Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Hope and Despair

March 2, 2010

Leslie Posing

My experience at Tierra Nueva is both full of hope and of tragedy. The patients are so appreciative of the work of the surgeons and the nurses and of the whole operation. Many of the hip replacements are done in very young people who had congenital hip problems that were not corrected when they were young, so the surgery changes their lives entirely. The babies have club feet and hip issues. There is an adult operating room and a pediatric operating room and both are in use constantly.

I am getting to know the doctors and nurses. Most are from Edmonton, some from Vancouver or Victoria. I know several of the doctors from my time at the University of Alberta, and we are all asking one another when we graduated. Some graduated years earlier, most are much younger.

I started with physical therapy upstairs on the unit, and then was assigned to a seven year old girl named Leslie, and her mother Laura. They had taken the bus this morning form Guallabamba at 4 AM. Leslie was drawing in her notebook and had a big smile for me when I introduced myself. Her hands and feet were deformed, but I did not know the cause of her infirmity. She was clearly very bright and her mother told me she did very well at school. Laura was concerned that time away from school would lower Leslie's grades and wanted her back at school as soon as possible. Her left foot was to be cut to improve function. Laura was concerned about how Leslie would get around in school and wanted a wheelchair for Leslie so that her classmates could wheel her around. Laura carried her daughter to school each morning for 40 minutes. At school Leslie moved from class to class with the help of her schoolmates. Laura wanted Leslie to have a wheelchair so that she could return school as soon as possible.

Laura believed that arsenic in the water caused the deformities and said many children in the area around Guallabamba were afflicted. She tries to drink bottled water, but there is none left for boiling or cooking food. I wondered what the authorities do about the problem; perhaps nothing.

I helped a seven month old little boy named Brandon and his mother. He had had his surgery the night before and was listless and tired this morning. He ate a 'colada' for the mother and then sugar water and improved markedly. I heard later that he had his surgery late last night. His family is from Columbia and live in great secrecy in Quito. The family was targeted in Columbia by the FARC, required to pay $200 monthly to the terrorists. When they were unable to pay, the terrorists shot a family member. They escaped and moved to Eucador where they continue to live in hiding, fearful of giving their true names, unable to get an identification card and thus legal employment. They are thankful to have survived, but live in dire circumstances in Quito.

Gladyss came four days earlier for her operation, hoping to change the date to tomorrow, because she takes care of a special needs child and would not be able to get help for her daughter on the weekend. She asked me about treatment for epilepsy and wondered about he surgery the doctors are trying to convince her of; they would remove part of her daughter's brain to control the seizures. She had all sorts of questions for me when she learned I was a psychiatrist.

The day was exhilarating and exhausting and I am eager to return tomorrow for more.

Eric Exhausted After Salsa

I was able to relax at salsa class with Eric and Debra. We are ready for the dance club!

Debra Inspiring Us

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