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.
Thursday, January 28
Sunday, January 24
UPDATE 1/30/16: Dinah (FIMRC Field Operations Manager, in navy blue t-shirt above) has informed me that in the past week Alvaro (the FIMRC-Peru staff member I'm training for their "Emergency Preparedness"project, in red above) has independently taught the CPR lesson in addition to a Wound Care lesson I prepared and taught with him last Friday. It's only one repetition and just a start towards sustainability, but this made me so happy :)
Friday, January 22
We're happy to say we arrived to Restauracion without any security issues or lost luggage. Each of us were placed with a family within walking distance. It was a little bit of an adjustment not having internet or hot water, but overall we've felt very welcomed and almost at home here. Here in Restauracion, FIMRC coordinates many activities here and in Haiti every week. The mornings are usually divided between the hospital and the local clinic, except for the one day per week we go to Haiti. The afternoon usually focuses on educational activities at a local school, library, or by going door to door to educate the locals. In January we are focusing on HIV/AIDS education.
|The view from the FIMRC office.|
Living in Restauracion: Life here is very different from what we are used to in the US. We have scheduled power outages every other day. Running water tends to alternate with the electricity. Oh, and we don't flush toilet paper! Every night there's music playing at various bars throughout the town. It is a bit humid here but none of us can complain when the temperature hovers around 80F.
Visiting Haiti was a very touching experience- the living conditions there are extremely bad. They still have cholera outbreaks. Their access to water and electricity is much more limited. Most houses resemble shacks and have dirt floors. Many Haitians try to escape poverty by crossing through the porous border into Dominican Republic only to face low wages, racism, extortion, and possible violence.
|The group in Haiti.|
Thursday, January 21
¡Hola de Costa Rica! Amanda and Andrea did a wonderful job sharing some of our most meaningful activities during our first week. Im going to try to give a close-up look at our clinic that we travel to in the city of Alajuelita. During our first week we were able to get acquainted with our host families and the routine of the clinic.
Our roles for the day, where we get to alternate each day. WR= waiting room, EX R= Exam room, Pharm= Pharmacy, SK= Soup Kitchen
The clinic is integrated into the community of the small town of Alajuelita due to its high concentration of Nicaraguan immigrants. The immigrant situation of Nicaraguans is interesting because they are considered "illegal" yet they are accepted to contribute to society through construction jobs, waste management and other jobs less likely to be in demand among Costa Ricans. Despite their contribution to society, they are not able to purchase Costa Riccan social health insurance and therefore cannot obtain routine healthcare from various E.B.A.I.S. centers or Equipos Básicos de Atención Integral en Salud which serve as first-line health centers.
We see many women and children as well as teenage and adult males. The doctor provides acute care for non-emergent cases as well as chronic disease management. The clinic helps with managing chronic conditions by giving them a starter regimen for their needed medications as well as plenty of patient education.
I really enjoyed being a part of a few child psychology sessions with the clinic Psychologist, Tatiana. The conditions that are endured by families can cause young children to find unhealthy and dangerous coping strategies, and it gives me hope that starting regular sessions would improve their coping skills now as well as later during their adult years.
Looking forward to meeting more people of Alajuelita and being a part of FIMRC's Proyecto Alajuelita!
Tuesday, January 19
|Velo de Novia, one of the waterfalls we visited|
Sunday, January 17
Friday, January 15
I think I can safely say that all three of us girls feel extremely happy to be here and lucky to have this opportunity. A week has already passed and so much has happened that it's hard know where to start. I'll give you a quick overview of the week from my perspective!
Saturday: Our arrival was a little complicated. Between the 3 of us we brought 6 bags full of medical supplies (each weighing 30-50 lbs), our own personal suitcases and backpacks. This made for an interesting trip through Customs when landing in Costa Rica.
|2 of the 6 bags of medical supplies we packed and traveled with, they were up to 50 lbs! Thank you Donors!|
|Amanda, wondering how we managed to carry all 6 bags through both airports, customs, and have them arrive safely at the clinic.|
|The beach at Antonio Manuel National Park.|
|One of the many monkeys we saw along our hike to the beach.|
|My breakfast: egg scramble with ham and cheese, tortillas with white cheese, grapes, orange juice, and coffee. This was a lot of food, but breakfast is the biggest meal of the day here!|
Thursday, January 14
Tuesday - We worked with a local women's organization in a couple different communities. Part of the visits were general health campaigns, with the pre-med volunteers taking vitals, Accuchecks, BMI, etc., followed by the three of us looking over the results and offering what basic health counseling we could. The other part focused on domestic violence, which is a big problem in Peru. This included a segment where me and one of the other volunteers acted out a domestic violence skit, which Mey took a video of and is now holding me hostage with (Just kidding Mey! But seriously delete that video).
