Monday, June 14, 2010

Second Week In Bolivia

Well I am into my third week now, but this post shall mostly be about last week. Last week was...interesting. I will briefly describe the weekend - we went first on this crazy hike up to the Muela del Diablo. It was quite neat. The next day we went on a bike ride, something like 55km down the Worlds Most Dangerous Road. Ended up going down from bout 14k feet to 3.5k feet into the rainforest where there was an animal sanctuary so there were lots of really friendly monkeys, birds, etc. Some insects too. No pics, alas, since these computers dont have memory card readers.

Anyway, Monday was fine, I followed Dr. Fernandez around for a while. Tuesday was more of the same. Wednesday I shadowed in Obstetrics and Gynecology, since we were all switching locations on Wednesday and I was absolutely miserable. Cannot stand OBGYN. First off, the sight of pregnant women, babies, breast feeding, etc. is definitely NOT my thing. Next, I know very little about pregnancy and complications. Finally, all the doctors spoke super quietly so it was near impossible to understand anyway. Then Thursday I tried to hang out mostly in ER but that got kinda boring, since it was mostly UTIs and women with abdominal pain. Friday we were going to leave early to go to Lake Titicaca for the weekend, but one of the guys in our group was feeling pretty ill from some bacteria, so had pretty bad GI upset... so we ended up not going. Me, the doctor, and the other girl in our group went shopping for souvenirs and went to the Coca museum, which had a lot of interesting information about the history of Coca in Bolivia and the world. Saturday...three was more souvenir shopping. As was Sunday, but we also watched a lot of partidos de futbol! Wednesday we had gone also, but it was just a local game and there was not as much skill as in the world cup. It is a pretty big deal here.

Anyway, this week we are spending mostly in the mobile units, checking out schools and kids in the streets. It is pretty neato, but I will do a full report later, since we have only done this for one day so far!

Friday, June 4, 2010

First Week in Bolivia

I would have written sooner but it's a little difficult to find time among all the things we are doing. We got in on Sunday morning at about 6am after flying to Miami and then La Paz. A lot of flying. Very long flights. We were met by Mr. Gonzalo who is our liason/coordinator for the volunteering we are doing. He helped us get a taxi which took us to our homestay. We are on the fifth floor of an apartment complex and staying with a woman named Olga. She speaks essentially no English but among our group of three (Nourah, Me, and John), Nourah and I usually are able to make sense of things. We were considering taking Spanish lessons, but we placed as intermediate/advanced so we weren't sure it'd be worth our money. Anyway, we napped that first day, then met Nathalie, one of our professors, at a coffee place in one of the plazas. We then explored the area a bit, did some shopping, that sort of thing.

The next two days were kind of a blur of meeting with Gonzalo to discuss the cultural and social climate here in Bolivia, discuss our role in the hospital, how we can contribute, that sort of thing. We also were joined by a physician from Touro, Dr. Mokari, who is hanging out at the hospital with us. We visited the hospital and were introduced to people but didn't stay long enough to do much else. Then we returned, have been eating out a lot and getting drinks, that sort of thing. We saw Prince of Persia the other day in Spanish, have gone on two bus tours, and the like. We're starting to get a pretty good feel of the city, including which taxis and minibuses are sketchy.

First day in the hospital I chose to follow an infectious disease epidemiology specialist - of course - and we saw four cases of Dengue fever (apparently really unusual for this time of year), a case of gallbladder stones, and then discussed the etiology, causes, diagnostics, treatments, etc. Today I saw a patient with tuberculosis, got to look at his X-Rays and auscultate his chest. It was really interesting. I was also shown around the SUMI office, which is insurance for low income individuals and they keep tabs on the most significant infectious diseases or conditions including yellow fever, leishmaniasis, rabies, influenza, tuberculosis, dengue, AIDS, hanta virus, polio, rubella, measles, etc. We're going to do a survey on Monday, and this weekend our group is going to do a biking trip to the rainforest, hopefully! Until then!