OVERVIEW

Thank you so much for taking time to look at our blog! We are a group of edical students who are passionate about training and in underserved areas. This January and February, we are in Peru, the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica internationally as well as locally in Flint and Lansing completing volunteer service, rotating in hospitals and clinics, and learning about international medicine and local underserved health care. We appreciate any time you take to read our reflections and any donations you might offer.

Please click the “Donate” link on the side for more details on how to give directly to these communities.


Monday, February 2

Adventures in la Isla Chira

(Apologies for the font discrepancies... having technical difficulties)

On to la Isla Chira. Population, 3000.

The five of us, Dra Natalia and her boyfriend Dr Pablo, Tatiana and her four-year old daughter Isabela, Dayan, and another volunteer Luke, ventured on a lancha (boat) along the Gulf of Nicoya (an inlet of the Pacific) towards Costa Rica's second largest island populated by three indigenous villages. We will be running a mobile clinic in three different communities on the island this week, as Chira only has one out-of-town doctor that comes to work at their local clinic 1-2 times a week. The nearest hospital is in the city of Puntarenas, which is accessible only by boat. Access and cost, needless to say, are big issues.



We are greeted by a couple of thirsty black vultures alongside a turquoise and yellow school bus permeated with dust from the wind. Our young, tanned driver pulls us into second gear down the rocky dirt path. I predict we might be seeing some patients with an impending diagnosis of asthma...




La Amistad is a "posada" or hostel-style inn where we will be inhabiting this week - a paradise for the nature lover who finds comfort in open wooden cabinas, fresh cold water showers, and natural heating from the sun that sustains our livelihoods... a nightmare for those who prefer heated toilet seats and central air conditioning. We made frenemies with a few furry tarantulas, an extended family of fire ants who decided to have a picnic on Joyce's face, gigantic grasshoppers who were sometimes mistook as tarantulas, Jimminy cricket's cousin, a devil wasp / beetle who was definitely up to no good, The Simple Dog and his soon-to-be wife Simps, the overly-machismo iguana and his Zumba master crawler compaƱero, the annoying mysterious morning bird / salamander hiding in the ceiling cackling and mocking the humans, and a few other unidentifiable creatures hidden in the darkness of the night that we may never have the privilege to meet.






We learn very quickly to accept the fact that there will be a constant exterior layer of sticky salty sweat mixed with dried sunscreen and greasy DEET permeating our bodies. Suffice to say, it isn't the sexiest moment of our lives. 



We dove right in. Tati assigned each of us patients, grouping them by families. Many arrived as early as 6am to wait for us. On average, each of us saw 8-12 patients from start to finish. We were their receptionist; their nurse; their doctor; their pharmacist. After presenting each case to Drs Natalia or Pablo, forming a diagnosis and plan, and educating / counseling our patients, we dose and fill their medications (thank you donors!) and explain to them the instructions before sending them on their way.

217 patients later... many untreated skin infections (some that were clearly septic), untreated urinary tract infections (many in young kids, some which have spread to the kidneys), sugars ranging from 52 to 508, misdiagnosed hyperthyroidism which was actually hypothyroidism, lots and lots of back / leg / neck pain, neglected mental illnesses, parasites, gastritis, malnutrition...you name it. Many of these patients have a low level of education and health literacy, coupled with lack of access and issues with cost (Costa Rican prices tend to be more steep than in the U.S.) = lots of end stage preventable conditions, infections that have spread, and general lack of understanding about their health conditions.
 
On the last day, Angie and I gave charlas on Hand Washing / Dental Hygiene for the kids and the Female Reproductive System / Menstrual Cycle with Cycle Beads, respectively. Both were very well received. After four days of packing/repacking the meds, setting up and running the clinic, we grew quite efficient and confident with our skills. We adapted quickly to our surroundings, worked together as a team, looked out for each other, avoided drama, built cultural bridges to minimize language barriers, constantly thought on our feet and made adjustments as needed, and played on our respective strengths. Overall, it has been a fun, hot, memorable, and informative cultural learning experience. We wish there was more continuity with the patients we saw, but we at least feel solaced by the fact that it was care and education that they would not have otherwise received. The relationships we developed, as short-lived as they may have been, were real. Those are the intangible moments we will remember and take home with us, on both sides of the continent.


Here are some highlights from our week in pictorial form:

Day 1: Palito and Montero

 

Day 2-3: San Antonio 



Day 4: Bocana


 

Misc
Home-made posters for our charlas!
"Libre soy...!" -Spanish Frozen, except it's 80 degrees
View from Puntarenas
Team Costa Rica '15 :)

Until next time, Pura Vida!
Serena, Sara, Joyce, Jen, Angie

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