Friday, February 17, 2012

Rural dental team, Surgery week, and Valentine's Day...

This was by far the most exhausting week I've had since I've been here and at the same time it has been the most exciting and rewarding week! It was filled with 12 (sometimes longer) hour days and beautiful moments with patients and new friends.

This blog is going to seam a little out of order, but I didn't want to jump around while explaining each thing. First up on Monday I stayed in Pana and worked with a rural dental team from the organization Free to Smile. The team was made up of 5 dentist and 2 dental hygienist who were all in their 20's and/or 30's. I met the team at their hotel for breakfast then we drove to the hospital (and when I say hospital I mean a building with several medical rooms in it that doesn't seam like it's operating) to set up. The team set up in a room upstairs to see the patients. The dental chairs in the picture below are actual portable chairs that are made out of cardboard and fold up into a little box.
My job for the day was patient control. I would go downstairs and bring up a certain number of patients at a time according to what the dentist were specializing in. After lunch we changed the plan and started doing triage downstairs, so that when the patients were called upstairs the dentist already knew exactly why they were there. At that point my job turned more into helping out with the kids while they were seeing the dentist. I loved it. They would hold my hand so tightly and sometimes stare into my eyes.
I held this little boy while the dentist pulled a few teeth then he sat in my lap for about 20 minutes until his mom and younger brother got done seeing the dentist.
Another little girl that I sat with until her sister (who was one of my Spanish teachers) was ready.
This was maybe my favorite moment/picture of the day. One of the dentist said to me "I don't know what to do. Someone is going to have to hold this lady's baby while she sees the dentist"... um deal! I held this little cuteness for about an hour and loved every second of it. So adorable. Monday was a beautiful day.
Ok... now to back up a day. On Sunday we headed up to the village around 6:00 for triage day. When we got to the clinic there were so many people outside. Usually when the clinic is open the patients wait inside, but for surgery week they have to stay outside the gate because their are so many people there.
I was working so much that I didn't have time to walk around and take pictures, so I gave my camera to a friend who went outside and took these. I was highly impressed. Especially because he used the camera on my IPod Touch because my camera died. There are a lot more, but I have a feeling you are already thinking this blog is too long.

I took this picture of this lady on Tuesday morning. I saw her sitting outside the clinic in the morning when we arrived at work and she spent the whole day sitting there. At first I thought she was waiting to have surgery then I realized she was waiting for a loved one to come out of surgery. I thought she was beautiful.
This picture is just to show how crowded the clinic was all week. Everyday the hallways were filled with patients who were either waiting to have surgery or who had surgery the day before and were waiting for their post op appointment.
This is the area where the patients got ready for surgery and also rested while recuperating. Usually this room is the room that we all office out of and also use as our lunch eating area. However, on Surgery weeks we move the lunch table into the kitchen and move the desks around. Mine is up against a wall anyways, so it didn't have to move. Therefor I could still use my desk on the other side of the room which was great because their were so many people around everywhere.
The surgery team this week was made up of 2 eye doctors, a nurse staff, and many other team members who helped out with everything. Here is a picture of Dr. Evans performing a cataract surgery. This was the first surgery I watched this week and I was fascinated. I had to "scrub" in and then got to look through the microscope (right over the doctor's shoulder) the whole time. I thought I was going to be grossed out, but it was actually way more fascinating than gross. I realized about half way through that the man who was having surgery's hand was shaking pretty hard. I reached down to pat it and he grabbed my hand so tightly and held onto it for the rest of his surgery. He must have been terrified. He was fully awake with only his eye numb laying in a room with all foreigners that were speaking a foreign language. The patients this week put so much trust into the doctors and our clinic.
This is Dr. Sponsel in the other OR. He made me laugh because he jammed to music during the surgeries so loud that you could hear it outside the clinic. He is the doc that did the kid's surgeries on Wednesday and had kiddy music playing all day.
Here is a picture (bad I know, but again my camera had died) of the community center behind Salud y Paz that we rented out for the week, so the patients could stay overnight. Every patient had to have a post op appointment the following morning and several had surgery on both eyes and lived hours away.
I really loved working surgery week with this team. I was constantly reminded that I was being able to experience so many opportunities that I would never otherwise have a chance to witness. I also got to work closely with the patients and the Guatemalan staff. I finally feel like I am making true friends with the people here that I am most grateful for. Even with the staff that don't speak any English I have been able to create friendships through laughter. What could be better than that?

On another note this week was also Valentine's Day which is apparently a huge deal in Guatemala. All the classrooms in the school were decorated so cutely. This is the outside of Ana's room.
Here is the preschool classroom while they are exchanging their Valentine's gifts.
After they exchanged valentine's they would give each other big hugs... adorable!
 Just opening their gifts. :)
Here is the kindergarten class with their presents.
On Valentine's Day the whole school did their PE class together. Usually Jose works with one class at a time, but this week they all got to play games together.
This picture makes me smile so much! These 3 little boys were trying to pop this balloon by hugging. They tried for so long, but were never able to.
Long story short this was a beautiful exhausting week. I know how blessed I am to be able to experience all the amazing life changing moments I am witnessing here. We have another surgery week in 2 weeks, but it should be less hectic because you always get more patients with eye surgeries because they are quicker. I am also fascinated with everything that I am learning here. Spanish and culture aside this week the dentist team taught me how to number and letter the teeth and what the different cavities look like. Then when I watched surgeries the doctors would explain everything step by step. Just things I would never learn/get to watch back home. Man if I stay here longer I will for sure be considered a legit dentist/doctor/surgeon!

Side note... ASHLEY IS COMING TOMORROW!!!!!!!! I am heading to Guatemala City tomorrow to pick her up when she lands. I cannot even express how through the roof happy I am that she's coming! What a beautiful week we will have together. Stay tuned for a fun blog update on our little adventure.

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