Farewell to La Ceiba & the Hospital

30 Jul

So we had our last day at the hospital and I have to say I left still feeling like a stranger.  The day started off pretty chaotic because I was leaving straight from the hospital and had to have my bags packed and ready to go. As I may or may have not mentioned we have not had running water because there has been a drought and the nearby river is so low that the houses only receive water when it rains.  I really needed to wash my clothes before I left and since it rained throughout the night I woke up at 5 am to wash a small load. The family bathes themselves with the water that collects in the wash tub out behind the house, so during this time I was able to be a part of both my host dad and host brother’s showers.  Watching my host dad pour a bowl of water down his boxers was far too intimate of an experience than I had ever wanted.  I was able to get the load of clothes into the dryer before breakfast was served (pancakes mmm).  Just as I finished breakfast I saw that the son was almost ready, so I rushed to fold them up and get them in my pack before we heard the beep.  You see we drive with the son everyday to work and even though he walks by our door to leave to the carport, he beeps the horn to let us know that he is ready instead of simply saying that it is time to go.  This is something Kara and I find extremely frustrating.  As we headed out the door, our host mom Jacky told us that the son had already left.  All that rushing around and for nothing, we still had to take a cab to work and now I had a bag full of wet clothes.  I got really upset because there was just a constant lack of communication between the men of the house and us and we really found it to be out of disrespect.  I decided I needed to just get over it and say our goodbyes because this was the last time we were going to see the family and I had been spending lots of time with the host mom Jacky and I had really grown to like her.

This feeling may not have been mutual because our farewell was actually very nonchalant and had I not motioned for Jacky to get up and give me a hug, I think she would of just continued to eat her breakfast and gave me a quick wave.  That and we didn’t get to give Andrea, the adorable 8 month year old baby,

who belongs to the maid who lives with us, a hug and kiss goodbye. I will really miss her.

When we got to the hospital we realized that the connector pieces for our privacy screens that we had ordered last week, and were promised to us last Friday, and then promised to us again on Tuesday had still not arrived.  Our bus was leaving at 12 and we needed to finish the screens and deliver them to their respective wards by 11:30 at the latest.  Out of desperation I asked Rigo, our head technician (who is also our host dad, and who hardly acknowledges our existence) to call the hardware store for us.  After a phone call with no answer he asked for the receipt and offered to run up to the store to pick them up.  A few seconds later I picked my drop up off the ground and thankfully handed the receipt over.  Within the next half hour Rigo was back with the parts and our work continued.  We quickly realized that some of the curtains were much shorter than they were supposed to be but we went and grabbed the saw and 40 minutes later our privacy screens were ready for delivery!

Dropping them off was very interesting.  The first ward we went to was women’s surgery and the head nurse who had requested the screen was not there and everyone was just kind of looking at us like we were crazy.   The only acknowledgement we did receive was from the staff at the desk of Women’s Medicine across the hall.  They wanted to know where there screen was.  When we had started our project they were the only ward that had one and in fact we used it to make the measurements to base our designs off of.  They told us that the screen had broken since then.  I felt bad but we had already promised the other screens to Men’s Surgery and Men’s Medicine, but I did leave the a list of the parts that we used so that they could construct one themselves if they funds were available.

The delivery of the screens to the Men’s wards went much differently.  While in the middle of my delivery speech to Men’s Surgery, the head nurse from Men’s Medicine tapped me on the shoulder, with a huge grin on her face,  and said oh that is ours you can place it over here. haha. Imagine how mad the other nurse would have been if we would of actually done that.  I assured her that we were going to be delivering a screen to their ward shortly after.  Both wards were extremely grateful and even the patients thanked us in Men’s Surgery.

After that I went to visit my favorite doctor in the Pediatric Emergency room to make sure he got an electronic copy of the manuals we had created for some of the equipment there.  He walked right up to me to greet me and shake my hand as I entered the ward.  This was a really nice gesture because we had really grown to respect and like him and it was nice to see that the feeling was mutual.  I also felt  a little more relieved being able to give their department a copy of these documents as well because things had a tendency to disappear in the maintenance room.

