12.03.2007 - 16.03.2007
As the combi drops me off in front of the medical centre, it kinda dawns on me that I have no idea what I'll actually be doing here for the next month. Oh well, how bad could it be? I then walk inside where everyone simultaneously turns towards me with a look of bewilderment. And I thought I was the confused one. After a very long 5 minutes, a nurse approaches and greets me. Cool, I'm probably going to fill in some paperwork now and get a tour of the facility before starting on some translation or admin work. Nope. I'm instead taken to the storage area and fitted for a white lab coat. And then given a stethescope as well.
Um, they did get the memo I'm not a doctor, right? So just in case I'm scheduled to do some complex surgery, I frantically explain to the nurse that I'm just a volunteer here. She laughs and tells me to go to the office at the far end of the hall.
There I meet Dr. Belu, a young soft-spoken woman who is only too eager to get me started. For the first few patients, I just sit to the side and observe intently, trying my best to pick up as many Spanish medical terms as possible. And then she asks me to check some kid's throat. Pretending I know what I'm doing, I take the tongue depressor, open up the mouth, and just pray I don't choke this boy to death. I tell Dr. Belu that everything looks pretty normal. She takes a peek and says that it's badly inflammed. Nice first impression Brian.
The rest of the day (and week) goes by routinely. Some little girl needing stitches. A bunch of eye and ear irritations. Countless babies with fevers and coughs. Too many throat and stomach pains...what are they eating 'round here (oh yea, guinea pig and street meat). Dislocated elbow. Breastfeeding problems. Urinary infections. Vaginal bleeding. Typhoid. The usual.
As days pass, I try to make myself more useful. When I'm not frantically looking up words in my dictionary, I have become quite adept at calling patients from the waiting room and closing the door behind them. No seriously, I've already gotten to do more than I'm qualified for. I've done a couple consultations on my own (with Dr. Belu supervising and ultimately diagnosing), checked blood pressure, assessed respiration, and I haven't choked anyone with the tongue depressor yet. Yes, my volunteer work has felt more like an apprenticeship. And although it wasn't at all what I was expecting, so far so good. I should be called in to lead that surgery by week 3 or 4.
I'll write more about Huancayo and what life is like here in a future entry. Quite frankly, I haven't explored too much yet. It's a big city and I'm just trying to figure out where to buy fruit and shoes.
I will say that I'm living in the home of the mother of the organizers of my volunteer work. It's just me, her, her father (91 years old!), and another lady who helps out around the house. Unless you count the 3 dogs, 3 cats, 5 kittens, 10 guinea pigs, 1 duck, and 4 chickens. Yes, the same damn chickens/roosters that wake me up at 5am every morning!
That'd be my only real complaint other than the low doorway to my room that I've smacked my head against 15 times. Everything's good - hot showers, no longer living out of a backpack, and the homecooking is amazing. I never knew there were so many ways to mix corn, beans, and mystery meat. No really, some of these typical Peruvian dishes are delicious. I think we're even going to eat some of the guinea pigs soon. Although everyday I pray we're having chicken for dinner.