Wednesday, August 26, 2009

And My Life Continues


Well I've been pretty busy (as is quite obvious in the extremely delayed post). The last week in Honduras went by fast. Julien and I were able to work on one of the anesthesia machines. We took it apart, repaired some leaks, and even got the ventilator to start working. That was a major success in our book (I've never seen so many little tubes, it looked like multi colored angel hair pasta). On top of that, we finished all of our translations. So on the last day, we turned those in along with my quilts that I made for the maternity ward.

The previous weekend, we went to a small beach town called Tela. It was nice just to sit around and relax with some of the group before we finally left. That was the last time I'll swim in the Caribbean, at least for a while.

So our last day finally came at the Hospital. We turned in everything we had, gave away what was left of our tools for donations and said goodbye to our fellow technicians. We took our last taxi home ride, finished packing our stuff, and after an unemotional goodbye from our homestay(they shook our hands while sitting on the couch), we left for the bus. We met our director at the station and hitched our three hour bus ride to San Pedro Sula. We left a day and a half early just to make sure that we were able to get to the city and didn't miss our flight due to all the blockades and unexpected strikes. We got this really nice hotel (more like an apartment) right by the airport. It had a swimming pool, a restaurant, air conditioning, pretty much the works. We were definitely ready to go home by that time.

At 4:30 am on Thursday morning, we woke up and caught the shuttle to the airport. After meeting everyone at the airport, we were flying our way to DC. We had no time to waste once there. After reuniting with the Nicaragua group, we were shuttled to the hotel, shown our rooms, and then the Conference started. We listened to a couple of presentations, had some interviews, and then we were finally done for the day at 9pm. Some of us decided to take the metro into downtown DC. We ran to the Washington Monument and halfway to the Lincoln Memorial. However, we didn't have much time because the metro stopped at midnight. We managed to get our way back to the hotel after a confusing metro experience and we went straight to bed.

Friday was more of the conference and before you knew it, everyone was leaving for the airport. Saying goodbye was difficult. All of us grew to so close together, it seemed just yesterday that we were all trying to figure out how to get around Costa Rica. Only on the flight to Michigan did it really hit me that the trip was over. I had experienced so much, done so many things, met so many people, adapted to my new surroundings. I grew as a student, an American, and a citizen of the world. I am extremely thankful that I was able to participate in this program. I plan to continue my international awareness both in my education and in my travels.

I highly encourage everyone to participate in an international experience, even if it is just taking some courses at a university, the mere exposure to different cultures is life changing. My travels have allowed me to view the world in a different place and I will use the knowledge and skills I have gained in my future careers.

If anyone has any questions or anything they would like to know or see, please let me know! Until my next adventure, hasta luego!

Julien and Rigo working on the Operating Table

Julien and I ready to work in the OR

Working hard on the anesthesia machine

Giving away quilts to the nurses

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Edredones, Manuales, y Utila

Hola amigos!

So my time here in Honduras is coming near to an end, only one more week left till I return to the US. This past week has kept me busy. Julien and I were able to attach blood pressure cuffs to donated vital signs monitors, deliver them to the nurses, show them how to use them, and write guides for them in Spanish. We also visited our friends in Maternity who are currently expanding their facilities. They now have acquired new machines for the department, including an electrocardiograph, a fetal monitor, and a defibrillator. However, the machines were donated with only English manuals and no one knew how to use these brand new machines (as is common with most donations, the people don’t think things through and just give them away thinking that it’s going to make a difference). We spent most of last week and part of this week translating them, printing them out, and laminating them so they last for a long time.

During my free time at home, I was busy making quilts. I started sewing the patches together by hand, but this was taking a long time. Jackie, our house mom, let me use her sewing machine after she saw me struggling after a couple of days (better late than never). Once that was done, it was back to hand sewing the cotton insert and back to the patches. After countless finger pricks and over days of constant sewing, I have finished two quilts. The plan is to bring them into work on Friday and give them to two new mothers. I hope they appreciate all the time and effort I put into them because I will probably still feel the pain for days.

