Friday, March 1, 2013

MACLA Medical Mission Part 3

On the first day of surgeries, I was assigned to pre-op. This was a room with six beds where people came to be seen by Katrina, the resident physician, as well as Del, the anesthesiologist, and whichever surgeon was expected to do their operation. Katrina speaks decent Spanish and really only needed sporadic help with the occasional difficult question. I mostly helped translate questions from Del such as, “Have you been ill this week or last week?”, and, “Do you have allergies to any medicines?”

Jose, Dana, and Alyson in pro-op
The whole time, another volunteer, usually Norma Ochoa or Alyson Davidson, maintained an elaborate chart that contained the status of every surgery planned for the day and corresponded via walkie-talkie with Del’s wife, Patricia in the Operating Room (OR). Whenever a patient went to surgery, we brought in another one from the waiting area in the hall. Periodically I was sent to the storehouse on the roof for supplies or on some other errand. With all that was going on, the day went by remarkably quickly.

The next day I was assigned to post-op and recovery. This was a little more of a dramatic position since some of the patients, especially the younger ones, weren’t happy campers coming out of surgery. My understanding is that it can be a little off-putting to come out of general anesthesia, even if you’re not too young understand why you’ve got some body part all wrapped up in gauze. Luckily, almost everyone we helped was numbed in the part of their body where they were operated on, so the pain was at a minimum. For the most part I just helped the physical therapist communicate with patients who were getting splints and braces for the limbs and digits the surgeons had worked on.

Peace Corps volunteers and MACLA volunteers in the lobby of the hotel

I was paired to Jose that day. He stayed back in the recovery room most of the time, since he hopes to go into medicine and this was more relevant to his interests. I got to spend some time in recovery too. It’s where patients go once they begin breathing for themselves but haven’t fully come out of anesthesia. Some people in this stages jerk around and have spasms as part of the process. I was glad that Jose wanted to be the one to hold down this room.

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