A Day of Rest and A Day of Work

I was exhausted after my travels. Thank God I was able to sleep in on Sunday, which happens to be Palm Sunday as well as Election Day. The streets were pretty quiet with the occasional bike rider and people walking their dogs. Speaking of dogs, there are lots of strays here, thank goodness they’re not aggressive! I woke up and looked out my window and saw a nice view of the city. image

Our host family took us on a walk around their neighborhood. Our host mom showed us a beautiful house that she is planning on making into a school one day. Around the back of the house, there was a tall and colorful plant growing. To our surprise, she said it’s quinoa! image

Since Sunday was Palm Sunday, there were several vendors selling palm branches and palm branches made into crosses. Our host mom told us that the majority of Bolivia is Catholic, as evidenced by the many Catholic churches in the area. She also shared with us some Bolivian history, mostly about how the president here, Evo Morales, has made great strides in incorporating the indigenous people of Bolivia into the political and educational arenas of the country. For a long time the indigenous have been looked down upon in the modern society of Bolivia. Where on Earth does discrimination not exist? It’s Monday now and I’m excited to get started at El Hospital del Niño, the city’s children’s hospital! Erica and I caught a bus ride along with our coordinator to the hospital. It’s about 15 minutes away from our homestay and a one way trip is super cheap! When we arrived, we met with the Pediatric infectious disease doctor, Dr. Velasco, who took us in with open arms. He spoke Spanish and English which made it good for learning Spanish and also understanding what he was telling us. There were three Bolivian medical students there with us and we learned about their curriculum. In Bolivia, students go straight to medical school from high school and medical school is 6 years… and FREE, but more on that in the next blog. There is no college in between; their high school is called ‘college’ and once their 6 years is completed, they are ready to begin practicing if they want to remain in primary care, but if they would like to specialize they would apply for residency. That’s way different than our 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school and at least 3 years in residency. After getting acquainted with Dr. Velasco, he introduced us to another Pediatrician who works with children with Down Syndrome. She doesn’t speak much English, but I understood the medical portion to a certain extent. A 5 year little girl with Down Syndrome came in because she had been coughing for several days and had a fever. She was given ‘Amoxicilina’ for several days, but she hadn’t recovered. Today, she was sent to another part of the hospital for ‘radiografía de tórax’ (chest X-ray) and she was found to have ‘neumonía’ and an enlarged heart. The mom was distraught because her daughter had to be admitted. There were several other patients that came in and we were given permission under supervision to do their physical exams and chart the note… in Spanish. That was intimidating at first, but with the doctor’s help we were able to do it 🙂

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20 Bolivianos is less than $3

My observations: just like doctor’s offices in the US, there are drug reps that come in and present a new drug to the doctor. However, they actually go into the room with the doctor while the patient is sitting there. It was quite strange to see that since drug reps in the US basically wait around in the hallway hoping to catch a couple seconds with the doctor. And the relationship between the doctor and the drug rep seems very cordial, as the doctor greets them with a kiss on the cheek. I’m not sure if that’s every doctor, but this one was very warm and welcoming to everyone. One of the drugs the rep was telling us about was a sublingual version of Ibuprofen which I haven’t seen or heard about yet, so I found that interesting. After our time in the clinic, Erica and I caught the bus back to our homestay. I was nervous about catching public transportation all by our lonesome, but it wasn’t bad at all. When we got back, we went exploring a little bit around the neighborhood. I keep forgetting how high up above sea level we are- just going down the street is a chore and my heart beats so fast and I have to take short breaks to catch my breath. Getting around is affordable as rides are only about 2.50 Bolivianos (less than .50). .

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Our street

Highlights: we started clinic today! I learned to use the Bolivianos (finally); we rode the buses all by ourselves (not so scary after all) 🙂

And the Adventures Begin…

I’ve forgotten what 80- something degree weather feels like, it’s been in the 40’s in Ohio for the longest time. Everything was going according to plan. Until we missed our flight. It would have been our last connecting flight from Miami to La Paz, but due to crazy delays we missed it. Not a bad deal being ‘stuck’ here in Miami. It’s actually a welcomed break from all the flying. A big round of applause for American Airlines who provided great accommodations! I contacted our coordinator in La Paz and got him up to speed on the new flight arrangements. Now the ‘time- killing’ begins.