This week, we were shown another part of the hospital I never knew was there, the clinic. We were told that there was a machine that was broken and we were to go investigate. After waiting for an hour to talk to the nurse (as usual), we were shown to the vasectomy operating room (YIKES!!!) where the operating table would not elevate. The doctor who performed these surgeries was very tall and the table was very low and it hurt the doctor to operate. At first, we were skeptical if we could do anything other than put something underneath the legs of the table since this thing weighs a ton and we didn’t know how to take it apart without taking possibly days. After talking to Rigo, who is now warming up to us, and troubleshooting further, we were able to replace a tube that was leaking and refill it with hydraulic fluid. Now the doctor can perform his surgery pain free (I can’t say that much for the patients!).

Unfortunately, we had an unlucky incident occur to us today. When we went to grab our tools to take to the operating room, we realized that they were light. When we opened them, we realized someone had stolen almost all of our tools, the soldering irons, the wrenches, wire strippers, pliers, basically everything but some useless stuff. We had hid our tools out of sight on top of lockers where no one could see but someone managed to steal them anyway. We told Rigo about this who informed us that someone has been stealing many tools in the department. That discussion brought in some nurses and other technicians who were very passionate about the matter (they were almost yelling about the situation, not at us but how someone was stealing from the hospital). We felt kind of awkward but we only have a couple of days left and Rigo and the other technician offered there tools to us too.

This weekend, most of us went to Utila, one of the other Bay Islands. That weekend they were having a 24 hour techno party on this private beach that some of our friends wanted to attend. We spent the weekend relaxing, kayaking around the island, attending some of the activities from Sunjam (the techno party), and of course scuba diving (my new hobby). These dives were very well organized, I was able to see a wreck, turtles, eels, sting rays, and even swim through caves! I’m very glad I was certified so I was able to do all these things. The only bad part of the weekend was the ferry ride over. Unlike the one to Roatan, the ferry was much smaller with one enclosed story. Apart from the ferry almost tipping over several times (and having people lose their breakfast), the air condition broke and they couldn’t leave the doors open since they were in the front of the boat where the Captain was. Needless to say it was a rocky and hot ride but it was well worth it.

Our main mission for this week is to figure out how to work a ventilator in recovery, tinker around with the anesthesia machines (being extremely cautious), and hopefully finishing our inventory if they aren’t too busy. We are planning to go to Tela this weekend, a beach town on the northern coast. Not too much longer before I return home and my journey ends. Adios!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Otra Semana de Trabajo


Work has been going steady for the past week. We were able to meet with the director of the hospital as well as important heads of medicine to introduce ourselves and discuss what they would like us to do. Almost immediately, we were shown to the OR where they have four anesthesia machines that do not work correctly (most of them the anesthesiologist has to manually hand bag the patient during surgery). After taking a lot of notes and pictures about the devices, we are skeptical if we can assist the way they want us to. These machines can be very dangerous to fix, especially when the vaporizors for the drug delivery is not caliberated correctly and they want us to fix it. I would love to help them, but we are not qualified to handle certain repairs. We have not given up and are seeking the manuals for the machines to see what we can do to make their lives easier. We also completed our spanish guide for a fetal monitor and gave a manual to the nurses regarding the infusion pump we taught them how to use previously. On Friday, we met another technician from Cuba, named Fernando, that will be working at the hospital with us. Unforunately, it seems like there are too many cooks in the kitchen and now there is not a lot of work for us to do. Our head technician doesn´t seem to like if we do things on our own and he normally has us wait until he gives us instructions, so we spend a lot of time waiting on him when we could be doing something productive. They did warn us about this lifestyle here, where it is more laid back and people work at a much slower pace, but it just seems like we have such a short time period here and I could be doing so much more if he lets us venture out. Therefore, we are starting to work on our secondary projects apart from machines. Julien and I have decided to offer English lessons to anyone who wants to learn and I am going to make quilts for the infants in neonatal (yea I can sew). So hopefully I will feel more accomplished this week.

