First of all, I want to thank everyone who has commented on this blog. I love hearing from each and every one of you!! And even though it is only Thursday, we are done with our first week of clinicals because tomorrow is Good Friday, a national holiday here. Actually, many businesses began closing down today around noon and some schools were closed today in addition to tomorrow. Bolivia is predominantly Catholic (90 something percent) and so this week of Easter (“Semana Santa” – Holy week) is very important to them. Judithe and I want to take some weekend trips but we were told by several people to stay in La Paz this weekend as traveling on Easter weekend is difficult due to the high volume of people who travel for religious pilgrimages. For example, Copacabana, the city next to Lake Titicaca, is about 3 hours from La Paz on bus. Many people from La Paz walk to Copacabana (about a 3 day walk) as a faith pilgrimage. I found this very interesting as I have not ever heard of this tradition. But we have no problem staying in La Paz- there is so much still to explore! We plan to maximize our three day weekend by seeing as much as we can around the city (and also sleeping in haha). Tomorrow, we want to ride the teleforico, which is a cable car over the city. It was a project of the current President, Evo Morales, and connects all of the major points in the city for pretty cheap (about $0.50 per ticket). It has three lines, red/yellow/green for the colors of the Bolivian flag, and the green line runs very close to our apartment. This picture is one I got off the internet but it gives you an idea of what it looks like. We also plan to visit Iglesia San Francisco, a very old church downtown that dates back to colonial times. Tomorrow our Spanish teacher is going to take us to Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon), a place just outside of the city with neat rock formations. Spanish class on the go!
Speaking of Spanish class, we had our first one yesterday with our own personal tutor named Jenny. She is awesome! CFHI provides around 30 hours of Spanish classes, which I am very thankful for. She made it so fun and I am really looking forward to Spanish class every day now. She even made our Spanish homework fun (writing out our weekend plans so we can practice speaking in the future tense) 🙂
Today we worked with Dra. Salete again in the infectious disease unit. I really enjoy being at the Hospital del Niño and seeing how they do things there. Everybody is so nice and welcoming, even the nurses today were asking us about our holiday weekend plans! We got to meet the maxillofacial surgeon today, who was consulted on many cases in the ID unit. We got to see her changing many of the wound bandages and also an incision and drainage of an abscess.
There were 14 patients today, and we were familiar with many of them already from Tuesday. One young boy captured my heart- he is around 13 years old and they initially thought he had Well’s Syndrome (I had to look this up- it is essentially hypersensitivity to an insect bite that can cause swelling and skin manifestations) since his face and especially his lips are extremely swollen. I have never seen anything like it and I feel so bad for him as it looks very painful. They consulted many other doctors on his case since they still don’t know what is going on (there were at least 5 attendings there today discussing the case). They now think it may be a mass, possibly cancer, that is causing Superior Vena Cava syndrome. They are starting him on a course of high dose corticosteroids today to see if that helps, which it should regardless of the diagnosis, and plan on doing imaging on Monday to look for a mass. They also discussed a biopsy but I didn’t catch what their final plans were for that. Something else they mentioned in the differential (for my medical friends) was vasculitis, which can apparently cause superior vena cava syndrome as well, although it is a much less common cause than a mediastinal mass. Today and Tuesday when I saw him, he was alone with no parents around, although I may just happen to be there at the times they are not. Dra. Salete is such a good example for me and is exactly the kind of doctor I want to be. She spent a lot of time talking to him and making sure he is comfortable, sleeping well, etc. and asking him about his favorite soccer team. She also asked what his favorite food is and after rounds, she went to the store to buy him the cookies he likes with her own money. What a difference doctors who truly care about their patients can make!!
Last night, we got to go to Bible study with our host mom. It was a HUGE blessing to me. There were about 10 people there and they were so warm and welcoming. They were so excited to have visitors from the United States and prayed for us and had us share our stories (which was difficult for me as it is still hard for me to speak in the past tense in Spanish haha). We studied from Isaiah 43 which was a great reminder that God created us for His glory and we are so precious in His sight. I love meeting brothers and sisters in Christ from different cultures! As they said to us last night, “The family of God around the world is so big and we are your Bolivian family!” I am excited to see them again on Sunday for Easter service.
And after this super long post, I will leave you with some pictures of our new friend(s) we met at the hospital cafeteria yesterday as we were having tea with Dra. Salete after clinic 🙂