Ministry of Margaret Nelson
Uganda, Africa

October 18, 2004

Samaritan Emergency Volunteer Organization

"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:10

From November 8th to 15th, Greg Matthews, Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), is returning to Uganda for the 2nd time. He was part of the New Life Center medical team that came here in August 2003. As a direct result of his workshop teachings on emergency first aid and rescue, Hannington Serugga went on to train others, and to develop the Samaritan Emergency Volunteer Organization (SEVO). SEVO has become a legally recognized indigenous Non-Governmental Organization, training over 400 volunteers in this past year. The volunteers are beginning to impact their communities with their first aid interventions, especially on the highways where Uganda has the 2nd highest rate of traffic fatalities in the continent of Africa.

Greg is returning to give some more advanced training to 20 SEVO people who've been selected as trainers by Hannington and the various classes. They will in turn take what Greg teaches them and go train the other students scattered across Uganda. The SEVO headquarters and bulk of its students are in the Luweero, central Uganda, area. We also have one large group in the capitol city of Kampala, and another branch in the Jinja region, east of Kampala about 60 miles. We opened a new branch just this weekend in Busula, about 12 miles from Luweero, with 84 new students. There are many more awaiting or just beginning training, for a total of about 280 in Kampala and up to 1000 in the Jinja region. As I write, Hannington is on his way to Jinja for 3 days to do more leadership training there to manage the needs, and to verify those numbers!

The following are some stories of SEVO interventions. You will see that the students are in the learning process, and you will see some of the mountainous needs we face alluded to in some of the stories…

Two SEVO students were near a roadside when a man on a motorbike was hit by a car. There was a nearby government medical clinic, but the man was unable to walk there for treatment of his wounds. He was bleeding from the ears and possibly had a jaw injury. They grabbed each other's wrists and made a "four-hand chair" and carried him to the clinic, where he was later transferred to a hospital.

A man got the poisonous sap of a plant in one of his eyes. He was screaming with the pain and digging at his eye so badly his friends were about to tie his arms down to prevent him from gouging his own eye out. A SEVO student knew from classes that the eye needed to be irrigated to rid itself of the irritant. He got a plastic bag, filled it with water, and cut the tip off one of the corners. He then used it to squirt the water into the man's eye, while protecting the other eye. When he finished the one bag of water, he refilled it, and irrigated with another bag full of water. The man was relieved enough to be very grateful, and was able to go on and seek medical treatment.

A woman complained to some SEVO students that her 14 year old son was becoming incapacitated with severe back pain. She had heard that they had some knowledge of back problems (simple chiropractic treatments had been taught by the New Life Center medical team August 2003). They showed her a diagram of the spine, the cervical, thoracic and lumbar bones and nerves. Then they showed her how certain exercises can be used to help and strengthen the back.

The woman returned home and taught the exercises to her son. One week later she returned with her son, rejoicing, because he was now able to move around pain free!

I was talking to my doctor about SEVO when he told me of a Chinese man who died from electrocution. He said if someone on site had known to thump him hard on his sternum, or even to do cardiac compressions as he was being transported, the man probably would've lived. Instead, he was thrown in the back of a flatbed truck and driven at breakneck speed to my doctor's clinic, only to be pronounced dead on arrival.

Right near where a SEVO class was taking place, a father and his 5 year old child on a motorbike had to make a sudden stop to avoid an accident. The child was thrown over the father's head, landing hard on the pavement. Many of the SEVO students ran to the scene, where one of them grabbed the child up in his arms, flagged down another motorbike as a taxi, and carried him to a medical clinic, even though there were no visible injuries.

On the main highway, a wheel came off a large truck and knocked a pregnant woman bystander unconscious. Many children came running around, creating a more hazardous situation on a busy highway. A SEVO student contained the situation and arranged transportation for the woman to be taken to a nearby medical clinic. Later in class, the other SEVO students critiqued the situation, saying he did a really good job in controlling the scene and moving the woman, but he had neglected to assess the victim's condition!

There was a large truck transporting over 40 police officers when it had a serious roll-over accident, injuring most and killing some of the officers. Somehow some of them were transported to a nearby medical clinic where they found no doctor or anyone willing to treat them. In the chaos and confusion of trying to deal with this tragedy, people began looking for SEVO people to come and help. Unfortunately, there were none in the area at the time.

Another SEVO student reported trying to assist and assess a road accident victim, when the police chased him off. They accused him of trying to rob the patient, which is a common problem, which SEVO also is determined to try to prevent. Until SEVO is more developed and has some sort of recognized ID, if the police tell them to back off, they do just that.

A SEVO student was working in an immunization clinic out in a village when he heard of a boy who'd been snake bitten 3 days before. When he visited him, he found the family had tied the boy's leg very tightly, and it was very swollen. He untied it and gave the boy a tetanus injection. When he returned 2 hours later, he found the family had retied the boy's leg. He examined the bite site and found the snake had been a non-poisonous one, so the swelling had been caused by the tying of the leg! The leg was again untied, and the boy survived his snakebite without further problem.

One of the major problems we face with SEVO is lack of follow-up care for the rescued victims. So we're hoping that as the students' training progresses, we are also going to be able to assess the community for interest levels of local doctors and nurses. If that level of interest is high enough, when Greg returns on a subsequent and longer training visit, we hope to have him give them some training on managing trauma patients and the necessity of treating them immediately to maximize life-saving efforts.

As we observe how SEVO matures and if our interested doctors show promise in learning to treat trauma victims, we'll be praying for a willing doctor to come over and do some medical training so that we can develop mini-trauma teams in existing clinics and hospitals. Then SEVO rescuers could call ahead, notify the closest trauma team of a victim's injuries, and have treatment organized before their arrival.

We're still a long ways from accomplishing this, as we are still working on figuring out how to provide emergency services with limited or non-existent communications and transportation, both for SEVO personnel and for victims. And as of yet, we have no funding. This volunteer group has been exactly that: volunteers. These are people who've been willing to sacrifice greatly in order to attend classes, to reach and treat accident victims of all kinds, and to save lives.

So please pray for SEVO for:

Margaret Nelson

"A Samaritan traveling on the road came upon [a robbed and beaten man]. When he saw the man's condition, his heart went out to him. He gave him first aid, disinfecting and bandaging his wounds…"

Luke 10:25-37 (The Message)