Sunday, June 29, 2008

Dawn Journal 1

I've just finished my first full week at clinic here – 11 days on the island total. The clinic is what I expected, having heard descriptions from previous interns. The hospital itself is pretty run down, with the electricity going out often and the water running less so. The first days, I learned how to triage patients and enter the appropriate data into the computer. At first, I was nervous that my Spanish wouldn't be good enough—that the patients wouldn't be able to understand me and vice versa. That fear has abated somewhat, as I've picked up the general routine, but sometimes I still feel inept at what I do, due to the language.

With patients, I've noticed that there are a few diagnoses that are quite common. Otitis media, scabies, and internal parasites seem to be popular. I've also noticed that many of the mothers are extremely young. Only a few fathers have accompanied children. During triage, I ask all families where they live and have come to wonder if there is a trend in sickness due to what barrio people come from. Most children are below 50th percentile in weight and height.

After clinic, I have been volunteering at the local orphanage. There are 10 children there and they vary from 2 to 18 years of age. They seem to be well cared for, though the level of discipline is a bit low. I believe this may be due in part to the rapid turnover in administration. The children are friendly and energetic, and I wonder what kinds of effects the lack of a consistent adult figure in their life will have.

In addition to the RVPC, I've gotten to know the island pretty well. So far, I have visited both the western and eastern ends of the islands, hung out at a couple of resorts, snorkeled almost every day, watched a dolphin show, hiked up into La Colonia, and gone SNUBA diving. The other volunteers at Peggy's clinic have been welcome and inviting, which I have appreciated immensely.

This coming week, a new American doctor, Dr. Gross, will be coming to work in the clinic. I look forward to meeting him and possibly shadowing him to see what kinds of thought processes he goes through. More to come soon!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Ileana Journal 5

My second last week at the clinic was not very eventful because from Tuesday to Thursday the hospital was on strike. Although we relieved some of the patient load from emergency by tending to the non-urgent pediatric cases, we had very few patients to see. On Friday, people must have assumed that the strike was still on, because we only had one patient. The plus side of not having very many patients was that I was able to focus on other things. On Wednesday for example, Dr. Prado and I had time to go to a computer shop to get a quote on the price of a new computer. Lately the clinic computer has been running very slowly and it’s definitely time for a new one. We still have not received approval for the purchase, but I am hoping that we can get it before I leave. This might be tough since I only have one week left.

Having extra time at the clinic gave me the opportunity to discuss Roatan’s public health issues with Dr. Prado, as well as the differences amongst the different ethnic and socioeconomic groups here on the island. Not surprisingly, the biggest concern on the island is a lack of health education and awareness. So next week, we are hopefully going to be visiting some public schools to do some health presentations.

Dr. Prado also taught me a little bit about hypertension in children and showed me how to take blood pressure. I only practiced on her and not on real patients, which was definitely a great idea, because it was more difficult than I imagined. During my lesson I also learned a great deal about stethoscopes and was amazed to hear how sophisticated and expensive they can get.
Another thing Dr. Prado told me about was respiratory distress. As I was triaging a patient and trying to take his temperature with the thermometer, he started crying as babies typically do. Dr. Prado was with another patient, but as soon as she heard the boy crying, she got her stethoscope and listened to his lungs. I was a bit surprised at first, because the mother had not mentioned anything about difficulty breathing. However, as soon as Dr. Prado heard his lungs, she decided to see him right away, so I knew it must have been bad. She later put him on oxygen instead of just using the nebulizer, which I had never seen before. Since I was so confused about this, I had to ask her how she knew there was something wrong with the boy just from hearing him cry. She said that it was not a normal cry and then went on to briefly explain the signs of respiratory distress, its effects and its treatment. The next day a two-month-old was admitted to the E.R. with severe respiratory distress. I did not go see him until he was a bit more stabilized, but even when I saw him, I recognized the signs that Dr. Prado had pointed out and was pretty amazed at how fast he was breathing.

Week six also marked the end of my volunteering at the Sandy Bay Alternative School. My time at the school was interesting as I had not been exposed to such a group of children before. From what I have gathered about the school, it is a private school on the island that follows an American home-schooling curriculum. The advantage for the children is that they are able to socialize with their peers while also influencing the pace of their education. My experience with the children consisted of spending time in the classroom during their summer school program. In the summer, they are given the option to attend the school and so they do not follow a curriculum. The children that do decide to attend (or whose parents decide for them) are all put into the same classroom and do educational activities and exercises together during the day. When I was there, there were about 16 children aged six to 13. I volunteered for two weeks, Monday to Thursday 1-3pm, assisting two of Ms. Peggy’s volunteers whose lesson plans covered global awareness, environmental awareness and general health and nutrition.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Ileana Journal 4

