Leslie and I spent the morning in the Internal Medicine wing of the hospital taking patient vital signs. There are five rooms with five beds in each one. Several of the patients were incredibly ill. In any US hospital, the majority would have been in an ICU hooked up to a number of monitors and IVs with nurses and doctors checking on them regularly. Instead they lay there sweating profusely in the hot, cramped rooms waiting either alone or with a family member for a doctor’s arrival.
A number of the patients had irregular heart sounds, fever, and/or abnormally high/low blood pressure. One patient had a bp of 65/40, as opposed to the normal 120/80. Rather than hearing alarms go off and nurses rushing into the room, we were instructed to record the information and move onto the next patient. I arrived at the bed of a 40 year old paranoid schizophrenic with all of his limbs strapped to the table. As I approached him, he began calling out in fear that I would hurt him. We tried our best to calm him down, but he wouldn’t stop struggling against me for long enough to take the blood pressure.
We left the hospital early afternoon. Today (June 25th) marks the beginning of the 1979 Revolution led by the Sandinistas to overthrow the totalitarian President Somoza. Each year, thousands of Nicaraguan people walk the historic walk of their ancestors. The march, known as “El Repligue” by many, mimics the route that the Sandinistas walked 32 years ago from Managua to Masaya to congregate in massive forces. Throughout the day we had asked our team leader, Nilda, about pre-Revolutionary Nicaragua and the Somoza regime. She remembers seeing a young man accused of being a guerilla fighter shot in the head at gunpoint a few feet from her. Each time anyone would come by her home, her mother feared for the life of her 12 year old brother. Although he was only a boy, the family worried that his adult size would convince one of Somoza’s men that he was part of the revolutionary forces.
Nilda knew the roads home from the hospital would become too dangerous for traveling as the afternoon progressed, so we were instructed to get back to the hotel earlier than normal. The march didn’t reach Masaya until around five in the evening. The hotel sits on the main road and we could watch the celebration from out front. It was a very fun sight to see. The streets were congested with hundreds of excited Sandinistas and smiling relatives of those lost in the revolution. We saw several motorcycles and trucks filled with people waving flags and beaming with national pride. The celebrating continued until late into the night.