A final hello,
For my final blog, I want to draw attention to a global concern that became quite local for me in Otavalo. A(H1N1), the "Swine Flu", has hit Ecuador, and even Ibarra, the city right next to Otavalo. Here, it is called A(H1N1) and it is very scary. A few people in Ecuador have already died.
Although it hasn't hit Otavalo and hopefully won't, the hospital is taking the outbreak very seriously. The director of the hospital called a meeting on the 24th of July for all the rural clinic workers, which included everyone working at Gualsaqui. Maria Esther, Erica, Legia and I went to the meeting where they discussed the dangers of the sickness, and what symptoms to be wary of--sore throat, cough and/or fever. But the main concern at the meeting was a sign-up sheet to work in the triage tent, set up outside the hospital on the weekends. This tent accepts all patients with the symptoms. The tent is to keep epidemic carriers from entering the hospital and allowing the sickness to spread.
Maria Esther happened to sign up for the Sunday just before I left. I was excited for one last experience, and so on Sunday morning we walked to the hospital, meeting the doctor we would be working with there, and opened up the tent. After donning our masks and snapping on latex gloves, we were ready to receive patients.
There were many people who came in that day. There were a lot of babies and toddlers with coughs and runny noses. The most impressive case was a woman with a sore throat and a very high temperature (38˚C). Although I am glad I went with Maria Esther, I found that the work in the tent was my least favorite experience. I was very uncomfortable being surrounded by sick people, and even a little frightened that any one of them could have A(H1N1). Every uncovered sneezed made my skin crawl. I think what bothered me the most was not being able to see or identify what was wrong with each person. The deformity of a broken limb, or the change in skin from a second degree burn are problems that are easy to identify, easy to see. With sickness, the problem is microscopic, invisible. My sudden fear of the patients and their contagiousness was unsettling as I took their temperatures and weighed them.
But it is good that I went. Not only was I able to see the steps taken by a hospital when threatened by an epidemic, I took part in the process of prevention by working the triage tent. Hearing about the influenza daily in conversation, in the newspaper, and on TV made working the tent exciting, even if it was uncomfortable.
Thank you all for following my adventure. This blog has helped me to articulate my own perspective on the experience as it unfolded. I would not have done so much, critiqued as much, or been as proud and excited about my adventure had it not been for your support.