By this time we were really starting to cut it close so we moved our tool kits into the maintenance room said our quick goodbyes.  Surprisingly there were no tears had by any of the maintenance guys , more like a few grunts.  We met two of the girls who were stationed at a neighboring city at the bus stop and we have been traveling on buses since, making our way to Tegucigulpa for the end of the program conference.

I am so happy to be sitting on a couch and not a bus seat. I am even happier now that I have had a hot shower and with free water, coffee and a continental breakfast I can only imagine the joyous mood I will be in tomorrow. So excited for the conference where we will get to see the rest of our group and to hear all about their experiences in their hospitals.


Feeling the Pressure

21 Jul

Time is running out. We have a little over a week left at the hospital and we are starting to feel the crunch.  Earlier this week, Kara and I made an appearance at one of the hospital monthly meetings in an attempt to get some of the Doctors to do an interview with us for some research we are doing for EWH. I am not a huge fan of public speaking in English, so it was pretty nerve wracking in Spanish, but it went pretty well. We were able to get 5 of the doctors to make appointments with us.  We have already conducted 3 interviews so far and during all 3 of them, the doctors gave us lists of equipment that they would like us to fix.  This is great but where was this equipment 3 weeks ago when we went to these departments and asked if there was any equipment that was broken or not being used from a lack of knowledge?? Now, when we have less than 7 days to do the work, there seems to be an abundance.  We are currently trying to prioritize and we will just do what we can do. It´s unfortunate though because of course we would like to be able to fix it all.

This week was also when we started what is called our secondary projects.  When interviewing each department we asked if there was anything non-technical that we could possibly do for them. There answers went from fixing the air-conditioning to organizers for the scrubs.  Since three of the departments expressed a need for privacy screens, we decided this would be something we could do and it would help out more than one department. We went to ACE hardware (yes that hey have that here too!) earlier this week and priced out PVC pipe and connectors and found that it was definitely an affordable project.  We were also very happy to discover that they would deliver the materials to the hospital for free.  This was a relief because it sounded like a nightmare trying to bring it all here in a taxi.  Yesterday we went and bought fabric for the actual curtains of the screen, so we will be spending the next few afternoons sowing the curtains that will slide over the pipes to create the screens. I will be sure to post pictures of the final product. 

Unfortunately, that is all the time I have for an update. Hope everyone is enjoying that 117 degree heat index!


13 Jul

Although it seems that I am seriously neglecting this blog, I promise you this was not the intention.  I have infact experienced a series of unfortunate events. Firstly, the computer I brought with me stopped recognizing the power cord and therefore the battery has died and everything on it is inaccessible. I had been typing my blog entries in Word so that when I had access to the internet I could just quickly copy & paste them into the blog.  Of course I did not back these blog entries up on a flash drive & I have lost them all (for the time being). Second, our cameras have been stolen with the memory cards in them, so I am missing quite a few pictures.  I will try to fill in the blanks when I return to the States but for the time being, I will just give you a recent update.

We are now in the second portion of our program and are working in the Regional Atlantic Hospital in La Ceiba, Honduras.  The city is well a city, lots of traffic, shady characters lurking around and lots of pollution. It is however surrounded by the most beautiful mountains that are covered in a dense green jungle.  It makes morning runs so enjoyable and when I am starting to feel discouraged at the hospital I just need to take one step outside to feel rejuvenated.

Unbenounced to our program, the government has built a new hospital here with their own funds, as well as a loan from Korea.

This came as quite the surprise and we quickly found that most of the equipment here is brand new, so our experience has been much different than expected.  This does not however mean that the hospital has no need for us. There is still broken equipment, and more so there is plenty of equipment that is not being used because the staff does not know how to use it.  The equipment was purchased by the Korean architect, so much of the equipment is from Korean companies and arrived with manuals in poorly translated English.  We have already been able to put  a much needed incubator back into service,

as well as a group of infusion pumps, and two defibrilators by creating small manuals in Spanish so that the staff knows how to properly use them. This has not been the easiest task because we almost have to rewrite everything in proper English and then work on translating them to Spanish.

We are currently working on a broken ventilator in the pediatric emergency room and have been able to get in contact with the manufactuer so we can get a service manual and try to repair it (as well as translate portions of the service manual for future problems).  All in all, we are having a really positive experience and feel confident that our time here will be well spent.  Again, I would like to thank all of you for your support.

