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