Great week at the hospital! It was my last week in Pediatrics and I finally felt like I was able to offer a helpful contribution to the work going on. I worked with a nurse who speaks very fast Spanish but has a hilarious personality and insists that I be involved at every step of caring for patients. She also trusts me to do the things I have already learned and brags about me to the other nurses. I had some great conversations with nurses, doctors, and patients’ parents this week and made friends with tiny patients, feeling more comfortable every day.
There’s still always something new in Nicaragua each day. One day this week, a mission team of Virginians came into the Pediatric ward to talk with patients and offer hygiene supplies, toys, and Bibles. While it certainly felt strange to see white people come into the place where I volunteer to try to make a difference in about 30 minutes, I was able to have some valuable conversations with a couple of them. One of them was a nurse who had some great questions about the hospital and how it’s different from those in the States. The room full of medical supplies that they left downstairs was definitely welcome in the hospital since it seems that we’re running out of the basics. I was able to help sort out the supplies for distribution into each area of the hospital and even translate some of the English labels on packages to assist with identifying some of the donations. Another day, I stayed late to go back into the operating room and observe a couple more surgeries.
On Friday, I was invited to go with all the bosses of the different departments of the hospital (almost all my English students) to a conference in Nicaragua’s capital Managua. I gladly accepted, knowing that any extra experiences like this would add to my knowledge of the healthcare here and contribute to my capstone project. We left from the hospital even earlier than I normally arrive in a van that we rented for the day. It was me and a bunch of women, as usual. They’re fun to be around though, always laughing a lot and insisting on buying me food (I was able to fend them off for lunch). The conference was about thrombosis a disease which I now know something about. It was held at the conference center at the Holiday Inn in Managua, one of the country’s fancier hotels. I was impressed by the staging and the food at the coffee break and couldn’t help wondering where the money came for a conference like this especially given the state of the Nicaraguan healthcare system as I’ve seen it so far and knowing that the nurses paid nothing for it. Then, for about 45 minutes, the conference turned into a glorified commercial for a particular brand of medicine used to treat thrombosis. Mystery solved.
When the conference was over, we visited one of the malls in Managua for lunch. In the mall, I found a lot of US restaurant chains that I missed and the much higher US food prices that I certainly did not. But it was interesting to see briefly a very Americanized part of Nicaragua, a far cry from the lone supermarket in Leon.
The home life has been just as busy. The pastor that I live with decided that it would be a good idea to have a church service every day for 20 days leading up to a big retreat the church is having at the end of July. I have mixed feelings about the decision but it has really been fun hanging out with the youth of the church who are some of my closest friends here (I should explain that nobody really ages out of youth groups here and many youth are well into their 20s). The organization that my host friend works for has two college interns here from the States so I’ve enjoyed spending time with and helping them out in the afternoons and evening at the hospital. This past Tuesday, I took pictures of a concert they helped put on in Leon’s central park. And Wednesday, I helped my friend get ready for a surprise party for one of the interns whose birthday it was. Birthday parties aren’t a simple affair here either: pinata, huge cake, ice cream, music, a trillion balloons a streamers strung up everywhere. I kind of wish I had saved my May birthday until the summer this year.
It seems like I’ve shared a lot but there are so many details of my experience in Nicaragua this summer that I’m passing over for lack of time. I’m already preparing myself for another hot and busy week in which I’m sure to learn a whole bunch more about Nicaragua, third world medicine, and myself. I’m about halfway through my experience at the hospital, which is a unbelieveable fact that has only served to remind me again to take advantage of every moment I have here in my second home.