Our weekend plans were kind of a mess. After seeing the problems others had travelling across the country due to the political situation (blockades, not a lot of buses available) we didn´t want to travel very far, especially since Zelaya was suppose to try to return again on Friday. Julien and I made the decision to go back to Roatan (he had never been there before and I could finish my certification for scuba diving). Two other students, Chad and Didi, were able to join us for the weekend. We ended up having a great weekend, although walking back from West End to the hotel we were almost attacked by dogs...don´t worry we´re safe. And I can now officially say that I am a certified scuba diver with PADI (and I went to a depth of 105 ft, I´m proud of that). Other than that, spent a lot of time relaxing, getting ready for another week of work in the heat. Once we got back on Sunday, we went to the movies to see the new Harry Potter. Julien and I have been waiting forever for this to come out since it came out on the 24th here instead of the 15th everwhere else. Thankfully, the movie was in English with Spanish subtitles so I didn´t have to strain over the babies screams to understand what was being said. And not to brag, but I only spent three dollars to see that movie...what a great deal.

As an update, Zelaya still has not returned and was blocked at the Nicaraguan border. I am still unaware when his next attempt will be, but La Ceiba continues to be very safe with no outbreaks or riots.

Let´s see what this week brings me. Hasta luego.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Isla de la Bahia


So Friday was quite an adventurous day. Unfortunately, Julien, my partner, became ill during the night so he couldn´t go to work that day. Normally, we would ride with Rigo, our homestay dad and technician, to work in his car, but because it was only me and him, we took the moped. Needless to say, I became quite close with Rigo during the 15 minute journey to work. Once there, I was by myself working on translating a fetal monitor manual and taking inventory in the lab. Our supervisor made a stop at our hospital so I was able to show her around. At lunch, we left to go back to my homestay so she could see the place and meet everyone.

On Saturday, I ventured to Roatan, one of the Bay Islands. The only way to get there is to take an hour and a half ferry which costs fifty dollars round trip (a little pricey). Julien was still sick so I went with my supervisor and other students who came from their cities for the trip. Once on the island, we needed to find a place to stay. We knew we wanted to go to West End, so we tried to find a ride there (we had previously spoken to our friends who work on Roatan to see how much it would cost, and they quoted about 20 Lempira a person). Of course, nobody wanted to give us that price, it was more like double that, so we walked away to see if we could find something cheaper. After a while of walking and getting followed by several taxi men and causing a traffic jam, one of the students found a man in a truck and asked if we could jump in. So we hitchhiked to West End, the entire way. It only took us an hour and three trucks later to make it, but it was all based on principle, don´t try to rip us off. The last truck driver actually owned a hotel and offered us scuba diving at a very affordable rate (if we dived with him twice, the room was free, he would take us to the ferry the next morning, and breakfast and equipment were included). We ended up staying with him and the hotel was very nice. The rooms had hot water and AC (can you really ask for more in Honduras). Since I wasn´t a certified diver, I had to run through a DSD course (it´s like half of a certification). After that, I went to dive. The experience was absolutely amazing. Just being able to breathe underwater was fascinating enough but to see all the wildlife and underwater vegetation was just spectacular. We went to a depth of around 35 ft and stayed for around an hour or so. Once back, we showered and waited for the other group to get done with their night dive so we could go for dinner. In the meantime, the hotel owner´s wife made us a Cuban dish for us to try (these people were some of the nicest people I´ve met). Once the others came back, we walked to West End. I now know that there are no streetlights and one cannot see giant mud puddles along the way. So after the half hour hike to West End and about 5 puddles later, we found a pizza place (there might have been some confusion about the location so we might have been lost for about 20 minutes but in the end we made it). After a long day and a long hike back, we all crashed.