Frustration without Resolve

13 Jun

Although I had known that the first portion of the program consisted of both Spanish and Medical Instrumentation training, I guess I did not realize how intense it was going to be.  Every day we have Spanish class from 8:00 am – 12:00 pm, and for the Engineering portion of the day a Medical Instrumentation lecture from 1:00 – 2:00 pm and then a Instrumentation lab from 2:00 – 5:00 pm. Our Spanish instructor gives us homework every night, usually it is a short essay and a few exercises in our workbooks. For our engineering classes we usually have to read a chapter from our textbook and the lab that we will do the following day. We are quizzed on this material the next day.  I am in the most advanced Spanish class and the material is usually material that I have not seen in years or something that we never even discussed in my grammar classes.  Most days by 12:00 pm my head is spinning and I could not run out of class to eat lunch any faster. The afternoon lectures usually cover one piece of medical equipment, how it functions, the most common problems encountered, and how to fix these problems. The labs have pretty much all dealt with electric circuits.  Both Kara and I have had minimal experience with circuits (an introductory course and lab), so even though we may have read about some of these components we don’t fully understand their function or know how they are physically introduced into a circuit.  Needless to say, a lot of information is being thrown my way on a daily basis, and frankly it is exhausting. I can acknowledge the importance of the training because we are working on equipment that can save/take a persons life and do appreciate this opportunity to get hands on experience with electrical circuits and medical equipment, but sometimes my days are just plain frustrating.

Today was the most frustrating of them all. In our previous lab we built a circuit that could be used as a power source (with an adjustable voltage output) for a piece of medical equipment that was lacking one.  Our task today was to test our circuit to make sure that it worked, so we crossed our fingers and plugged it in, only to find it did not work. After hours and hours of trouble shooting, and all 3 of our instructors checking our connections, our coordinator told us to call it a day. He said as far as he could see we did everything right and most likely it was a faulty component. We had really taken our time the day before to make sure we understood what we were doing and that we did everything right. We spent hours staring at this circuit and even stayed an hour or so after all the other groups and still no concrete conclusion was made. I think I would have been happier if they would have just found a mistake. After a long and chaotic bus ride home (rush hour and a crazy bus driver who stopped in the middle of the street and got out of the drivers seat and opened the door to yell at the car next to him), I am hungry (mom is running an hour late with dinner) and ready for bed. Excuse my rant.

Easy like Sunday Morning

5 Jun

Today was a great lazy Sunday. I had planned on trying to make it to a Couchsurfing potluck in Herredia, the neighboring province, but when I woke up my allergies were worse than usual and I just didn’t have it in me. The girls and I all woke up super early because we all crashed so early from the exhausting rafting trip (more about this later). Our host dad was taking the grandpa’s taxi to the super market to pick up some things and offered to take us with him. Of course we happily accepted and were all able to get some fruits and vegetables for our lunches this week so that we could try and save some money. We discovered that the size of the carrots here are insane, eat one and I think you might get enough beta-carotene to see into the future.

While a giant carrot might seem like the highlight of ones day, the best part about today was that we really started to bond with our host family. Late in the afternoon, Kara and I went to make some tea and found our host mom, Vera, in the kitchen with a freshly baked cake. She asked if we would all like to join her for some coffee and cake, so we all gathered around the table with her and ate her delicious banana cake and talked over coffee. We shared pictures of our families and then she talked about their family home life. Vera works as an administrator/accountant for a law firm. She explained to us that as the inequality between men and women lessens in Costa Rica, and the women are now having a chance to climb to higher positions in the business world, it is becoming more common for the men to be the stay at home parent. She also talked about how drinking is tied into the latin culture and this leads to a lot of problems, particularly with our host family. Vera and her husband separated last year for 3 months on account of his alcoholism. But now Federico (our host dad) goes to AA and stays at home with the kids, does all the cooking and house keeping, as well as gives Vera a piece of mind knowing he is sober and at home. I’m really glad that we got to have this time with her and that she felt compelled to share about their life, as well as learn about ours.

When we finished with our cake and coffee, I asked the youngest son, Mauro, to play pool with me. He usually doesn’t talk to us except for to say good morning/night in passing, or run by our room screaming something and then giggle. This kind of forced him to spend time with us and help him to feel a little more comfortable around us.  Of course we had some good laughs about how bad Melissa and I were at pool.

