Free Clinic Today!!

This Monday, July 2, is the 69th Anniversary of the formation of the town of Santa Clotilde. It revolves, surprisingly, around a huge soccer tournament of many teams from up and down the Napo river. To Brian's dismay, it takes place in our back yard, separated only by a wood fence which I'm pretty sure amplifies the sound of the play by play analyst on the loud scratchy speaker. There are festivities for five days straight. Last night was the señorita and mister Napo contest... like miss america on a smaller scale. The talk of the town this morning was that the señorita who won should NOT have won because she had on a mini-skirt instead of a gown and was NOT playing by the rules. There were also "traditional dances" with girls in traditional indigenous wear- a few strings and beads and feathers... and one even carried a live parrot as she danced. 

To celebrate here at the Centro de Salud and contribute to the celebration, Dr. Juan decided that for two days, all clinic visits would be free. The usual price is 2 soles ($0.75). Manolo our lab tech went to the soccer field and announced the free visits on the loud speaker. I could not believe how many people showed up and waited for hours just to save $0.75 cents. It speaks toward the amount of poverty in our community and the great need for services. 

Today we are celebrating with pizza... it's 10:23 pm and our first pizza is just coming out of the oven :) Brian made the dough by himself and did a great job... Mrs. Palermo would be proud! Black olive, onion, red pepper, tomato, and cheese! With fresh lemon squares that Liz and Paul made us for our anniversary ;) 
Tomorrow is a day off!!! That makes tonight a great night!!

30 June 2012

siempre a veces

"Siempre a veces" is a very common saying. In context, we might ask "How often do you have these headaches, Mr. Coquinche?" To which he answers, "siempre a veces" which translates to "always sometimes."  Perplexing. Is it "always" or is it "sometimes."  Is it so vague as to evade the question, OR is the intended meaning is that it has been going on for years, but not very frequently, OR is the meaning is it happens in bouts very frequently or constantly for a few days and then goes away for a long time...


26 July 2012

Feliz Dia de San Juan

Today was a good day. It is the feast day of St. John the Baptist, celebrated on the Napo with Juanis, which is a piece of chicken, rice, cured olives, and an egg, all wrapped up in a banana leaf and boiled. Everyone makes them, and the tradition is to bring some over to friends' houses and trade, to get a taste of everyone's recipe. After 4 hours rounding and working in the hospital, Brian and I came home and relaxed outside our house with our neighbors Juan Jon, Laura, Valeria (5yrs) and Jimena (2yrs). Juan was swinging in his hammock with his 5 year old daughter Valeria on his belly. She quickly jumped off and grabbed her magnetic dart board and block so we could play. She knows how I like to play! Jimena spent much of the time chasing our dog Wowki and another community dog Duki. She has no fear and runs up to the stinky dogs, gives them the biggest hug, burys her face in their fur, and then steps back and smiles the cutest little smile. We talked about our family traditions and about the infamous Juanis. To our surprise, Colet came up to say hello. She is a lab technician that just returned from 3 months in Iquitos where she took her final lab test. She is always smiling and plays guitar and sings better than professionals. Papa- she is the daughter of your friend Orlando :) Once our little fiesta dispersed, I came home to clean up a bit and catch up on emails. Brian was on call and went back to the hospital. I was feeling a little lonely with the sun shining outside and me sitting along inside on my day off. Colet actually came back to drop of a gift of Juanis for Brian and I, just in time to catch me dozing off. I was so grateful, both for the Juanis and for waking me in time to catch the last hours of daylight. Sunset is 6pm here and by 8pm I feel like it's the middle of the night. We walked to Neo's house to look at her boats and chatted for a while on the boat. Then we ran into Mercedes, who is the Goddaughter of Neo who actually adopted her when she was 3 years old. Colet and Mercedes and I walked to visit Judith and her parents. We sat and talked for over an hour about the search for finding a mate, our families, and other girl talk. After dark, we headed back. I returned to the hospital to find 20 people sitting in the lobby. A drunk guy had swerved on his motorcycle and hit a 13 yr old boy in the leg, and then fell on his face. Brian and Padre Jack took the boy to the operating room and they were able to close the cut on his leg without problems. The man has a swollen face and it still sobering up. The police took the report from Brian and luckily all are doing well. Today I'm grateful for St. John the Baptist de Lasalle- and for Lasallian Youth and the amazing incredible lifelong friends I made, and who helped make me into who I am today. And for our families who constantly love and support us. And for Padre Jack for humbly having the answer to everything. And for all those who recognize the importance of the little things and share themselves freely and selflessly for the betterment of others. And for Bets on her Birthday and for Papa who is the best grandpa, woodworker, and partner to Bets in the whole wide world!!

