Thursday, December 20, 2007

Blood and guts, Part 3

Today was an exciting day. One of the general consult nurses is getting married this weekend and she unexpectedly told the head RN, Lori, that she couldn't come to work today. So at 8:30pm yesterday, Lori appeared at my room to inform me that I was going to be the second general consult nurse for the day. In other words, I would be diagnosing illnesses and prescribing medications for the first time in my life, after a meager 2 days experience at the clinic. I was stoked! And rather nervous.

It turned out be a fantastic experience. I sat at my own station with my own drugs and called patients in, one after another. They would explain their symptoms to me and I would diagnose them and grab the appropriate meds, while one of my teammates recorded it all in the chart. I also did teaching about hypertension, diabetes, anemia, insomnia, and chicken pox. It was a daunting task - exactly what do you give for bronchitis or vaginal infection or weird white patches on the head? We don't really get taught that sort of technical information in nursing school; we just get taught how to doublecheck the orders that physicians give us. Fortunately, helping the nurses on Tuesday and Wednesday gave me the answers to many of those questions and for others, I could always pop into the next room and ask one of the Haitian nurses. And honestly, there are certain drugs that you don't want to give someone by mistake because of their potency, but for others, such anti-fungal creams or reglan, you can give them patients and it will either do them good or do them nothing. So you might as well give them if you think it will help. And the Haitian philosophy on drugs is the more the merrier, so they will never be upset if you give them three different drugs to treat their kid's diarrhea and vomiting.

By mid-morning, my assistant and I were completely independent and we were flying. I have never seen more people with malaria, anemia and urinary tract infections in my life. I went through bucket after bucket of antacids, antibiotics and tylenols. It was a riot watching the patients' faces as they walked in, saw that a white girl was going to be treating them, and then realized that the white girl could actually talk to them in their language. I had 2 children dance for me and many adults laughing with delight when they heard me ask, "Sou gen?" (a very abbreviated, slang version of "What's wrong with you?"). It was so much fun! At the end of the day, we counted up the patients we had seen. The total on the day was 300+. And I personally saw 161 patients in 10 hours. WOW!

The rest of the girls also had a fun day. We started off with devotions led by me (hopefully I got my point across, but who knows) and then all the clinic staff took turns expressing their appreciation for our time with them, and we returned the thanks. They spent the rest of the day rotating through positions and helping Lori complete a 3 1/2 hour surgery on a woman to remove an enormous fatty growth on her arm. I swear, it looked just like Davy Jones' heart from Pirates of the Caribbean after it had been cut out and was sitting in a bucket. Lori has become our hero. A nurse who diagnoses, does surgery and runs a full clinic...doesn't get much better than that. We ate goat for lunch - it was delicious, but a few people declined since that goat arrived here alive on Tuesday and got slaughtered in front of us on Wednesday. Just a tad too personal to stomach, I guess.

Tomorrow morning we leave at 7:30 to drive back to PAP and the orphanage. The team will only spend a few hours there since they are all quite tired and are concerned about the fact that the kids don't speak English. The truth is that most of our kids can hold a conversation in English, but they are too timid and embarrassed to try. Ticks me off! I need to have a word with them. I may stay the night at the orphanage and send the team back to the guesthouse without me. If the internet is still not working, this will be my last post until I get back to Boston on Dec. 31st. I hope it is not, but if it is, hang in there and trust that I will have millions of stories when I get the chance. Bisous!


Angela said...

Wow!! No kidding you don't learn this stuff in school. Absolutely amazing!!! Way to go Se'm. I'm so very proud of you! What an adventure for you and your team.

No internet... please please say it isn't so! It will drive me mad waiting until next year to hear more. MAD I tell ya!!!

I really do hope and pray that the connection can be restored. Love on all our babies for all of us (even the ones taller then us)!

Big hug and lots of love,

Angela said...

This is torture! Common internet!!!!!!!!

Praying for and thinking of you often.

Much love,