Jessica and Heather here bringing you the latest news from the PMI clinic site here in Nicaragua. First of all, just want to give a quick shoutout to Dr. Vernon for saving Heather’s life a couple of minutes ago when she got all choked up dinner. Without his quick thinking we wouldn’t be able to bring you this juicy blog entry. So thanks Dr. V!
Our day began bright and early at 7:15 this morning. We loaded our bus with medical supplies and eager volunteers and headed into town. There we picked up a dozen interpreters and a couple of Nicaraguan nurses. Although the city is bustling with bikers, vendors, and school children, it maintains a very laid back feel which is refreshing during this hectic week for us. As we made our way into the countryside, we saw dirt roads filled with wandering dogs, pigs, and chickens. On either side of the road, we were surrounded by tall fields of corn and other crops with mountains and even a VOLCANO in the background! The locals stared in wonder as our big yellow school bus splashed through the puddles in the road.
When we finally made it to the clinic site, people were already lined up waiting. Some had walked, some had come on horseback, and one man had even ridden his bike for an hour in order to get to the clinic for treatment! We busily set up tents for people to escape the heat while they waited for their turn to see our team. Luckily there was already an open air building for us to set up exam rooms and a make shift pharmacy. Registration and triage quickly made use of the front porch while physical therapy/occupational therapy (PT/OT) and glasses worked out on the back porch. Within an hour there was a steady flow of people being seen by our volunteers.
To give you a better idea of our setup: an arriving patient first sees registration where a translator helps take a general history and understand the patient’s chief complaint. They are then given a number and wait to see someone in triage. In triage, vital signs are recorded and a multivitamin and deworming medication are administered to each patient. Next, they go to a provider who examines the patient and makes a diagnosis. Pharmacy, PT/OT, and glasses are referred to as needed. Diabetes, hypertension, and a rare form of kidney disease are prevalent in Nicaragua. These were no exception in our clinic today as well as many with low back pain and osteoarthritis likely due to the physical nature of their occupations.
I, (Jessica), got the opportunity to work in the therapy group today. While it was overwhelming at first to overcome a language barrier and my first real experience treating patients, I quickly got into the flow of clinic work. Many of the patients we saw today had complaints of low back pain and responded well to simple exercises and education on proper lifting. Some of the patients, had never had any type of medical treatment so it was really inspiring to their reaction to just simple treatment techniques. You could see the spark of hope when they felt they were getting better and it felt awesome to be able to give that to them! I may not know many Spanish words, but I definitely recognized the appreciation and joy when they told me “gracias!” Today was one of the best days of my life and I’m grateful to PMI for letting me be a part of it.
I, (Heather), found myself the Lone Ranger in glasses distribution today. I was nervous at first because my Spanish is limited and rusty. I should have been practicing more since the high school days. However, I quickly found that people thought I was a miracle worker when I gave them a pair of readers that allowed them to see small print they could not read for years! “Perfectamente!” They shook my hand, hugged my neck, and told me gracias before I sent them off to the next station. It was a remarkable experience to see such a reaction and impact made immediately before me!
Although we had limited supplies and a limited amount of time to spend with the patients, we made a lasting impact through simple education, medication, and a new affordable clinic in the near future. People left with smiles on there faces, both volunteers and patients!
Buenos noches (goodnight)!
Jessica y Heather