Play therapy

Dana was brought her by her grandmother, who raises her, after falling into a pot of very hot water. She was running near the pot, which was on the ground on an open flame, had a seizure, and fell into the pot of water. Luckily her grandma was there to pull her out and bring her for help. She had burned 20% of her body. Our nurses meticulously cleaned the wound daily and changed her dressings. Within two weeks, she was playing catch with a ballon and by three weeks, she was doing cartwheels!! She was initially shy and didn't talk much, but as she became comfortable with us, we would talk and laugh together, and do gymnastics, and run up stairs. We have no physical therapist, but a biomedical student named Oscar who is here visiting from Mexico took the initiative to start physical therapy with her. Playing is obviously the way to a child's heart, and play had helped her heal.
22 June 2012

Sabrina the kittens

Sabrina is the community cat. She hangs around the SERUM (house for Peruvian's doing their year of service and for International Volunteers), which is right next to our house. She has been pregnant 3 times since we arrived, as a result of machismo coercion by a two male cats. I'm not sure where she delivered the two prior times in the past, but we never saw one kitten... rumor has it she ate them, or another cat ate them, but there was no evidence to support that theory. A box was put in the SERUM last week, and Sabrina was let inside. to our amazement she delivered 6 adorable kittens, safe and sound in the kitchen.

Hachet vs Wrist

He was a volunteer construction worker in his community of Sargento Lores. The hatchet had slipped from his hand and the blade landed on his right wrist. He arrived 30 minutes later with his hand wrapped in a blood soaked towel. We cleaned it, covered it in sterile gauze, and started antibiotics. Later, we brought him to the operating room to explore the wound. It turns out he cut three tendons on the top of his wrist- two that extend the hand, and one that extends the thumb. He can't bend his hand up and can barely move his finger. We closed the skin and in a couple days we'll go back in to repair the tendons and return function to his hand. Thanks so much to Doctor Joe Farber MD, Brian's long time friend, old roommate, and
orthopedic surgeon who was happy to take our consult!

Celebrating Uncle Al's Life

Uncle Al at dinner with us in May 2012

     This Saturday we received the unexpected news of the sudden death of our Uncle Al, my dad's brother. He was 71 and died suddenly in his home of a likely heart attack. This was such hard news to take especially being so far from family and friends. However, we move on, as he always said, "death is a part of life, and we never know when our time will come." He had a great outlook on life and after his retirement spent the last 20+ years serving at St. Rita's church, volunteering at the local homeless shelter, and starting his day at Denny's for breakfast. He put the Lord first and family second, not in words but in action. He always attended mass on Saturday evening, and he spent a great deal of time caring for our family members when they fell ill.

Our wedding June 2008
     Uncle Al was one of our biggest supporters of our work here in Santa Clotilde, not only financially but with words, prayers and love. He told us he was proud of our work and even bought a computer and tried to learn how to use it to try and stay in touch and read this blog. Prior to departuer to Peru, at a presentation by Padre Jack, he badgered Padre asking, "they will have a place to crap and shower with running water won't they?"  This was his personality, he wore his emotions on his sleeve and you knew his opinion. He always put others before himself. He will be missed, but we were all blessed to have great memories of Uncle Al. He was not a person to sit around and feel sorry about the sad times in life, but he would rather seize the moment and enjoy the present, so with his example we celebrate his life and all that he taught us. Thanks Unlce Al for all your love, support and most importantly your friendship.
We love you!
Brian and Antoinette

Jon's graduation in May 2012

Congrats Padre Moe....50 years!