Wednesday - Trauma service. Wound care is a bit different here, though perhaps in predictable ways. All wounds get copious amounts of iodine and alcohol, regardless of perceived contamination. The reasoning is that they consider all wounds to be contaminated, at least at this hospital. Related: there is not a lot of hand-washing. Interesting case of the day: tense, swollen, dusky tissue surrounding a snake bite on a child's ankle. DDx: Local necrosis primary to the snake bite versus evolving compartment syndrome.
Thursday - We went to a small native community called Belen, where we are helping them build a small school building for their kids. This is one of two communities where FIMRC will be implementing the Emergency Preparedness program they asked me to help develop, so I was very excited to meet everyone today. Anyway, our day today consisted of climbing an hour up a mountain into the jungle, chopping down 5 trees, dragging them back down, and putting up the frame of the building:
We'll be back to finish the building next week, and we'll likely do our first Emergency Preparedness session as well. Tomorrow it's off to another native community (the other one my project is going to hopefully be deployed in), where we'll be doing hand-washing teaching among other things.
Also excited for this weekend, when we'll take a little time for ourselves to go hike a waterfall in the nearby jungle.
Monday, January 11
Nick: It was great to back in the emergency department for the first time in a few months, but this time it was in Peru! The department wasn't all that different from what we see in the united states, but certain things did stand out. It's mostly staffed by non-emergency trained physicians, similar to the original U.S. ED's or some contemporary rural ED's that haven't been able to hire emergency physicians. The doctor I worked with today had excellent clinical acumen, and it was clear they rely a bit less on testing and radiology than we do. It was a good shift, and I learned a lot. I'm excited to go back, keep practicing my medical Spanish, and build relationships with the doctors in the ED.
In the afternoon we planned out our outreach activities for the rest of the week, some of which we'll be working on tomorrow. It's shaping up to be a good week!
Johnathan: Our trip started off a little rough, with my donation baggage getting lost somewhere between Miami and Lima. But I knew it would be a fun trip when in the first hour of our arrival, I was able to use my English, Spanish, and Chinese. We spent our first day on travel and getting to know some of our teammates from Massachusetts and New York and then began our clinical experiences today. Along the way, I got to try my first Peruvian street dish, choclo con queso (corn with the largest kernels ever and a side of cheese). Today was our first clinical day and I got a taste of their internal medicine outpatient work with one of the most popular and hilarious doctors in the hospital. Our hosts here in Peru have been amazing as well. The host family made a great dinner of Peruvian tortillas (a kind of chicken omelette) and the staff, Dinah and Allison, have been incredibly helpful. All in all, not a bad start.
Mey: I have been looking forward to this trip and it has not disappointed. On the plane, I sat next to a Peruvian lady who had married a Chinese man and was excited to meet a Chinese girl going to Peru. Even though my Spanish was limited, we had a great conversation and she offered to take us around Chinatown in Lima. So far the people have been amazing in Peru. The driver's wife knew Cantonese and I was so happy to chat with her. We spent the next day traveling from Lima to La Merced. The back drop of the Andes was breath taking. The massive rolling hills, waterfalls and winding roads was worth the long ride. Today was our first clinical experience here. I got to go to San Ramon, the next town over, and volunteered in the maternal/child department. What could be better than working with moms and their babies? Oh, and the coffee here is YUMMY.
Joe: The residency interview season caused me to arrive a little later than the rest of the group to Peru. Unfortunately, this caused me to miss a few days of activities and to travel alone on the two day journey to La Merced. It was definitely an experience traveling all the way from Michigan at 7:00 AM to Lima by 10:00 PM, making it all the way through customs and to the Hostel by 12:00 midnight, and riding on the 10 hour bus trip from Lima at 8:30 AM to La Merced where we arrived at 6:30 PM. Que una viaje larga! I was on the second level of the bus and had a FANTASTIC view of the rolling, serpent-like roads that clung close to the mountainsides. Often the road followed the natural tributaries of the Amazon river that carved out valleys in the mountains. On first impression, the people of Peru are very kind, helpful and interested. The city of Lima was a bit rough, but just outside it the Peruvian countryside is breathtaking. I cannot believe how crazy the drivers are here. Although I have experienced the insane driving of Haiti and other countries, in Peru it is a completely different ballgame because one poor move and you might find yourself rolling down the slope or crashing into the mountain side. I look forward to investigating and learning more about this beautiful country. Stay tuned!