written by Anthony
Carrie and I had our first clinic day today!
First, the briefest of introductions. We are volunteering through a program called Agape in Action (http://www.agapeinaction.org/) which focuses on health care needs of Central Guatemala. We are staying a heavily indigenous city of ~100,000 people called Santa Cruz del Quiché in the Quiché provence. The city is poorly developed, lacking the “basics” like laundrymats, supermarkets and movie theatres. The city is not much to look at and has a congested, run down feel but the natural surroundings are actually quite beautiful once outside the city center. We are living across the street from a tiny Hospital in a secure and comfortable compound which is in marked contrast to our surroundings.
The Agape in Action medical team is headed by Dr. Sherwood Pope, a young American family practice doctor and assisted by his wife Areli, who is from Mexico City and studied international affairs. They run4-6 clinics per week throughout central Guatemala and usually only have one clinic per village once per month.
So, this morning, after we loaded 4 large crates of medicine onto their pick up truck, Dr. Pope and Areli drove Carrie and I for about 30 minutes down a very bumpy dirt road to a very tiny school in which we based our clinic. We were warmly greeted by about 30 people who had been waiting for our arrival. The people were indigenous Mayans who have extremely limited health care access and subsist predominately by substitence farming. They were colorfully dressed in traditional garb and of all ages, from 3 weeks to 80 years. Spanish was not generally their first language, and several spoke little of it at all, instead relying on neighbors as interpreters for their local dialects. We set up shop and passed out numbers to the clinic for two quetzales, a very nominal fee of about 25 cents.
Carrie and I worked with Dr. Pope for the morning, as he helped me become oriented to his system and Carrie worked at inputting patient information into his database. Later in the afternoon we split up and I was seeing patients independently. We saw typical things that you would see in any US based practice — eldery men with diabetes, blood pressure, babies with skin rashes, children with coughs, teens with sore throats. We saw people with all manner of aches and pains. There were several prenatal visits. A husband and wife were surprised and a little dismayed when they found out that the reason his wife had nausea was that she was pregnant, with twins, which will bring their children to a total of 8. By far our most difficult case of the day involved a 5 year old girl who had lost the ability to walk three months ago and had been having persistent vomiting and diarrhea since that time. We totally lacked any way to reasonable to “work up” this problem without any diagnostic imaging available to us, so we recommended that she try to go to the hospital where at least they can do some head imaging. I hope she will be alright. All in all it was a successful day, however, and I felt we genuinely helped out the majority of people we saw. We’ll see what tomorrow brings!