The next morning, we woke up, had some breakfast, and went back out for some more scuba diving. This time we got down to a depth of around 45 ft, another amazing experience. We headed back into West End to go get some lunch while the other group went out for their dive. And that is where the problems started to happen. The ferry has two times of departure, 7am and 2 pm. Therefore, we had to leave the hotel by 1 pm (Caesar, the hotel owner, said). However, by the time we got to our lunch spot, got the food, and finished eating, it was 12:52. Needless to say, I ran back to the hotel and didn´t make it until 1:12. I manged to find the others, grab my stuff, pay for the trip, and then speed back to the ferry with minutes to spare (otherwise I would have been stuck on the island and would have been late for work, a big no no especially when you live with your boss). Once on the mainland, we had to find a taxi to take us back to my place and to the bus station. Like Costa Rica, the streets don´t have names, so I have written directions from my homestay to give to taxi drivers. Most of the time, they still don´t know where the place is, which is why I always ask before I get in the cab if they know the location. I found a driver who said he knew where it was and got in. Of course, he really didn´t know where the place was, so he dropped the others at the bus stop first, continued picking up random people on the way, and finally asked someone where the place was. After a forty minute ride that should have taken 10 minutes, we find the house. Taxi´s in Honduras have a set rate of 30 lempira. So I made sure it was 30, and he said it was a 100 because it took so long to get here. I was infuriated that he was trying to charge me over double because he didn´t know where I lived after I asked him before I got in the car. I gave him thirty lempira and got out of the car; he wasn´t very happy but I was definately not going to give him a hundred. People always try to rip you off, you just have to be aware and don´t be afraid to question them.

Now back, I´m getting ready for another week of work. Apparently while I was gone, Zelaya was supposed to return to Honduras. I have not heard anything about the situation yet but as soon as I can confirm what has happened in the last couple of days, I´ll post it (I know for a fact something was going on because the other students from different hospitals ran into some blockades on the way to La Ceiba!). Hopefully the weather cools down a bit, but I´m not holding my breath on it. Hasta luego!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Trabajando en Regional Atlantida


So it´s been almost a week of working in Hospital Regional Atlantida. It´s been quite an adventure. Since we´ve been here, we´ve started our inventory of the hospital equipment, repaired/cleaned/oiled 15 nebulizers, taught some nurses how to use an infusion pump, built sphignomanometers, and are now translating a manual for a fetal monitor. It´s been a lot of fun and we´ve been definately keeping busy. It really does pay off to meet as many people as you can, introduce yourself and explain while you´re there with a smile on your face. Most people are very open and want us to help, so they are accepting us quite well.

Yesterday, Julien, my partner, and I attempted to go to the movies to see the new Harry Potter. Unfortunately, the movie does not come out in Honduras until the 24th. I was deeply saddened by the event, considering Costa Rica had it on the 15th too. O well, I just have to wait a couple more days I guess.

This weekend, I think the plan is to go to Cayos Cochinos and the Bay Islands for a bit of relaxing in the sun. Our host sister works for the ferry company so we´re hoping she can get us a good deal on some tickets.

Other than that, just trying to stay cool in this heat. Everyday reaches at least 90 and I sweat all day long, unless I mange to find myself in a restaurant or a department which has AC...I tend to stay in those places a little longer. ´

I´ll keep you updated. Ciao!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Hace mucho calor en La Ceiba


Well I am finally now in Honduras. We had a heck of a time getting here. On Friday night, a bunch of us spent the night in the school because our bus to the airport left at 3:30 am. Needless to say I didn´t go to bed until around 2 or 2;30 and was definately tired the following morning. To our wonderful surprise, they upgraded six of us to business class so we spent our time flying in style, they even served us a lovely breakfast. We had an hour layover in San Salvador, El Salvador and then flew into San Pedro Sula, Honduras. Once there, we met up with our on sight director, Jody, who gave us the news that our bus wasn´t leaving for 4 hours (I don´t know why we didn´t catch a later flight then). So we sat around in the airport (I managed to get a couple more hours of sleep). Then we took a really nice bus to La Ceiba, where our homestay met us at a local hotel.

