Map of the Americas

Map of the Americas
We are using this map to find our way home. We will be marking where we are in big fat red marker like Indiana Jones. (map idea courtesy of Blake Golden)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

San Pedro Clinic

So I tried to upload a picture and it just didn´t work. It was real close, and I thought it was going to work, but it didn´t. Sorry.

I want to describe the differences between what I experienced at Friday’s clinic in San Pedro and what I know to be a clinic at UAB.

So to start, in Birmingham I hop in my Toyota Tacoma, put on some Lucero, Drive by Truckers, or some other band and casually breeze down 280 into UAB. I park in a designated parking spot and walk to the Kirklin Clinic, probably wearing some nice pants, button down shirt with tie, and my white coat. On the contrary, on Friday I walk to the street carrying a trunk full of medicine. It is slightly raining when the transport vehicle shows up. I talk with him in Spanish, and he decides to strap the trunk full of medicine to the front bumper of his Toyota Landcruiser Jeep. That way he can still fit 8 people in the back to carry down the mountain. On the way down he has to use four wheel drive because the rain has picked up and the roads are muddy. I’m wearing my boots, jeans, Oskar’s t-shirt, and my Auburn hat turned backwards.

After arriving to the Kirklin clinic I find my way to the clinic I am supposed to be at and pick up a patient’s chart that I need to talk with. The clinic is full of doctors, nurses, receptionists, private rooms, beds to lay the patient on, computers, an in house pharmacy, everything you could dream about. When I arrive in San Pedro, I go to what we would say is a shack, but is actually a “nice” house in this slum. (Keep in mind that it is not nice for Venezuela, only for this slum.) The house is made up of two rooms with a curtain separating them. We get stationed in the kitchen, which is about 12 feet by 10 feet. There is Mary Alison there to translate, a student from South Carolina that is living with us for the year, a trunk full of medicine, me, a fourth year medical student, and as many kitchen supplies as you would ever need in a doctor’s office. No charts, no doctors, no private rooms. Just one crowded kitchen.

Then whether I am in Birmingham or San Pedro, I get to sit down with the patient, talk about what is going wrong, do a physical exam and diagnose the problem. That is about the only thing that is similar between the two different clinics.

When I finish with a patient in Birmingham, I may have a couple of minutes or so to myself before I head into the next patient room because there are private doors. In San Pedro as soon as one patient stands up, another one sits down in the chair across from me. This is because there are like ten people in the kitchen, people waiting outside the kitchen, and no appointments. The clinic ran non-stop from 3:00 to 8:00. I just can’t describe how much I enjoyed it. The good news is that we are now planning on having clinics there every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at the same time. The reason we do it in the afternoon/evening is so people can come after work.

One last thing. In Birmingham, I walk back to my Tacoma and drive home feeling good about a day’s work. However, here my friend Catirre came and picked Mary Alison and I up in another Toyota Landcruiser, only this one had the back end similar to a jeep not a wagon. There are only two seats, so obviously Catirre and Mary Alison got the seats. I got to stand in the back, holding on the bar that rises over the top of the jeep, looking out over the front of the jeep. It was slightly misty, as we drove back to the house. The wind coupled with the mist hitting my face felt perfect, while smelling that developing country smell that you know if you’ve ever been to one. Smells like gasoline but is somehow refreshing. All the while we are climbing a mountain in the Andes and I can look below and see the city of La Puerta and look above and see thousands of stars. Then I felt the stethoscope around my neck and just thought of how different this was than the States, but something about it was just so right. That drive was easily my favorite moment thus far in Venezuela.


Ben said...

Pretty cool description of the inner workings of the clinic down there. This seems like it is going to be an unbelievable experience. Hope all is well.


Bubba Brooksidious O'Boylanberg said...

Wow buddy, It sounds like you are having an amazing time!!!! I can't wait to see all of the pictures. I love your compare/contrast, very nice. Well, things here are the same...busy, but fun. Keep up the good work, my friend! Peace

Anonymous said...

happy birthday! we're cooking bacon with our shirts off at the beach in your honor. hope you have a great 25th.

love you and miss you lots!

- prophet and dahl

Bubba Brooksidious O'Boylanberg said...

Happy belated Birthday Buddy!!!!!!