Skip to main content

Medicina de la Selva

Please forgive me. I had to type the title in Spanish. I'm not trying to be a poser or anything, you know that person who goes all "native" and speaks rubbish Spanish all the time. It's just that right now, I only have three months left and I'm trying to say EVERYTHING in Spanish. And, yes, I know those two sentences contradict each other. Irony.

Anyways. The type of medicine we did in the jungle was not too different from the medicine we do in other places in Peru. We still saw (what felt like) millions of patients with low back pain, lots of gastritis, and moms who were convinced that their children had parasites.

Quick, an excerpt from a real live conversation:

Me - "Entonces, su hijo tiene la grippe. Algo mas?"
Anxious Momma - "Seguramente tiene bichos tambien."
Me (with eyebrows raised)- "Hmmm, bichos. Porque piensas que el tiene bichos?"
Anxios Momma- "No come bien, y solo quiere comer carmelos."
Me- "Ahhhh..." *writing down "Mom thinks he may have a parasite because he only wants to eat sweets, nutrition consult?"*

However, during our forays into jungle medicine we did see a few things that are rare in other parts of the world.

We saw an 8 year old boy who was the size of a 4 year old because of growth hormone deficiency.

Alfredo, our optometrist, saw a few cases of copper toxicity in people who had worked in the copper mines (you can see a copper ring around the iris which demonstrates that the body is not metabolizing the copper fast enough)



We saw a woman with a fixed tumor on the right side of her face that had wrapped around cranial nerves III, IV, and VI (which means she had no eye movement or pupil constriction and had a pronounced eye droop).

We saw people with weird fungi and edema patterns.















But most of all, we saw a lot of need. There were people at our clinic who had not seen an MD (or an dentist or optometrist) for years. They call the district we were visiting the forgotten district, in terms of health care. The physicians who practice there, at the free health centers, are doing their mandatory year of service to the country. They are fresh out of school, and have few resources. The patients we saw in Iberia, for example, would have to make a three hour drive to Puerto Maldonado if they wanted an X-ray or blood work.

Then there was this lady.




We met her when we were passing through a community called Infierno (literally translated "Hell"). She has rheumatoid arthritis and has been in constant pain for years. As you can see, her wheelchair is not far up on the technology list either. And this girl, who has streaks in her hair from protein deficiency.



Although the people who live in Infierno only live about 45 minutes out of Puerto, the bridges wash out a couple of times a year, and the corrupt government officials have stolen all of the money that was delegated to build new bridges. Imagine being stuck somewhere and having a sick child.


Finally, on the weekend 10 members of our team happened upon a recent car accident while they were driving to Puerto Maldonado. A motorcycle carrying two men had collided with a car coming from the opposite direction. The accident was 25 minutes old, the driver from the car was fine, but both motorcyclists were thrown from the bike and one was dead on the scene. The other was lying in a state of shock with an open fracture. The team stopped and got out of the car. One of our doctors was able to splint and tourniquet his leg. They took time to clean the wound. And the pastor spent some time praying and talking with him. They waiting an hour for the local nurse to arrive, helped her start the IV and get him into the transport, and then got back into the car.



He passed away a few days later. We wonder if there was internal bleeding that they did not detect because they lacked the imaging equipment.



Jungle medicine is terrifying and hopeful all at the same time. It's terrifying because, what if you are wrong? You don't have all the support and comfort that you usually have at home. What if the people don't follow up with a surgeon or a specialist, like you told them too? They could die or develop a secondary infection. But, on the other hand, what if you hadn't ever been there in the first place. What if you never touched them, what if you kept driving, or ignored the need right in front of you?

I don't have answers. Just more questions. Jungle medicine breaks my heart and makes me frustrated. How about you?







Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Five Friday Feminist Finds and Fun

Hello,

I've been posting infrequently and erratically, it seems, probably due to the little person who has recently taken over most of our free time.

But, I thought this would be a fun way to get back into the swing of sharing a little bit more on the inter-webs. So here you go.

Whether you would unashamedly describe yourself as a "feminist," or no, whether male or female, East Coast, West Coast, or international community, I hope you enjoy this list of 5 things that have been making my female heart happy and my lady brain think new thoughts.


1. Soy Yo (Bomba Eséreo)

Keep Me Where the Light Is

It’s the Most Wonderful darkest time of the year over here in New England, and we have a new baby which means that when the sun goes down the dance of “will he or wont he sleep tonight?” begins.

The other day as I was walking in the evening (alone for a few precious moments!) the afterglow of the setting sun painted the sky behind dark tree branches with highlights of gold. The words from that John Mayer song filled my head “keep me where the light is” and I thought about how dark this time of year feels and how hard it is to stay in the moments of Light.



Having a new baby is amazing, but also completely disorienting. One moment you feel on the top of the world, like you have figured everything out, and the next moment you are wondering why babies don't come with owners manuals. He started smiling a few weeks ago, and now he smiles at us on purpose and makes cooing sounds when he is happy. I put him under the Christmas tree the other day and it felt like magic… for a moment. A f…

The Kind of Mom I Thought I Would Be

I’m not the kind of mom that I thought I would be.

Truth be told, I didn’t have very many conscious expectations about what kind of mom I would be. It was shockingly easy for us to have a baby. We didn’t have a long wait or struggle before we were pregnant, we just were. Four months after we were married I held a positive pregnancy test in my shaking hands.
Theoretically and practically, we were prepared to be parents. I had worked with children since I was 14. Both my husband and I had friends who with babies and toddlers, both of us wanted a family, and we both had jobs in our fields of study that allowed us the flexibility to change our “five year” plan. We quickly became excited that we were starting our family.
But, somewhere in the flurry of planning, my subterranean mind was working and carving out caves full of ideas. Different visions of myself as a mother had been formed without me thinking through my self-expectations. They came into my mind slowly, in the months followin…