Julien and I are living with the only technician at Hospital Regional Atlantida. His name is Rigoberto. He lives with his wife, Jackie, and two of his three kids, named Rigoberto and France. They have a second hand clothing store in the front of their house with everyone living behind it. Our room is quite nice, we have a king size bed and another queen bed (the bed is absolutely massive and I get lost at night in it). Plus, our room also has our own pèrsoanl air conditioning unit which they said we could use at no additional cost as well as interent (unfortunately no wifi so I have to use their computer). I am very pleased with the place thus far. Definately better than what I was picturing.

Needless to say, we spent the first night sleeping. Once we woke up at noon, we had some lunch and just spent the afternoon hanging out. Then, Jackie invited us to go swimming in river. So we got our swimming suits on and headed out. We were able to see more of the residential area of the city and met more of her family. We ended up swimming in the Caribbean instead because the river "smelled funny." It was a lot of fun to spend the day with them and just relax.

Today was our first day of work. I had no idea what to expect, what should I wear, was I prepared enough, etc. We woke up at 6 am (always early), had breakfast at 6:30, then off to work with Rigo at 7. It takes around 15 minutes to get there by car (but we had to take a taxi back because Rigo switches his car in the middle of the day with his son who has a moped so he can go to the university). Today´s work was mostly inventory. Rigo showed us a department and we introduced ourselves to the staff and began taking inventory. The Hospital isn´t as big as what I thought, around 150 beds. So far we have done Children´s observation and Pediatrics and we´ve inventoried around 50 machines. At 11, he told us we could go to lunch and come back at 1 (we were shocked to be given 2 hours but when we asked if he wanted us back earlier, he told us at 1). So Julien and I went to Pizza Hut (we wanted to check it out since we heard they had free wifi). The place was really nice, just like in America. It was air conditioned, had wifi, and the prices weren´t bad (I only spent 6 dollars on the entire meal, not bad for an american restaurant here). We came back at 1 and started repairing some nebulizers. Unforutnatley, we were never trained on such devices so we were learning as we were going along, eventually Rigo had to show us a thing or two on what he actually wanted (mind you this is all in spanish so realize how hard it is to talk technical in spanish and understand what´s really going on). At 3 pm, it was time to go home. It wasn´t a bad first day, but I can definately tell there is going to be a lot to learn still. I hope by the time this is over, we can leave the hospital better than when we first got here. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Arenal y Bungee Jumping


Another eventful week in Costa Rica...where to begin.

In school, we have been doing presentations on medical equipment; explaining how it works, common problems, how to troubleshoot, etc. (of course all in spanish). I just did mine on Monday on autoclaves, it was a fun time. In lab, we have been taking the equipment that we brought down with us to donate (defibrillators, ESU's, ECG's. pulse ox's, blood pressure machines, centrifuges, etc.), making guides on proper usage, taking them apart and learning how they work, and doing regular maintenance. It has been great to get hands on experience on machines that we are going to be seeing in less then a week! Always a lot of information. I just hope I retain it all.

As an update to the situation in Honduras, EWH has decided to continue with the trip in Honduras. They have been in contact with numerous sources, including our own site coordinators, the US State department, the hospitals in Honduras, and an American security consultant in Honduras and all have stated that the situation is safe for us to continue. However, there are extra precautions that we are abiding to, including a mandatory curfew instated by the government. If a problem arises while we are there, we will be safely evacuated from the area.

In addition to that decision, President Zelaya attempted to return to Honduras on Sunday. His attempt failed when citizens blocked the runway of the airport and refused to move. He therefore returned to DC to decide how to proceed. Currently, he has not attempted to return again but I can imagine he will do so soon. Therefore, President Michelletti is still in office.

