“A good day starts when a six-year old says, “Thank you, nurse, you are a good girl!” Miriam Apio explains, laughing. Miriam is the CURE Uganda Lab Supervisor and a highly skilled medical laboratory technologist. She has a rollicking sense of humor and was ear-to-ear smiles as she told us about her recent patient. Even though this little girl had to get her blood drawn in the ICU, she took the time to be sweet and say thank you. Miriam’s response: “Thank you for being good, too!”
Miriam’s journey to CURE began when she was just a little girl. Her her father is a veterinarian. Her family lived on a government ranch in northern Uganda, and she would follow her father around as he took care of the cows there. She grew very comfortable with needles, blood pricks, and applied science from a young age. As a university student, she attended Makerere University, which is one of the oldest and best universities in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda. While still a student, Miriam heard about CURE from a former CURE Spiritual Director and was able to train in our laboratory during her breaks from school. She didn’t know too much about CURE before she came, but after her first few months of training she realized, “CURE was doing amazing things!” After university she worked in a private clinic for a few years and then came to CURE Uganda in 2011.
Now, Miriam is in charge of the lab! She manages two full-time and two part-time employees and oversees all the various types of tests the lab runs. These include testing blood, urine, and cerebrospinal fluid, as well as growing all sorts of microbes in the microbiology section of the lab. The lab is well equipped and packed with amazing machines that can analyze components of blood and fluids that help our doctors know what’s going on with our patients and how best to treat them. It’s an absolutely essential part of CURE Uganda, and Miriam runs it all with joy!
Even though Miriam is filled with joy, she does feel impacted by the sad moments of interacting with sick kids and very worried parents. She shared, “My job is interesting, but the hardest part is when mothers break down … because their babies are so little, and they are going to get a prick, and they are just days old … it kind of crushes you.” She explained, “The babies always cry, we are used to that, but it’s when the mothers cry, that’s when you get crushed; that’s the hardest part.”
When she sees a parent breaking down, Miriam tries to take the time to help her feel better. “I don’t rush. I put a stop to everything. I take time, let them breathe, comfort them, and then proceed with their blood draw,” she explains. She also recognizes that the ultimate comfort and healing is up to God: “When we have time, we pray with them, we encourage them it’s going to be okay, and we leave the rest in God’s hands.”
When she’s not working hard running the lab at CURE, Miriam takes time to decompress. “I love movies!” she exclaims. Her favorites are inspirational movies that relate to real-life stories. A recent favorite is Wonder, which shares the story of a young boy with a facial deformity. Miriam shared that the movie was really touching and a story of courage. There are a lot of similarities with our CURE kids and their families who also show a lot of courage in facing their challenges.
Miriam’s favorite part of her job is when she gets to witness a patient’s healing. “When a patient gets well, and the parents come, and they tell you “Thanks for treating us!” and they are smiling and they’re excited—that’s my favorite part”.
The CURE Uganda lab is about to get a few more gadgets to help the scientists do their work. Currently, our hormone analyzer, which is the most complicated type of test, requires some manual steps which are a bit tricky to manage, but we’ve just bought a new hormone analyzer which is fully automated. This will help our lab scientists save time and hopefully give even more accurate results. We’re also getting a new water bath and new blood gas analyzer—more important tools that will help Miriam and the other lab scientists continue to do their amazing work!
CURE Uganda’s Executive Director, Tim Erickson, shared with us his perspective on the new equipment: “Thanks to faithful donors who have been sponsoring equipment purchases for the hospital, we have been able to make some key purchases to update our lab equipment. On average we perform 3,500 lab tests each month which are critical in accurately diagnosing the health issues of our patients. The lab directly impacts every single patient we serve at CURE Uganda. We are so extremely grateful for the support that has made these upgrades possible.”
We are blessed to have such an amazing lab supervisor here at CURE Uganda. Miriam not only manages the lab and all the science and technology involved, but she also cares about the emotional well-being of our moms and babies and does her work with deep love and a sense of joy. She’s a truly incredible woman and we are so thankful for her!