First Week at la Clínica

Hola mis amigos y familia.

So I am nearly finished with week one of six at the medical center.  Wow, do I have some interesting things to share.

First off, I am exhausted.  My days are long.  I wake up at 5:30 every morning to take a freezing cold shower and eat breakfast with my host mother.  It’s a 15-20 minute walk to the clinic, but it’s all uphill.  I like to think of it as my morning work out.

The clinic is called the Ministerio de Salud Publica Médico Center, and it is a tiny, three-story building in the middle of el Valle.  It is my new home.

Hill. x 20 minutes
(Those are dogs on the roof…)
Streetview from Doorway

I work in La sala de Emergencias, or the Emergency Room.  In the U.S., we use the terms “Emergency Room” and the “Emergency Department” interchangeably.  Well, this “Emergency Room” is literally a “room.”  One small room with one bed, two desks, and few supply cabinets… 

The stock room at my last job was bigger than this room.

La solamente camilla
Wound Supplies
(Yes, those are written labels taped onto empty windex bottles).
(No, I’m sure they cleaned the bottles of windex before putting wound cleanser in them).

Other than cleaning and bandaging a couple burn wounds and administering a few nebulizer treatments, I mostly observed for my first week. While observing, I noticed a few notable differences in my Ecuadorian patients from the patients I’ve worked with in the U.S…

For example, Ecuadorians are no wimps.  I’ve watched the enfermeras (nurses) scrub at painful skin abrasions or drain very infected wounds*, and these people just bite the bullet with zero complaining.  Even the kids are very compliant. 
Also, there are no complaints about the wait time.  People stand in line for sometimes hours to get their hand stitched up or have their sick child checked out.  (And when I say “stand,” I mean stand.  The “waiting room” is the line right outside the door. This includes mothers holding babies or elderly with canes, etc…)  I think they are just happy to be receiving care.

There was this one older kid who split open his index finger.  We had to stitch him up, as well as remove some of his nail, but we were out of Lidocaine, (local anesthetic).  So I watched la doctora write down the name of the drug and hand it to him with some money.  Twenty minutes later, he’s back with a bag from the pharmacy down the street.  The kid had to go buy his own Lidocaine!  That would never fly in the U.S.

Lots of things here would never fly in the U.S.

Save the seriously ill, Ecuadorians are enjoyable patients to work with.  They smile easily and are very respectful of health care workers.  They lack the sense of entitlement that most North Americans have about, well, everything.

We don’t even know how good we’ve got it in the U.S.  I treated a 9 or 10 year old child today with special needs.  She wasn’t verbal, and she wasn’t able to walk.  Her mother literally carried her over her shoulder, everywhere.  It was a strange sight to see since the child was over half her mother’s height.  But I guess wheel chairs aren’t easily accessible here.

I think when I return home I’m going to send a few medical supplies.  A mother shouldn’t have to carry her special-needs daughter over her shoulder for the rest of her life.  And a baby shouldn’t have to have her head stitches removed with a pair of dull scissors.

Yep, we’ve got it good, my friends.  If you’re reading this from the U.S., take a moment to thank God for your local E.R.  We are very, very blessed.

*Nasty skin infections appear to be very common here. My guess is that regular flesh wounds that would normally heal up fine with a band-aid in the U.S., get infected here by the contaminated water.

4 responses to “First Week at la Clínica

  1. Thank you Stef for the updates! It seems like Maasin city where I came from is way better than over there in Ecuador. I got teary-eyed from reading your blog.
    God really puts you there for a very important reason.
    I wish I can help as well.


  2. Hey Stef if there's anything I can do to help let me know I can send supplies probably in a box somehow… :) Hope all is good for you and thanks for updating this it's really neat to hear about all the stuff you're doing…. keep saving lives, God's using you in big ways!! Thanks for the work you do! (mSmanski)

  3. Also, it sounds like you'll be able to do some half marathons finally with me when you get home since you're doing all that hill exercising!! And Jason will be ready too!! :)

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