This past weekend, we went to Volcon Arenal, an active volcano. We left on Saturday morning at 6 am, got stuck in traffic due to an accident, and arrived in La Fortuna at around noon. While there, we were not sure what we wanted to do, so we ended up splitting into different groups and doing different things. Jared, Julien, Calvin, and I rented bicycles to ride around the town (the town itself is kind of far from the actual volcano and our hotel but it is where a lot of things are). They only cost us a dollar an hour, not bad. We asked them if there was anything near that we should see and he mentioned a waterfall that was 4km away. We decided to go. Only after we started on this trip did we realize that it was 4km UPHILL! It took us over an hour to bike up the hill and we broke out into a sweat like no other (it looked like we rode through a rain storm). We stopped halfway up, found some lady's home and asked her if she would sell us water. She said she wouldn't, but she let us drink out of her hose (we were desperate and way too dehydrated). Finally at the top, we went into the park and walked down over 400 dangerous steps to the bottom to the waterfalls. The place was absolutely stunning, truley a natural wonder. We didn't bring our bathing suits, but we swam in our skivies in the waterfall (we couldn't pass up the opportunity to swim and we were hot). After our wonderful hike back up the steps, we coasted down 4km worth of road (not to mention it was all gravel/giant stones and we picked up serious speed, it was kind of scary but a lot of fun). Once back, we hitched a ride to Baldi, a natural springs resort area with over 20 pools, water slides, a buffet, etc. It was very relaxing after a long day of bike riding. At around 9, we headed back to our hotel, which was supposed to have a perfect view of the side of the volcano where the lava flows, but unfortunately, it was way to cloudy to see anything (we ended up not seeing even the top of the volcano!). It was still cool to be near it and know that it was there in the distance.

The next morning, we had made plans to go bungee jumping. We had talked about it for a while now but we never knew when we were going to have time to do it because we had school during the weekday and we take weekend trips. While in Arenal, we talked to the tour company who said we would be able to do it on Sunday. So 6 of us brave souls set out to jump. We left La Fortuna by bus to a small town near San Ramon called Naranjo. We didn't really know where we were going, and we had to ask people on the bus if they knew which stop it was, etc. Luckily we found someone who knew what bungee jumping was and knew where Naranjo was and he showed us the stop. Of course, as soon as we got off, it started to pour. We ran to the gas station and were contemplating what to do. The man had said that it was only a 10 minute walk from there. We ended up asking the workers in the gas station who said it was over a half our walk at least. Luckily, one of the men was nice enough to offer us a ride to the place (it was kind of awkward, but the man was nice and we had more than enough people to feel comfortable). The man took us right to the bungee jumping place (we would have never found it on our own). Then it was time to jump. First, our onsite director, Michelle, jumped, then John, then Hannah, then Me, then Jared, and then Jodie. It was an experience of a lifetime, plummiting 80 meters in freefall, seeing the ground come closer and closer, it was awesome! We were able to wrap a camera around our wrist, so I also have a first person view of me jumping. I highly recommend it to everyone. Unfortunately, my camera started to malfunction and is still out of commision. I do not know if it appears to be the memory card or the actual camera, but because I have a Sony camera, I can't find a place to test a Pro Duo card (and another card costs over 100 dollars here!). Luckily, other people had cameras and were able to take some photos. Hopefully I'll be able to fix it soon though.

So we only have a couple of days left. On Thursday, we are going to my spanish professor's house for a goodbye barbeque. It should be a lot of fun. Since we are leaving on Saturday morning at 6am, we are planning to spend the night at the school (since that is where the bus picks us up). Soon enough, I'l be in a different country with only my partner. It will definately be a change of pace, but I believe I am ready for what lies ahead. I do not know if I will have the luxury of having internet at my homestay, so updates might not be as put together as they are now. I will continueing updating regularly, so everyone can know that I am safe and how I am doing. I'll try to catch everyone up before I leave, but if not, I'll write from Honduras. Adios!

Calvin, Julien, and I taking an ESU apart

Biking uphill towards the volcano on an unpaved road, good decision

I swear it's only rain...

Definately worth what we went through, absolutly gorgeous

Walking through the waterfall

Swimming in the waterfall

Yea, it was a long way down

Just jump!

Look at that beautiful form, I'm a natural bungee jumper