Today was our last day serving in the clinic in La Concha. Leslie and I got to work together again and in total the eight of us saw and treated close to 40 patients! I’m gaining more confidence with the patients and with my medical Spanish. Like the previous two days, we arrived around eight to see a long line of people already waiting for arrival. We were much busier today (Monday) and didn’t close until almost five this evening. We treated patients with many of the same health problems as yesterday, such as UTIs, ear infections, skin rashes, fungal infections, parasites, and arthritis.
In the morning we talked with a 55-year old patient who expressed her concern to us about frequent dizziness, fainting, dry mouth, and other traditional indicators of diabetes. We decided to take a sample of blood and the results were disheartening. Her blood-glucose level was four times that of an average adult. After confirming the diagnosis with Dr. Cerrato, we had to explain to her the result of the test and how her life needed to change from his point forward. Her positive demeanor quickly dissolved into sadness and desperation. There were so many things I wanted to tell her, but I couldn’t formulate the right words. I didn’t feel qualified to do this job in English (much less in Spanish). As she left the clinic with tears in her eyes, I realized she will likely never get the opportunity for treatment or further education about the disease.
I left for lunch feeling defeated. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be here and help the people of La Concha, but these experiences are leaving me with the realization that we are only applying a tiny band-aid to a gaping wound. What do the people do when we aren’t here? In a few weeks time, the effect we have had will quickly be washed away. Even in the very best cases, we can only prescribe enough medication to last for 20 or maybe 30 days. The most frustrating part of the problem is most of the public health issues are completely preventable and treatable. Those that come to us with more serious problems are recommended to seek help at their local hospital, but the reality sinks into all of us- the majority of the people in this community, and many more like it, don’t have the resources to do so.
One a much more positive note, there were a number of people that particularly touched me today. We treated a 15-year old girl for a skin fungus. After taking her health history and conducting a physical, she started to make small talk with us while we waited for the doctor to finish up with one of the other groups. She proceeded to tell us she wanted to become a doctor too. Although she has been raised in an impoverished community where most people (especially women) don’t go to school past her age, she elaborated to us what she wants to specialize in one day. As we walked to pick up her prescriptions, she smiled and thanked us for coming to her country. I hope she will have the opportunities to make her dream come true.
Tomorrow we are going into the city of Granda for some sightseeing and relaxation. I believe we will get to go on a tour of a volcano as well. Wednesday we will travel
to the next community we will be serving, San Juan del Oriente. Hopefully my next entry will be accompanied by more pictures. But for now, I'll leave everyone with another delicious Nicaraguan dish!