Later in the evening, the girls and I did our workout session in the living room (something we have decided to try and do every night).  Since Mauro is now feeling more comfortable, he decided that we would serve as great entertainment and he and his brother stood to the side cracking up at us for the entire time. Glad to be of service =).

All in all, although we did not leave the house much today, I think it was a really good day.  I think we are all feeling a little less like strangers and a little more at home.

I’ve Arrived

2 Jun

The flights were a breeze, after no sleep the night before and lots of tears, I slept through them both. I was a little nervous about getting picked up at the airport because it said to just wear your EWH shirt and look for others who are wearing the same. Be patient, you may have to wait up to 3 hours, and for no reason should you leave the airport. I quickly saw  JJ (our coordinator here inCosta Rica) holding an EWH sign in the window and he directed me towards the other 15 or so participants that were sitting outside with their bags. I was hardly feeling social and immediately started to feel a little anxious but luckily I was one of the last ones to arrive on the morning shift, so within a half an hour we were on a bus headed to the language institute. Our host mom, Vera, came to pick up myself and another girl named Sigi and take us back to our new home. Thankfully, she  asked if we were hungry (I was starved) and fed us a big lunch of rice and black beans, and a delicious dish made of chickpeas, carrots, onions, and a little bit of pork. Sigi and I were both so tired that once we finished we climbed into bed and slept the rest of the day away.  The two other girls, Kara and Melissa,  arrived late at night around 11:30 pm, and we all did our best to situate our luggage in the bedroom that we all share (two twin beds and a set of bunkbeds) and still leave a small path to walk. We did some quick introductions and it was back to bed because we had to be back at the institute at 8:30 this morning.

Our host dad rode the bus with us so that he could show us the route that we will have to take to school everyday. We were all freaking out because none of us had exchanged money yet and so after breakfast I mentioned it and they told us not to worry, that they would cover our fare for the day. Such a quick pleasant conversation, that we stressed about for so long because everyone was too afraid to speak up hah. I guess we will learn. Our first day of lectures was basically the owner of the institute, Gladys, trying to scare the hell out of us about being safe in the city. She told us thatCosta Rica’s economy is based on tourism and since they don’t have a national army, for many, preying on tourists is a natural way to make a living. We were told not to wear any jewelry, they’ll rip it out of your ears or off your neck. Don’t take out your camera, they are watching they will follow you and steal your bag, etc. You probably will be robbed, and it may be at gun point, etc. We all left feeling extremely vulnerable, clutching to all our belongings, and just hoping to get home as quickly as possible. I know that this was just a scare tactic and they are just worried about oblivious people who are not used to living in a city and don’t know how to be aware of their surroundings, walking around with the word victim written on their forehead. It is going to take a little bit to figure out what was exaggerated and where and when is it safe to go.

Kentucky Derby Party

9 May

What an absolutely exhausting weekend. I finally graduated…I thought the day would never come.  My Nana even came in from Florida to celebrate with us.  The commencements were on Friday (my mom REALLY wanted me to walk), my sister Jillian, my Dad, mom and Nana all attended. Jillian was sending me texts through the whole ceremony to keep me updated (i.e. “Mom’s crying”, “There goes Dad” haha). We had a small graduation party at my mom’s afterwards with family, a few close friends, and of course some delicious home cooked food.

Saturday, was my final fundraiser, the Kentucky Derby Party. Every year my family organization, the Sons of the Auld SOD, hosts a Kentucky Derby Party and donates the proceeds to a charity they see fit.  All the girls usually make fun hats and put on their derby best. This year the proceeds went to my fundraising campaign for EWH.  The SOD donated the beer and the food and all of the admission went to me.  Although, we had a smaller turn out than most years, we were still able to raise $721, a huge step towards reaching my fundraising goal. Thank you to everyone who was able to attend, I really appreciate your support, and of course I enjoyed your fancy outfits.  Below are a couple pictures for your enjoyment:

My friend Gaby and I. She has been super supportive during my fundraising campaign, helping out any way she can, and I really appreciate it.

Ladies in their Lovely Hats.