I now know why our flight was delayed, so that I could meet this wonderful woman. Her name is Sherry and she has an amazing ministry with her husband where she works as a nurse in the most remote places in Haiti.image

I have admired her work and ministry, Love A Child, for several years and I was just elated to meet her.

Several hours later we were finally on our to Bolivia. I didn’t get much sleep, so I decided to stare out the window and saw breath-taking views of a thunderstorm. Flying above it, seeing the flashes of light occur every couple of seconds was more beautiful than scary :). I was able to take an hour or so nap and woke up to beautiful sights.imageimage

Admiring these awesome views may have helped ease the impact of the news that we were indeed not going to land in La Paz afterall… we were rerouted to Santa Cruz, Bolivia because visibility in La Paz was low due to fog. Another long wait. We exited the plane and made our way through long lines for our Bolivian visa. We were originally told that a plane going back to Miami will take us and stop by La Paz on the way. That didn’t happen. So we killed time by going through customs and getting our visas taken care of. It was a relief to see my luggage waiting for me here because the ultimate nightmare would be to be without my belongings for a whole month O_o. After getting our luggage we made our way to the ticket lines. 2 hours later we finally reach the American Airlines counter. We’re told “there’s a 6:45 pm flight or an 11:45 pm flight. Go to such and such counter and find out which one you’ll be on”. Another O_o moment… We’ve already been en route for nearly two days. If we get 11:45 pm we’d most likely won’t get to La Paz until Monday because Election Day is Sunday and roads are usually closed on Election Day. I prayed ‘Lord, please let it be 6:45!”. 6:45 pm it is 🙂 So, Lord willing, we would FINALLY get to La Paz at 7:45 pm… Thank God for snacks.

We made it to La Paz Saturday evening, a little over a day later from our original date of Friday morning. I guess some of the more indigenous people of Bolivia have never seen white or black people in person because there was a lady who was taking pictures with random white families and with me… it was pretty interesting to say the least, one of several cultural experiences I will have while here. I was feeling some symptoms of altitude sickness when l got off the plane. El Alto airport is approximately 12,000 or so feet above sea level so being tachycardic, feeling woozy, or nauseous is pretty normal here. Thank God it didn’t last too long for me.

Highlights: Finally making it to La Paz!; Erica and I are safe and sound, thank you Lord; I am finally back on my regular sleep schedule; clinic starts tomorrow!

Between the Mountains and the Rainforest

It has been quite a journey to get to this point, but thank God the time’s getting closer! One of my goals during medical school was to go on an international rotation. For about a year, I have been planning and preparing to go to Angola, Africa. Through God’s wise decisions and will, this trip happened instead! I trust that the experiences I will gain here in Bolivia will be well worth the change =).

At the time of my writing this, it is 3 weeks before my departure. Can you tell I’m excited?! I’ve never written a blog before so pardon its amateurish nature both now and forevermore. Amen.

A little bit about Bolivia- it is located in South America, ‘landlocked’ between Peru, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil. To its west is the breathtaking Andes Mountains and to the east is the incredible Amazon rainforest, thus the title of this blog! La Paz (“the Peace”) is the capital of Bolivia where I will be spending the majority of my visit.

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Introduction

Hello and welcome to my blog! My name is Judithe and I am a 4th year medical student at Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine. I am super excited to share my experiences in La Paz, Bolivia where I will spend 4 weeks at a children’s hospital and an adolescent clinic, learn how the Bolivian healthcare system works, and sharpen my knowledge on pediatric medicine. I also look forward to being immersed in Bolivian culture, strengthen my Spanish and be able to speak to patients, my host family and the people I will meet. I will be sharing this awesome experience with my good friend and classmate Erica.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank God above all else who made this trip possible. Only he knows how much this means to me; Child Family Health International (CFHI) for their great programs that allow students to experience healthcare all around the world and also for being very accommodating; thank you to Project Hope Northwest who were very generous and helped me in an incredible way; a HUGE thank you to Dr. Koren, Tracy and Julie at the OU CORE office who have been amazingly generous, patient and helpful as we worked to go on this rotation; Dr. Lewis and RWM; and everyone who donated, wrote me letters of recommendations, and prayed for me, THANK YOU for making this trip happen!