Today is our first day working in the clinic and the hospital in Kpando. It is also the first chance the students have to see Kpando in the light of day. I see some trepidation and concern in their eyes because this is a busy, dusty, noisy town with buildings that are ramshackle and lots of clusters of homes that appear very poor.
Our first week has spoiled us with nicer hotels. The UMass Lowell nursing students are excited to see some health care facilities. We begin our long dusty walk to the clinic where are supposed to meet with the District Chief.
This is the road that can be treacherous and I tell the students to walk single file to avoid getting hit by the many cars and trucks. We stop to buy some minutes for our cell phones and meet Grace the tailor regarding making some dresses and I point out Maxy’s Spot which is a run down derelict bar but it is the “in” place to go.
The students don’t seem to impressed and if they decide not to go there then I will be happy. They seem totally happy with playing rummy and Phase 10 which Amanda and I have introduced them to. I am amazed at the different group dynamics every year with the students. We have a good group this year and so far no personality conflicts. We settle into life in Kpando.
The students quickly figure out where to buy water, where to buy carved wood, where the internet café is and how all my warnings about crazy drivers were true. The are many very small businesses by the side of the road but mostly are small provision shops, casket makers and bars. There is also some tailors and beauty shops. So I tell Maura, we are all set; we can get beautiful, drink and have our body buried all in the same town.
I go to the outpatient clinic with five students and Maura goes to the hospital. We have both found our comfort zone. Unfortunately many of the people I met last year at the clinic are not there so I must begin anew in establishing the relationship. It really is more of an observational experience than a working experience. I take whatever opportunity to ask questions and interpret (medically) to the students what is happening but it is hard for me to be in five places at once because I have distributed the students to five different areas.
They find the consulting area the most interesting because that is also my comfort zone and before long I am assisting the medical assistant (like a physician assistant) in his diagnosis and prescribing of meds for various problems. We see 83 patients that day and I would say at least 60 of them were malaria. The disease is so rampant here. Everyone always assumes that HIV is the prevalent disease but malaria is a more common disease with such death rates that are very high especially for the young children under 5. Seeing the prevalence has made our malaria project in Peki seem that much more valuable.
Time is short today so I will not write much. More to come tomorrow.