I was doing so well at blogging every day until yesterday. With my first paper due tomorrow and the pressure of not sleeping/ getting up early to work all day I needed a short break from blogging and journaling.
Today was my last day at Victoria hospital and was certainly one of the more rewarding days. The whole week I was torn between being annoyed over lack of internet and an essay due combined with not being completely intrigued with the work at Victoria. I think that this may be because not everything is such a shock to us anymore and I am more settled with working and observing the doctors. However, I am still extremely happy to be at these various facilities and am of course learning so much.
A bit on yesterday—I worked in pediatrics and learned that Victoria has one of the best pediatric facilities around bringing children from all over the African continent to receive public care. The majority of cases were such heartbreakers since many of the patients were children of drug/ alcohol abuser parents or mothers with HIV who had defaulted on their medication. We observed a 6 week old baby boy whose mother defaulted on her HIV medication—the child is extremely underweight and HIV+ as well and will most likely not survive. Other children had been caught in domestic violence between the mother and a boyfriend or were also HIV+. Besides the saddening cases that we observed we were also able to play with the children who were a bit older and able to get out of their cribs—Reddick was my favorite. Picture a 9 month old with a weave? She was beyond adorable and doing well on her ART treatment.
Last night we went to the UCT library to get internet and study though when we got there we were told we will never get internet while in Cape Town since we aren’t full time students or semester abroad students. At first I was really upset but then realized that I can pay for internet every once in a while and spend the rest of my time, what little time I have, enjoying the mountains and exploring Cape Town. So after a minor freak out I was back on track and ready for a fresh new evening. I went on a great run with two of the girls and then did a nice session of abs and squats. The best way to relax from a stressful day in Cape Town? If it’s a Wednesday then definitely Stones for 2 for 1 specials. If anyone comes across Hunters Cider—get some.
So for today I was back at Victoria for the last day. I went in hoping to speak with the public health specialist but she was not in the office so I spent my time at the outpatient clinic with the head doctor Nasif. He is honestly one of the most amazing people I have come across thus far in Cape Town and told us to stay in touch by both email and facebook and that he has access to grants if we would like to come work for us in the future!
The medical approach in South Africa is so different from the medicine I have experienced in America—so much more holistic. Nasif spent so much time with each individual patient examining both their ailments and their lifestyles/ stories. He told us that in order to truly understand the patient and know how to treat them you must get to know them on a more personal level and was surprised when we mentioned how short OPD visits were in the U.S.
It was also really interesting to be treated with such respect by both the doctors and patients—we were introduced as pre-med students (most of them don’t really get the concept of public health) and were explained the medical terms and how to read X-rays.
Some issues with the hospital that I encountered was the lack of organization…again. I feel like the patients were also waiting for the doctors to find charts or medication lists or prescriptions. Also, one womens chart was labeled as private but she was unemployed and unable to pay for her medications. This lack of communication was causing a huge issue with both her COPD and high blood pressure.
We spoke with one amazing woman who had recently started her second marriage and was experiencing some hardships with her husband—according to her he was not as she thought he would be and she seemed very sad about the situation. However, after explaining the negatives of what was wrong she told us that the lord will help her through and keep her strong and that her health is in the lords hands since she had been doing all she could do. Such faith and compassion, this lady was great.
Nasif took us to talk about the differences between the U.S. and South Africa and complimented the group on taking the leap to explore such a different culture and allow ourselves to learn from others. He really put my whole trip into perspective for me by saying that with everything he takes and learns he gives back. I swear I have never been more compelled to help people and give back, which is an amazing feeling.
After our long discussion with Nasif we were taken by our teacher to Red Cross Children’s Hospital which is regarded as one of the leading public children’s hospitals (tertiary care) in South Africa. This quick visit made my day and was so uplifting to see a public hospital with resources, organization and more technology for the kids. Red Cross Children’s was beautiful and closer to a hospital that we would see in America because of the generous donations from both individuals and companies.