New Week, New Adventures

On Monday, we started Pediatric surgery. We met the surgeon who we’ll be working with this week, and I could tell he will be great to work with and learn from. He is a far cry from the ‘typical’ surgeon: he’s very kind, patient, and humble.


General Surgery floor

The surgery we saw was an orchiopexy, a procedure done to correct an undescended testicle. This correction is very important because if not fixed, there is a higher risk of testicular cancer later in life.

I was pleasantly surprised that much of the OR here is pretty similar to the ones in the US, from the instruments and techniques they used down to the music in the room! (except it was Bolivian music). Erica pointed out to me the coca cola bottle that stood right next to the bottles of povidine… and I also remember seeing a resident drinking coke while typing notes. More evidence that coke is as common as soil in Bolivia 🙂

Later in the afternoon, we had Spanish class where we’re practicing the preterite (past) tense and the imperfect tense. It can be tricky, but speaking it out helps. I’ve come to the realization that I won’t learn Spanish perfectly in 4 weeks, but I’ll put in a good effort 🙂

Going back home after class was an adventure. It took us about 15 minutes to find transportation that had room for three (Erica, Amina [another student in the program and our roommate], and myself). We went up the street, down the street and finally across the street before finally finding a bus to get on. It was very full and people were standing in the middle of the aisle and even on the steps of the bus! That could be pretty scary since the door remains opened while the bus is being driven… and the most surprising thing was watching people literally jumping into the moving bus if they really wanted a ride. It was very theatrical. I couldn’t help but think that I would never see that happen in the US. While I do appreciate how organized the US is, I’ve come to appreciate how ‘laid back’ the culture of Bolivia is…

Unless there’s a strike. In a previous blog, I talked about how strikes are frequent here amongst the medical community. I experienced a little bit of that today. We arrived at the hospital and the main entrance doors were locked, only the ER doors were opened. There was a sign on the door that more or less stated ‘what would the hospital be like without doctors, anesthesiologists, or other specialties?’ Only the ER was functioning. We came across the surgeon we were working with yesterday. He explained to us that there was a strike today and he would not be performing any surgeries, but will resume tomorrow. Hopefully their message gets across.

Before we left for the day, we went back to the infectious disease unit and read the chart of the boy with suspected Well’s Syndrome. A new differential was added: Melkersson- Rosenthal syndrome (or cheilitis granulomatosa). I’ve never heard of this condition before. It’s a rare disorder that can cause swelling of the face and lips. The swelling can occur on and off for several years and can become permanent, unfortunately.

Highlights: learning about Melkersson- Rosenthal syndrome; having light hours today 🙂



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