Saturday, November 29, 2014

Vida Clinic Day One

As we veered off the main road and found ourselves on a dirt path, the bus began to slow and we started to bob up and down in our mismatched scrubs. The terrain of the dirt road suddenly went from bad to worse, and our bus driver informed us that we would have to make the rest of the trip on foot. So we gathered our belongings, exited the bus, and began our walk under the impossibly blue Nicaraguan sky. When we reached the top of the hill there was a schoolhouse to our right and a pasture full of both playing children and grazing cattle to our left. We walked through the gated entrance of the school under an abundance of blue and white Nicaraguan flags. There were three classrooms, all then unoccupied for the children were on recess. But soon after we arrived a bell rang and the children filed back into their classrooms, one of which was moved outside to provide us an area to set up our pharmacy. Once everyone had arrived we worked swiftly to get ready, for there were already patients in line. Desks from the classroom we set up outside in intimate circles and medicines were labeled and organized atop the teachers desk. As I took my seat in the wooden desk I was immediately transported back to my days in grade school, but today wasn't about learning today was about doing. The butterflies in my stomach continued to flutter around as our first patient was brought over to our circle. He looked to be around seventy-five and had kind eyes and a soft smile. He wore a buttoned-shirt and a blue Phillies cap. With the help of his cane he slowly lowered himself into the little desk. We said hello and introduced ourselves, he smiled back at us and told us his name. We then went on to ask him questions about his general health. The man had a slow and easy voice, and took his time to answer each question thoroughly. After we had a general idea of his health history we asked him what brought him to our clinic today. He said that for the past couple years he had been experiencing excruciating pain in his knees as well as irritation and itchiness of both legs. He then added that he had been having trouble with his vision for about two years, that the glasses he owned were no longer useful. I pulled out a little flashlight from inside my pocket and pointed it at his eyes. In his left eye there was something protruding into his iris. We had learned about this condition the day before and were told it was common in the area, it is called a pterygium and can only be fixed with surgery. We then moved down to the pain and irritation in his legs. We asked the man to pull up the pant legs of his worn khakis. He had a rash running down his legs, but nothing physically abnormal about his knees. We concluded that the knee pain must be arthritis. After taking his vital signs and temperature we called over one of the doctors. The man sat there with his sweet smile and hands folded on the desk. The doctor joined our circle and we presented our case. The doctor then turned to the man and presented our diagnosis. She explained to our patient that what he had in his eye could only be removed with surgery and he would have to go to the hospital for that. The man's expression didn't change he just nodded his head as the doctor spoke. She then went on to explain that the irritation on his leg was most likely an allergy and that we could give him some cream to relieve the itchiness. Finally, the doctor told our patient that he had arthritis and that this is what was causing the pain in his knees. She went on to say that there is no cure for arthritis and that he will have it for the rest of his life, but that we could give him ibuprofen to help manage the pain. The doctor handed me the prescriptions for the hydrocortisone and ibuprofen and I made my way to the pharmacy. I returned to our desks and handed the man his medicines. He thanked me with the most genuine gratitude I think I have ever experienced. For ibuprofen and hydrocortisone. Two things I'd never thought of as particularly special, but to this man they were life changing.

 Emily Becker

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