Thursday, July 21, 2011

15-June-2011: Learning About Parasites

A new day, a new village.  Today's stop: Arajuno.  Two hours outside of Puyo, we hit the ground running when the bus pulled into the local Subcentro de which I mean we actually jumped into the back of a pickup truck and sped off into the jungle with the rest of the Subcentro staff (about ten of us in all).  We arrived 30 minutes later at a nearby Quichua-Spanish school, piled out, and split into groups to see the kids.

The school ranged from "wawas" (probably the greatest word for "babies/infants" I have ever heard) to high schoolers, and our mission was to spend the day giving checkups to all of them.  I was paired with a young doctor and a nurse and we started our rounds with a group of 4 and 5 year-olds.  The doctor planted himself at the teacher's desk and began filing through records while I went around the room asking the kids questions and giving them basic exams.  If there were any problems, I was to send them to him for a more detailed look.  "Open your mouth...stick out your tongue...I'm going to listen to your heart..."  At first I wasn't sure if I was all that effective.  Is my Spanish okay?  Wait, this is a Quichua they know even understand much Spanish?  How are my physical exam skills?  I've never really practiced with kids before...

For a few minutes these questions raced through my head, when ultimately I realized are kids.  They DID understand me, they were just 4 and 5 year-olds and a little bashful about the process (especially in front of their friends).  I finished up the exams, pointing out one or two with notable lesions and another with a respiratory issue.  As we wrapped up the room, the doctor passed out liquid vitamins and anti-parasitics to all the kids and instructed them how to take them (teachers too...these are little kids after all).  Most of their families don't have good access to clean drinking water, and given that they play in the rivers and have a high exposure to vector-borne illness anyway, regular doses of anti-parasitics don't seem like a bad idea.

We continued like this, going from room to room as we made our way around the school.  I got the hang of the routine and started to feel more comfortable explaining things to the students on my own.  Eventually we ended up in the "wawary" (I'm not making this up) and looked over the babies as well.  Upon finishing, the teachers asked us to wait a moment, appearing several minutes later with glasses of juice in thanks.  After several nervous glances, the medical directer nodded, assuring us we'd be fine.  So we drank, thanked the teachers for their offer, and stepped out the door.  As we did, the director handed us a box.  "What's this?"

"It's for the parasites."

 *Many patients, especially indigenous, prefer not to be photographed.  In that light, we elected not to photograph the children.

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