I know it's been a few days since my last post, but there havent been enough interesting things to blog about until now! Firstly, we are unsure what has been going around, but a little over half of my group has been I'll and unable to keep their food down (both directions...sorry if that's TMI). We aren't sure if it's a virus or just all of our bodies trying to adjust to the environment here. I am feeling pretty good today and am extremely grateful that I did not break my thumb last night! I fully slammed it in the car door...It was smashed in when I got it out, but luckily it's ok! I'm such a clutz.
We all went out to this really delicious dinner last night about 30 minutes away. The restaurant was on the water and was beautiful. We decided to sit in the section that was cemented to the ground, so we weren't swaying back and forth. Given my problems with motion sickness, I was thrilled with this decision. I had prawns which of course came out fully shelled and with the heads. I spent about half the time pulling everything apart, but they were some of the most delicious shrimp ever!
This morning I woke up finally feeling well enough to go to Coast General Hospital where our group is volunteering. I met with a guy named James who gave me a tour of the units I am interested in working in. Those wards are inpatient pediatrics, outpatient peds (mainly giving immunizations), maternity and the newborn area. I was blown away touring around how poor the hospital is (not to mention it is 100 degrees in there with no air conditioning). It's a good thing I brought my little hand held fan because I started feeling light headed a few times. The fan actually came in handy as a toy and good distraction in the pediatric ward.
One thing that absolutely blew my mind was when James told me they only had one pediatric ventilator. That means they can only care for one critically ill child at a time...this hospital is one the main hospitals in the area, so you can only imagine how many children die each day because they don't have enough medical equipment and resources. James said something long the lines of, "if another kid gets sick, it's unlucky for them." My jaw literally dropped. In the unit I worked in, we could have up to 10 or more kids intubated with more ventilators to spare...so sad. I told James I needed to go to the canteen to get a bottle of water before I dropped to the floor from the heat. After getting made fun of at the cash register for my horrible Swahili accent, I walked out to find James. Apparently in the 2 minutes I was gone, a lady gave birth on the ground right there at the entrance of the hospital. She must not have been able to wait any longer! Crazy...
After deciding to stay in the pediatric ward for the day, I went and listened to the doctors rounding on the patients. The unit is one large room split into a few sections with beds everywhere. There is absolutely no privacy. I guess you just hope the kid next to you doesn't have some contagious disease. They put the kids with known contagious illnesses in isolation...but you never know. One kid in the main ward was getting worked up for tuberculosis which can be highly contagious. I took a few steps back when I heard the word TB and remembered I brought some TB masks from home that are back at our place. Not very helpful at this point! I didn't bring a bag to the hospital, and it's so warm that all I wore were scrub bottoms and a t-shirt. This didn't leave me much room to bring any belongings/supplies to the hospital... so I literally stuffed the back pocket of my scrubs full until my pants were almost falling down.
Back to the unit... there is an entire separate peds (pediatrics for you non medical people) unit for kids with diarrhea. Apparently diarrhea is a common symptom of HIV and other common illnesses seen here in Africa...they must see enough of it for it to have it's own ward! The smell in the main peds ward was like nothing I can adequately describe. There were times when I was just breathing through my mouth because it was so nauseating.
When I took a second to tune out the doctors' voices, I could hear several crying children, and I noticed a tv on in the back playing a hip hop music video...interesting choice for a pediatric ward.
In the first two pods of the unit were the sickest children. A few kids had HIV, and one was pretty sick looking...Malaria and meningitis seemed to be the most popular illnesses, but others included an abscess, ascites, and a few with febrile seizures (high fever can cause kids to seize). The last several pods are for kids admitted with malnutrition.
It was quite an interesting day getting acquainted with the hospital. Hopefully tomorrow will be more hands on.
Later in the day we went to a resort called White Sands with a really nice beach about 15 minutes away. It was so windy I thought I was going to blow away. The tide was so low there during the morning/early afternoon that several of the group walked far out into the ocean. We wandered around after and ate a yummy dinner. I'm about to post a few pics! I'll bring my camera to the hospital tomorrow and take some pics. Now time for bed before another long day tomorrow!