October 12, 2011
Hello friends of DGH,
Everyone here in Santa Marta is in recovery mode after the huge celebration of “Regreso a Casa”- “Return Home” on October 10th. Three nights in a row of dancing, pupusa-eating, and ferris-wheel riding took its toll on me too, so I spent most of yesterday in the hammock.
The youth group artisan sale was not as successful as we would have liked, which was not wholly unexpected as it was our first time. One problem we noted is that people here are not accustomed to buying decorations for their wall. We may need to rethink what we´re making.
To update the recycling project—it was a huge success, which unfortunately turned into a political battle. We collected something like 3000 plastic bottles and arranged with the mayor's office in Victoria to have them picked up, having previously agreed that this would be an excellent opportunity to pick up the garbage sitting at the school. However, at the last minute, after the trash was already in the street, we got a call from the mayor´s office saying they would not pick up the garbage. Angry phone calls ensued, and in the end, they took everything – bottles and garbage—but there were a lot of hard feelings for everyone involved. I'm hoping we can make this a permanent project, but after the situation cools a bit…
I also had my first patient accompaniment experience on Friday, which was extremely frustrating, eye-opening, and also rewarding. I went to the National Bloom Children's Hospital with a 1-year old boy with spina bifida, a condition where the spinal cord does not close completely before birth. His mother and I thought we were going for a brief check-up with the neurosurgeon, but we were in for a shock. We left Santa Marta at 3 AM to get to the hospital by 5:30 in time for his 6 AM appointment. The doctor did not show-up to see patients until 11 AM, at which point literally half the kids waiting with us, including my patient, were vomiting from heat and exhaustion. The neurosurgeon told us my patient needed another surgery (6 months ago) which no one had ever told his mom about. We were also advised that the wait for a healthcare-covered MRI was months: it would be better to raise the $300 to pay for an MRI now. We got a referral for rehabilitation only because I specifically asked for it. The rehab doctor was appalled that my patient had been wearing a brace on his feet for the past 8 months, per the orthopedic surgeon, that prevented him from learning to crawl and had made his feet point out. In short, the entire visit was complete frustration: we spent 9 hours in the hospital learning that none of the doctors had followed-up appropriately. The bright side is that I am SO glad I was able to go with them and I think we are now on the right path with respect to his care.
Ok, that´s all the updates from Santa Marta. I'll be going to the other DGH site in El Salvador—Estancia, Morazan— for 5 weeks, so hopefully I´'l be able to provide an update from there as well.