My fourth week at the clinic just seemed to have flown by. We didn’t have anything too unusual, but things were different because Dr. Rhee was gone and Dr. Prado was also away due to a family emergency. That left only Dr. Srinivasan and the new attending, Dr. Kuhl. Things went rather smoothly though, with none of the children needing to be admitted. On Monday, the highlight of the day was when I watched Dr. Kuhl lance a post-varicela abscess on an 18-month-old boy’s bottom. The boy had come in on the Friday and Dr. Rhee had prescribed him some antibiotics hoping the abscess would get smaller so that it wouldn’t have to be lanced, but they hadn’t helped. By Monday it had gotten so bad that the poor little boy couldn’t walk or sit down comfortably. The interesting thing about it was that with Dr. Prado gone we didn’t quite know where things were. I had to go to the E.R. to get a surgical blade and the doctors searched the clinic looking for gauze, iodine and bandages. We eventually managed to find the rest of the supplies at the clinic, but unfortunately, we didn’t have any anaesthetic. I had never seen an abscess be drained before so although I expected to see a lot of pus, I didn’t think it’d be so bloody. The boy took it really well though, he cried and screamed, but didn’t kick or squirm much. The rest of the week went by pretty steadily, and we managed to get out early a few times. On Friday, Dr. Srinivasan showed me an ear infection, so I was pretty happy about that.

Outside of the clinic, I didn’t do too much. On Tuesday I went to a yoga class at Land’s End with some of Peggy’s volunteers. It was very nice because we could see the sun setting on the ocean and hear the sound of the waves crashing, as we did yoga. I think we’ll return again this week. I am now living with two of Peggy’s volunteers in another apartment at the White Diamond. I am very happy with it.

On Wednesday the bad weather started on the island and I saw rain for the first time since I have been here. The rain didn’t stop until Sunday and the cloudiness and strong winds are expected to stay until Tuesday. Even though I had plans to go hiking at the Carambola Botanical Gardens on Friday and go on the glass-bottom boat in West Bay on Sunday, I wasn’t able to do so. I’m really hoping the weather clears up next week.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Ileana Journal 3

It seems like every week in Roatan keeps getting better. Week 3 at the clinic was a bit busier, but by now I’ve really got myself into a routine. Overall the week was normal but like always there were a few interesting stories.
At the beginning of the week we had an 18 month old come in with a 103F fever. I told Dr. Srinivasan right away because it was the highest fever I had yet seen. He told me I could give the boy Motrin while he waited, so I was able to do that with a syringe. I had never given medicine to a child with a syringe before and at first I was a bit nervous. I didn’t know how quickly to push it and was worried that I’d give him too much medicine at once. It ended up being really easy though and the boy seemed to really enjoy it because it was bubblegum flavoured. After Dr. Srinivasan saw him, he decided to admit him because he looked a bit lethargic, which I learned is not very good in medical terms. The next day when I came in, I was told that his condition had worsened overnight and that he had passed away. It was a big shock because although he had looked sick, it didn’t look like he was dying. It upset me a bit because just the day before I had given the boy medicine and I remembered him so vividly because of that. I was able to accept his death though because I realized that sometimes things like that happen. I did the best I could by giving him medicine and Dr. Srinivasan did the best he could by admitting him.
On a lighter note, I got to use a stethoscope last week! I listened to my heartbeat, which is normal, listened to a murmur, which sounded very different and also listened to an asthmatic child’s breathing, which sounds normal without a stethoscope but actually has wheezing when you listen to the lungs through a stethoscope. Dr. Srinivasan also let me look inside his ear so that I could see a healthy ear and eventually I’ll be able to see what an ear infection looks like.

On Friday we had a child come in for his 10 day check-up who had hyperbilirubin. Dr. Rhee needed to take some blood out to have blood tests done, but since the baby was actually only 9 days old it was very difficult. The doctors had me put my finger in the baby’s mouth so that he could suck on it while they tried to draw the blood. It was amazing to see blood coming out of such a small child. They weren’t able to get all the blood they needed, but I think they got enough to do the tests.

Other than patient cases, the other exciting news in the clinic was that we got air conditioning! Ever since I got here the clinic had been too hot to be able to work comfortably in it. Even the patients would complain because the clinic was hotter than the hallway outside where they wait. Now that we have air conditioning, I’m sure things will be a lot more comfortable. Since Dr. Rhee worked on getting the air conditioner approved, he thought it should be named David, after him. Everyone had agreed to it, but then Dr. Prado thought it should be named Lidia after her, since she was the one that arranged for it to be delivered to the island and picked it up and arranged the installation. As of now it remains unnamed.
Friday was Dr. Rhee’s last day so Dr. Srinivasan and I went out for dinner with him to the Lighthouse. It’s Dr. Rhee’s favourite restaurant in Roatan and I can see why. The ambience was great, the breeze outside was very nice and the food was delicious! We were all so full afterwards that we had to sit there for a while before getting up to leave.

On Saturday, two of Peggy’s volunteers decided to rent a truck for the day, and they invited three of Peggy’s other volunteers and myself to join them on an excursion around the island. I got to see how beautiful the island really is. We went to Oakridge and then took a water taxi to the mangroves and to the Hole in the Wall restaurant. It was a very great experience. We then went to Paya Bay beach, it’s so far off the main road that hardly anybody goes there, but it’s absolutely gorgeous! On Sunday we went to West Bay again and we went snorkelling. The reef is so beautiful and so close to shore! I saw a lot of nice, colourful fish, and luckily no sting rays or other strange creatures!