The first week of the Ayacucho Mission has come to an end, and the second is just on the horizon! According to the mission director, Cesar, we saw over 1,000 patients the first week, which is an incredible accomplishment given the limited resources we have. Thus far, the mission has been an incredibly humbling experience.
The mission is organized in a way that provides excellent opportunities for medical students to learn one-on-one from attending physicians. Each medical student present is assigned to a specialty, and general volunteer (usually an undergraduate student) is also assigned to the same specialty, so the medical student is not burdened with tasks such as patient transport or lab result delivery. In this way, the medical student is able to focus all of his/her attention on learning from and assisting the attending physician.
Our students from UCI have rotated through gynecology, family medicine, general and plastic surgery, cardiology, orthopedics, endocrinology, pathology, nephrology, internal medicine, and pediatrics, and we have been instrumental in caring for so many precious lives in Peru.
Many of the patients travel over 6 hours from the jungle regions surrounding Ayacucho to receive health care. They speak a language called Quechua, which I decided sounds like the language from the movie Avatar. I have learned how to say “Imanaya kanki, mactacha”, which means “How are you dude”, and “Tucuyu uras yarahawan”, which means “I am always hungry”. I figured those phrases would come in most handy. Many of us have grown tremendously in our Spanish speaking skills as well, which will definitely prove useful in the future!
One of the highlights of my week was speaking to a man named Edwin. Edwin is from VRAE, a valley about 8 hours from Ayacucho by car. He was sitting nervously outside one of the hospital’s clinics and he was eager to talk to us. Myself and another volunteer sat down with him to talk about life and his family, and then about any questions he may have. He asked us to start listing off male American names, so we went through the alphabet, giving him a male American name for each letter. We only made it to M (Mark) before he asked us to wait a few minutes and rushed inside the hospital. Five minutes later he emerged with a newborn baby and a signed birth certificate that read “Joseph Maneses”, a name we had given for the letter “J” (in addition to Jacob, of course). So basically, we helped Edwin name his baby boy without even realizing it! He was very appreciative and he made us promise to come visit him in VRAE……the 16 hour round trip sounds rough so maybe next year…..
Another highlight was visiting an orphanage at the edge of the city. The children loved having us come to play with them, hold them, dance with them, and most importantly PLAY SOCCER with them! We had a huge soccer game, with over 30 people, so you can imagine it got a little sloppy at times, but it was SO fun After soccer they gathered together and sang songs for us, then the directors served us a snack. It was definitely difficult to say goodbye to such a beautiful and energetic group of children. Not really sure what the adoption laws are in Ayacucho…..
One last experience then I’ll close for now…..I used an ultrasound machine in Cardiology to look at a patient’s heart in many different views to examine it for pathology. We used the parasternal long, parasternal short, apical 4 chamber, and subcostal views to ensure the heart was symmetrical and strong. The patient had a very interesting heartbeat that kind of sounded like a slow bongo drum beat, so the cardiologist wanted to inspect the heart. Ultrasound has proven to be quite useful here in Ayacucho.
Ok that is all for now. Just as a closing note for my post, I want to express my gratitude to the donors for Change the World projects, which have made this experience possible, to Dr. Maguire for helping us to find these organizations and encouraging our travels, and to Dr. Wiechmann and the tech crew who have put together this blog.
That’s all for now! Nos vemos pronto!