     Antoinette and I are back safely to Santa Clotilde and back to work. We continue to look forward as we plan for the future. We are lucky to have 2 new doctors, Julio and Ivette, replacing the prior physicians working in two locations on the river. After school most students are required to do one year of service, their “serum year”. Year to year we are not sure if more “serumistas” will be assigned to work in our region, and we hang in the balance every May. Also we are fortunate to have 3 serum nurses and two dentists. We also have a new midwife, Blanca who will be working with us here in Santa Clotilde. This will help lighten the load a little bit for us, but more importantly provide more care for the people on the Napo River.
Touring Lima with Padre Moe in January
   This coming Sunday marks a very important day for Padre Mauricio Schroeder, who worked in Santa Clotilde alongside Padre Jack for 20+ years as a priest physician. Padre Moe, who now does administrative work from Lima, flew home to Canada to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his ordination where he will say mass at the same church, at the same alter, at the same time as he did for the first time 50 years ago. Thanks for your life of service to others and your guidance and friendship!

     This week Padre Jack returned from meetings in Lima to a surprise birthday party we had in the kitchen. His birthday was on 12 June and we had a nice lunch and cake along with music and dancing.   We are looking forward to working with him over the next month since he or we tend to have duties outside of Santa Clotilde and have not overlapped too much here in town since our arrival in February.

There is a lot of pneumonia and bronchiolitis going around the river and my first call last week we had 25 patients, 12 with pneumonia. All improving and most have gone home to make room for more pneumonia cases. We have one very rewarding story to share about our patient from up river, Yadiera. When I first met her, she was 1 year and 11 months old. She still was babbling and could not walk. She was not only developmentally delayed, but malnourished. Her chart in the small town of Angoteros had 19 visits and many diagnoses of difficulty breathing and “bronquitis”. During my week in Angoteros I saw her a few times and discussed with the parents the need for her to travel down to Santa Clotilde. She was first seen the week before I arrived by Dr. Juan Jon who identified a very loud murmur, after long discussion between he and I and the family, they agreed to travel outside of their town which neither parent had ever done before.  In Santa Clotilde we treated an infection and supplemented her diet while arranging an appointment with a cardiologist in Iquitos. She was diagnosed on her echo with a congenital heart defect known as patent ductus arteriosus (I was wrong thinking it was a ventricular septal defect, but that is what echocardiography is for :) ). This lesion was the cause of her cardiopulmonary symptoms and her failure to grow. Again after much convincing, we arranged for Yadiera and her parents to go to Lima to the Children’s hospital for the surgery. So in summary this family who had never left their thatched roof home and surrounding community have traveled down river in a motor boat to Santa Clotilde, and then another two motor boats to get to Iquitos. Then as if being so far from home wasn’t enough they got on a plane for the first time and entered Lima with its big buildings and population of 10 million people….can you imagine how they felt? Yadiera is still in Lima and her procedure went well, she is gaining weight and her parents are happy and have adjusted to the city life and know the local bus system to get to the hospital. They should be returning soon and I am excited to see how much she has grown.

Padre Jack and Yadiera on rounds in Santa Clotilde
     When we have more serious patients that travel we have a guesthouse for them to stay in Iquitos and a nurse in Iquitos, Helita who helps with their appointments, medication, etc. We always ask the patients to pay what they can and stay with family in Iquitos if they have family there in order to lighten the financial burden. As well , we petition the local government or municipalidad to help cover some costs of travel on the boats and plane. Apart from the amount the patient and government assist with the financial burden falls on our clinic the Centro de Salud de Santa Clotilde to ensure they get the care needed. We truly appreciate all of your donations because without donors from the US and Canada we could not care adequately for our most sick patients. 

14 June 2012