Healing the Volunteers

Monday, December 26th

6:30 am: I woke up with a fever, headache, sore throat, and an aching body. To make matters worse, I had not had a solid stool in 48 hours. The diarrhea was likely my fault. After a few days of being thirsty, I began ignoring the rule to not drink tap water. I was now drinking a significant amount of tap water per day, knowledge that I do not really want Katie or Timothy to obtain (I am sorry, I know bottled water is so cheap… no excuse here.) After consulting with Grace and Julia, I decided to take the morning off from the clinic and relax. Mommy made me breakfast, and some hot limeade. She was also kind enough to come into my room every hour to check on me and change my sweat soaked shirt.

1:00 pm: I got the energy to go downstairs and do some work. I knew Julia and Grace would be home from the clinic soon and I wanted to hear about their day and what I had missed. For better or worse, they reported that it was a slow day at the clinic. Only 4 women came in for pap smears. However, they were excited to report that the clinic was filled with chicos, as they are now on their summer vacation.

5:00 pm: It was time to head to our medicine class. I was feeling better after showering and sleeping for the entire day so I decided to join the group and go to the clinic for class.

Dr. Jose Neira taught us about general examinations. He has exceptional English and is a great teacher. He is currently in his second year of residency for physical medicine and rehabilitation. The girl’s host dad was his college math professor. He was so happy when we made this connection and our host dad was ecstatic when we reported the news back to him.

Much of the material in the medicine class was interesting to me. Most notably, Dr. Neira reported that 34% of the children in the community the clinic serves have anemia. Contrary to popular belief, the problem in Peruvian families is not necessarily a lack of income, but a lack of wisdom on where to allocate their resources. Dr. Neira explained the difference between symptoms (described about a patient by a third party of by him or herself) and signs (a measurable result of illness). He then went through the process of a general examination with us, and taught us the main Spanish words to know when performing these. We then practiced general examinations on one another, and on one young girl from the community that had spent time with us during the class.

Next we reviewed the details of anemia treatment and causation in preparation for the campaign taking place the following day. Unfortunately, anemia medications are too expensive for most families to afford in Peru. They are about 60 soles per bottle, or $20 in US currency. I constructed a small poster with a list of foods that are reasonably cheap for Peruvians to buy that prevent and help cure anemia.

9:00 pm: We left the clinic and headed home for dinner with our families. We then called it a night and I headed to bed to get more rest. I was exhausted and still not feeling 100%.

Tuesday, December 27th

6:30 am: I woke up feeling much better than the day before. I still knew I was not at full heath, but I did not want to miss another day in the clinic. After getting ready, I headed downstairs for another delicious and fresh breakfast made by my host mom. Each morning there is freshly squeezed and blended juice with bread from the market down the street, bananas, mangos, avocados, jam, butter, and cheese. Mommy also usually makes delicious eggs for us. Sometimes they are scrambled with meat, other times they are sunny side up, or plain.

7:30 am: The group met in the square and we all headed to catch the bus to the clinic. Grace wasn’t feeling well on Tuesday morning so she stayed behind to get some more rest with plans to join the rest of the group at the clinic in the mid-morning. Unfortunately, on her way to the clinic, she fell down the steps and hurt her foot and had to go to the hospital. After taking x-rays, the doctors determined she’d torn several ligaments. They wrapped her foot and put her on crutches. I hate this so much for Grace. Being the strong girl she is, she came to the clinic after the hospital and joined the group for lunch. I had a little too much fun pushing her around in the wheel chair. In retrospect, I realize that I was in my scrubs while sprinting through the mall pushing her in her wheel chair, and messing around. A sight to see, I am sure.

8:30 am: We arrived at the clinic around 8:30 am for the anemia campaign. This was our busiest day of the week; we tested over 34 patients! Julia was amazing at taking the blood of patients. Brian and Ramy also took a few patients’ blood. I worked primarily in triage for the day. This was fun and particularly challenging because we saw several families for the first time. Sometimes a family of five would need to be taken in at the same time. It was a challenge to keep all of the kids away from certain equipment and calm when we had to use needles while also organizing the flow of patients in and out. Although most of the children were surprised at how painless having blood drawn was, there were still a few kids that needed to be consoled afterwards.

12:30 pm: After the busy morning we circled up for debriefing and reflection. I suggested that in future anemia campaigns, the blood be taken in a separate room if the logistics were available. I believe it would make the process smoother and more comfortable for the patients involved, especially since the examination rooms were not being used. I know it is pointless to excessively worry, but a kid could have easily been running carelessly and bumped into a doctor about to stick another patient with a needle. The clinic is new, and for its second week, I don’t think it could be any smoother. It is so cool to be a part of something in its early stages and get to see room for implementation and improvement. I am also thankful for our two supervisors, Katie and Rosa, who are open to suggestions and give feedback on feedback.

3:00 pm: After lunch, we returned to the clinic for a movie day with the kids to watch Zootopia. This was fun and challenging at the same time. We made the mistake of readily handing out the candy (strawberry suckers, lemon candies, cookies) at the beginning of the movie day, rather than requiring good behavior in exchange for sweet treats. It was also challenging to keep the kids sitting still and not running through the clinic, and to confiscate enough of the bottle caps so that they were not constantly projected at the movie display. With that being said, we all had a good time with the kids and we hope to have more movie days in the future.

7:00 pm: Once the movie ended, the guys went outside and started playing volleyball with the kiddos, which then turned into a soccer game. Julia and I left to head to Huanchaco. Before catching the bus, we grabbed some water and snacks to hold us over until dinner. Huanchaco was lovely as always.

9:00 pm: After another successful adventure to Huanchaco, Julia and I were eager to get home and check on Grace. Grace is very active and involved; it was not easy for her to spend the day at home with the knowledge that her peers were out working. The girls all spent the rest of the evening on the couch downstairs with one another, chatting and reflecting. Sweet Omar came over to visit, and his smile immediately lifted Grace’s spirits. 

1:00 am: When the early morning snuck up upon us, we told Omar goodbye, got a mango and some hot tea, and made the trek upstairs to our room to head to bed for the night.