Friday, May 23, 2008

Ileana Journal 2

The second week at the clinic was busier than the first and a bit more eventful. Instead of having seven to 14 patients each day, we had 14 to 27. It was a lot more difficult to triage the patients quickly enough. The doctors would often find themselves waiting for me to triage before they could see a patient. With three doctors working at once, it’s hard to keep up with them. There were a few families that needed two or three children seen together, so even if I triaged three of them, one doctor would take them and the other two would have to wait for me to get to the other patients. There were also a lot of young babies which meant that the whole process of taking their weight took longer than that of older children, since babies first have to be undressed to be weighed and then dressed again. (It’s very important that babies be weighed without their clothes on in order to get the most accurate measure.)

We had a few interesting cases, one child with dextrocardia at the beginning of the week (that’s when their heart points towards the right instead of the left side) and at the end of the week another child had dextrocardia and situs inversus, which means that all of their organs are reversed. Although those cases were interesting to hear about, I wasn’t able to see the rare conditions myself since the children showed no external signs. However, there was one child that came in at the end of the week with hydrocephalus. He came to the clinic because he had fallen and had a sore tailbone, but I was still able to see that his head was very large in comparison to the rest of his body. At first I was a bit shocked, but the child was actually so cute and well-behaved that I couldn’t help but think he was adorable!

On Wednesday we had a lunch-and-learn led by Dr. Srinivasan. He gave a very informative presentation on PALS (Pediatric Advanced Life Support). A few nurses and most of the social service doctors attended it. In Honduras, after students complete medical school, they have to perform social service in high-need communities before they can become fully licensed. Since the social service doctors do not have much hands-on experience, it’s important for them to attend the talks in order to know what to do in certain situations. The PALS presentation was especially useful because when the doctors learn about life support in medical school, there is no special emphasis on pediatrics, and there are indeed some key differences between children and adults. Overall, I’ve already learned a lot during these past two weeks and can’t wait to keep learning more.

Outside of the clinic, I haven’t been doing too much. I’ve started going to the beach in West End in the afternoon for a couple of hours until sunset; I find it’s a really nice place to read a book. I also gave scuba diving another try, but I think it’s fair to say I failed. I was on the boat, all ready to go, but I was too scared to lean back to fall into the water. I was just way too scared to fall backwards! I had a lovely time snorkelling though and have decided that that will be my new hobby. On Saturday, Peggy’s new volunteers arrived, so we all went to the Rotisserie chicken place for dinner. Then on Sunday I went to West Bay with three of the new volunteers. It’s great to have more girls around and we all seem to get along very well.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Ileana Journal 1

Week one in Roatan has been filled with so many new experiences. It’s hard to even know where to begin but I will focus on the clinic since that’s the reason why I’m here. Not having much of a science background I was somewhat worried that it would take me a while to adjust to the clinic environment. Fortunately Rose trained me well, and I found the triage process to be straight-forward and easy to follow: greet the patient and their mother or guardian (I say mother because I have yet to see a father come in, and guardian because many times it’s not the mother bringing the patient in but a sister, grandmother or aunt), then I get them to have a seat, I ask about the child’s symptoms and write them down in the patient file in Spanish. I then take the patient’s temperature, height and weight, and tell them to wait outside. After this I have time to look words up in the Spanish-English Medical dictionary if necessary, plot the patient’s height and weight on a growth chart, and enter the information on the Global Healing spreadsheet and on a hospital sheet. During this time the doctors are usually on rounds where they do newborn check-ups, so it works out well because it allows me to get a head start before they get back. On Tuesday I got to go with them on their rounds, but unfortunately there were no newborns to be seen. Nonetheless it was a great experience, because I got to see some other parts of the hospital. It was definitely eye-opening since the only hospitals I had been to before were certainly not public hospitals in a developing country.
Right now I’m working with Dr. Lidia Prado, who is the Honduran doctor in the clinic, as well as Dr. David Rhee, who is from New York and is the attending pediatrician, and Dr. Sush Srinivasan who is finishing his residency in Michigan. I really couldn’t have asked for better doctors to work with. They’re all very friendly and I’ve already learned a lot from them. Lidia helps all of us translate from English to Spanish and corrects our spelling and grammatical errors. She even threatened to start grading our work, but Drs. Rhee and Srinivasan vetoed the idea. Despite their discomfort with the language, I think their Spanish is great and they’ve proven to be quite capable of communicating with patients. They often want to double-check that they’ve understood the patients, and that the patients have understood them, so they’ll get me to translate for them. It’s been a great opportunity for me because I get to learn more about the cases and the diagnoses. The mothers will often use that time as an opportunity to ask more questions that they hadn’t thought of or to clarify things that they didn’t completely understand. I find it very reassuring when they do this, because it shows that they’re concerned about their child’s health.

I’ve learned already that it’s very important to make the patients feel comfortable. I’m still working on trying to calm the kids down when I take their temperature or their height and weight. I was surprised at how many of them start screaming or crying. The doctors seem to have figured out their own techniques to calm kids down, so I might have to ask them for tips. It’s been so long since I’ve been around children, that I’ve forgotten the nuances involved in dealing with children. I think I’ve done a good job at communicating with the mothers though. I make sure to say good morning and to smile a lot. I also think it’s important to keep a straight face at times when listening to the information they’re providing. I’ve overcome my feelings of shock at mothers not quite remembering their child’s birth date or mixing up the birth year. In North America, birthdays are a big deal. I’m also getting used to hearing about children vomiting or excreting worms, and I’m also becoming accustomed to seeing some of their rashes and sores.
Besides spending time at the clinic I’ve also begun exploring the island a bit. I’ve really only gotten as far as West Bay though and have spent most of my time in West End. Despite my various efforts to keep occupied, homesickness seems to come and go and sometimes staying busy is hard to do. On Saturday I decided to give scuba diving a try, but it’s proving to be more difficult than I expected. I think the problem might be that I simply don’t like being underwater. Drs. Rhee and Srinivasan are encouraging me to keep going with it, especially since I have yet to do an open water dive. So far I have only done confined water safety skills which I did not enjoy. Other than diving I’ve also gone to West Bay beach and have enjoyed quite a few meals out in West End. So far the food here has been great and the abundance of kidney beans suits my vegetarianism rather well.