Tuesday, March 21, 2006

You better Belize it.

Jill's painting of the Sugar Shack.

So the flying fiasco mentioned previously was the return trip from participating in U of L's International Service Learning Project in Belize. Pretty fun. We took an interdisciplinary group to provide medical and dental care to 2 different communities--Gale's Point and Red Bank. Sherry and I were in Gale's Point, and we had a great time.

The medical team there consisted of me, Sherry, and 2 med students, Erich and Chase. We tried to provide very basic medical care for the residents of Gale's Point. Our little "clinic," if you could even call it that, was situated in the community center. We used ropes and bedsheets to create 3 little exam rooms for some semblance of privacy.

If I had to make a guess, we probably saw 200-220 patients over our 3&1/2 days of clinic. Not too shabby. Granted, most of our patients had complaints such as, "sometimes I have a cold," and "I have backaches," but we did see a lot of actual pathology. The hardest part was not being able to treat or even fully investigate what we found.

Our diagnostic tools included vital signs, physical exam, accuchecks, and dipstick urinalysis. No EKG, no xrays, no blood tests, no cultures. And almost no medicines. We managed to provide several people with HCTZ or metformin, but we had to triage even those based on just how bad their hypertension was. Once the meds ran out, we just started writing down the medications we recommended that they obtain in the city (apparently lots of stuff is OTC in Belize). We also did some home visits, which was truly a moving experience.

I'd love to do this again next year. But I have a feeling that there might be a little more competition for spots than there even was this year. And there's some guilt involved in feeling like I got a free vacation while everyone besides our residents and faculty had to spend $2200 out of pocket. I mean, we did work hard, so it wasn't completely a vacation. And there will always be that Catholic part of me I can't escape.