miles so children can get help. Resources there are so limited parents often sleep by their child’s hospital bed and are expected to perform some of the functions a nurse traditionally does, such as changing the bedding, which, by the way, is often provided by the families.

“Thank you all. This is extremely generous,” Dr. Ozgediz told the children at Assumption School who gathered in the school hallway for a mid-afternoon assembly that morphed into a lesson in geography and public health.

The children at Assumption School knew some things about Africa already. For instance, that Africa is a continent, not a country, a mistake made by many Americans. They also knew that malaria, a disease spread by mosquitos, and AIDS are serious health problems there.

Dr. Ozgediz told the children that African children face many health threats that are rare in the U.S., not just from malaria and AIDS, but also from tuberculosis, poor nutrition and the lack of clean drinking water.

Because of that, the average life span in Uganda is a depressing 30 years shorter than in the U.S.

He said 20 years ago, international aid programs gave free food and medical services to people in poor countries, but that is now seen as a mistake, because it kept people in those countries from developing their own resources, which is what they need.

So now, Dr. Ozgediz said he and other doctors go to Mulago Hospital and other African medical facilities to help train the doctors there, which helps the Ugandan people more than if they just provided the care themselves.

“We help the local doctors improve the patient care,” he said.

Dr. Ozgediz serves on the advisory board for Global Partners in Anesthesia and Surgery (www.globalpas.org), along with a number of other American doctors and several Ugandan doctors on the staff of Mulago Hospital.

Teachers Virginia DeGennaro and Rachel Sosnovitch, who are the Assumption School Student Council advisors, organized the project for the 10 council members, with the idea of donating the blankets to children at Yale-New Haven Hospital, just a few miles away.

The children said to make the blankets, they took two sheets of colorful fleece, cut out squares at the corners, then cut strips along the sides. Then the strips are knotted together, producing a two-layer blanket ringed with decorative knotted fringe.

According to the children, the blankets are very soft and warm. And the bright colors make them pleasing to look at.

The teachers contacted Judith Ahearn, a Yale-New Haven Hospital administrator whose daughter, Hannah, is an eighth-grader on the Student Council, and Ahearn suggested sending the blankets to Africa with Dr. Ozgediz instead.

Dr. Ozgediz said the blankets would be an especially welcome gift, because some families at Mulago Hospital are too poor to provide blankets.

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