Thursday, June 21, 2012

Gugulethu Day: Maternity and Outpatient

Lets start with last night, the fun stuff of course.  A few friends and I went running and we stopped to pick up notebooks for class.  We went back to our flat and made a pretty amazing dinner if I do say so myself.  Peas, rice and sauce—the dinner of champions.  Later on we all went to this bar in the next town area called “Stones.”  It reminded me somewhat of Eddie Obriens or Parkers in Geneva and had a good American feel to it.  Matter of fact, we met a bunch of Americans studying here and volunteering.  Our RA came with us as our protector which was probably a good thing since the young doctors at Gugulethu informed us that we really should be with a South African when walking around where we live…how inviting.  The two for one special was a hit and I downed a few Castles (the main South African Beer) which was actually pretty light and tasty.  I had a great time going out and getting to know our group better and make some friends from different places.  I swear there were people from all over the world in this one bar and we were told that Long Street is even better and more exciting with famous clubs and bars.

Today we went back to Gugulethu and I really tried to go in with a clean slate.  I brought my trusty peanut butter sandwich and orange along with me.  The woman who had given me some problems yesterday was not around the area I was in so I felt comfortable and able to talk with the various nursing (sisters) staff and doctors that were doing their community rotation.  One really interesting thing about medical school or degrees in the medical profession is that students must give back ot the community by doing a year to two years of community service in these hospitals such as Gugulethu where no one wants to come work.

Today I was placed in Maternity and was able to see the tiniest baby being transported to a larger hospital.  At one point the power went off and we were so fearful of the effect on the baby but the sister nurses did not seem to think that it was an issue at all.  One thing that I found extremely interesting was how natural the birthing process is here.  While I did not see a birth today others in my class described it yesterday and we spoke with the nursing students who confirmed what they had seen.  Compared to America it is so much more relaxing and kind of in and out.  For mothers who are having normal pregnancies with no complications they can come to gugulethu and walk around a waiting area for mothers in early labor.  They groan and walk until they are dilated enough.  When it is time they move to a bed (there are about 4-5 beds for birthing) and the process begins.  Men are not allowed in the ward.  Post-labor the women all lay in beds in one room and they are there with their child the whole time by their side—breast feeding is much more open in south Africa as well.  I went to speak to one of the young mothers and she lifted her shirt to begin feeding—at first I was shocked but then realized that they are used to this sort of thing.  I should mention that many girls start having children at age 12.

The maternity ward was pretty quiet today and soon our nursing student left us to fend for ourselves.  I was moved to Outpatient (OPD) and that is where the real fun began.  I was given gloves and was able to call names of patients, take blood pressure and assign them to either a doctor or nurse.  The most saddening thing about this is that going to Gugulethu means they are there the whole day.  The lines are extremely long and even once they have been in line to be sent to the doctor or nurse they still must wait to see them too.  In addition to taking BP I also worked with another kid on my trip testing a few urine samples (yes we had gloves but NO it was not anywhere near as sanitary as in the US). 

I apologize for these being such lengthy descriptions of my day but there is so so much to tell.  I can try and make some more condescend posts that describe my experiences but I am also handing these in for grades as journal entries.  I will have a total of 3 papers (all around 3000-5000 words) as well but we are all hoping that they wont take away from our traveling and adventuring!

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