Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Estamos 'en huelga'...

I'll update you on the political situation first again... basically, forget about all the stuff i said last week. It was all rumors. There seems to be some progress between the two sides to get it resolved, and it seems like the new government is at least now open to the idea of letting the ousted president back into the country. There continue to be protests in Tegucigalpa and in our city, San Pedro Sula and they're supposed to get more intense as the week wears on... they have only been violent in Tegucigalpa however.

To continue on that topic, our hospital has been on strike, or 'en huelga' the past two days. They've closed down the outpatient clinic and don't perform any non-emergency surgeries (the baby factory does continue to produce children at a rapid pace, however). The nurses and workers spend all of the morning in meetings where they do who-knows-what. For us, its business as usual. We've been trying to get the ultrasound to work - which, after talking to a GE rep in the US, we've found out the problem is unsolvable without GE's specialized equipment. We've fixed the colposcope (pictures below), a few infant warmers, and have been testing a couple of infusion pumps and an anesthesia machine, among other things. Tomorrow, we're planning on mixing and matching parts from a few infant warmers from the bodega to make a working one and we also want to take a few parts from an anesthesia machine there to fix a broken one in the maternity ward. We'll keep you posted on that though...

As far as last week goes:

















We spent last Monday at the other public hospital in the city, Catarino Rivas. It has about 800 beds - much more than our hospital. It also has an emergency room and ICU, two things our hospital doesn't have. While we were there, we got a tour from a 25 year old Cuban engineer, Rubicel. Cuba is the only country in Central America with a BME program and has about 200 doctors and BMEs in Honduras alone on two year stints.

















Here is X-ray room number six that they have (and the waiting room showed they needed all six of them...). The problem was, as Rubicel told us, that "only one and a half of the machines worked"...

















They had a physical therapy part of the hospital too. Here, we tested the muscle stimulator on Fernando's arm.






















Fernando and I thought these wheelchairs were pretty ingenious... plastic chairs and bike wheels. How much cheaper and more accessible can you get?






















The next day we drove with Denis out to a hospital in a neighboring city, Choloma, to trade an ultrasound machine for an x-ray machine. Yes... i said to trade one for the other... This is a picture of Denis testing the x-ray machine on his hand to make sure it works before the deal goes down.






















Here's Fernando cleaning out one of the infant warmers i was talking about. The problem with most of them is that the lights don't work because the starters are blown. The problem is, they don't sell the starters in Honduras. Because of that, Denis is going to try and make a work-around in the machine so it wont need them anymore.






















The big project for last week was to fix this colposcope, or in other words, an OBGYN microscope. The problem with it was that its power source (the box on the bottom) was broken, and that it was missing its light and the housing for the light.

















Our solution was to take the power and light source from this fiber optic microscope and to hook it up to the colposcope. The power source was a box similar to the one on the colposcope (out of the frame of this picture...)


















This was the fiber optic cable we took off of the microscope.


Here is the hole we needed to fit it into (and have it stay there):







































To get it to stay, we took a cap and filled it with silicone,

















cut a hole in it, and glued the fiber optic cable in the hole.






















We then screwed the cap into its hole, and covered it in black electrical tape to make it look okay. It works perfectly now. We were going to take it back yesterday, but the outpatient clinic where they use it is closed because of the strike.

I also want to tell you a little bit about last weekend too. We had the chance to go to Utila, one of the bay islands off the Caribbean coast of Honduras. We went on a few boat rides, went kayaking, hiking, and the best - scuba diving. It was definitely the best trip yet. The island was beautiful and fun and had tons of stuff going on. Here's a few of the pictures I took... before my camera stopped working (I'll have to steal some pictures from Fernando for future blog posts...)

















The night we got there, we cruised around the bay on the boat of the dive shop we were staying at. That's us sitting on the roof of the boat...






















The sunset on the bay from our rooftop view...






















Later that night, we decided to jump from the second story dock into the water. The photographer's aim was a little off in this picture...


















When we went kayaking, we ended up at an amazing private beach... We got kicked off after a few minutes, but i got some pretty cool pictures first...


















Didi, Julien, myself, and Jodi in between our two dives. It was like swimming in an aquarium...


Anyways, I'll keep you updated on everything new thats going on with another blog post later in the week. Sorry this one is so long and its been a while since my last one...

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Its been a crazy week...

First, I wanna catch you up on the political situation...

















Heres a picture of a billboard we drive by on the way to the hospital. It reads, "Mr. Roberto Michelletti, Constitutional President, the people thank you and are grateful for you defending our constitution and democracy"... thats not propaganda...

The other day, our hospital had a meeting to decide if the workers were going to go on strike on Thursday and Friday in support of Zelaya... thankfully they decided not to. There are however, a handful of hospitals in the east part of the country that are on strike, two of which EWH has students at...

We did also hear today that the buses are all on strike, so we're not sure if our trip planned for this weekend, to the Copan Mayan Ruins, will go on or not...

Last but not least, in the last half an hour I have heard from a couple different people(but far from confirmed) that Zelaya and Michelletti have both accepted a proposal that would allow Zelaya to return, but with less power. I've been trying to find it online somewhere, but either its not true or it hasnt been confirmed yet, so we'll see on that one too.

In other news...

We've been working hard on a big GE ultrasound machine that was donated to the hospital, and at the same time working on a handful of other things, from infusion pumps to vitals monitors.

Here are some pictures of us at work and of our hospital, etc.:

















Here's Fernando working to take out all of the circuit boards so we can clean each one individually.... we took out a lot of screws...


















The stacks of circuit boards and the cleaner we used to spray each one. The machine is now working, we just need the manual to know how we can reinstall the software and such...

















Fernando was helping out a lot while I was putting the circuit boards back into the machine... He had a picture of me doing likewise while he was working... but it somehow got deleted...


















This is a picture of our desk back in our work room... we like to keep it neat.






















This is a picture of the desks of two of the other guys that work in our room with us... they dont exactly do a lot. And by that, I mean they do nothing except read the newspaper, eat, twiddle their thumbs, and get paid really well...

















Since it would be a little awkward to take a picture of them, we took the next best alternative - imitate them and take a picture of it...


As for the weekend... we decided to stay in SPS. It was a great decision. Friday night, our house brothers and a few of their friends, plus us went out to dinner at TGI Fridays. Not only was the dodger game on, but I got to have their "Jack Daniels glazed" baby back ribs... the perfect reminder of TN, yeah? After dinner, instead of them throwing a party for us (dang curfew...) we went back to the house and played a game of poker. I got to learn all the words for things in Spanish... and I won the pot of 160 Lempiras! Yeah... that amounts to $8, enough for me to buy everyone beers the next night at the bar.


















Playing poker on a ping pong table on the back patio... my poker skills from high school can transcend the language barrier...


















On Saturday, we drove out to the beaches of Cortes and Omoa... this is a picture of the beach at Omoa. Its really not much of a beach - theres no sand. We didnt go swimming, but we did have a 2 and a half hour lunch at one of these open air restaurants...


Back to work...

The beginning of this week has been nothing short of amazing. Monday we got to see our a woman get her tubes tied and also... our first C-Section. Absolutely amazing. We were standing at the woman's feet watching the whole thing. Its one of those things that you cant put into words. Watching a surgery makes me want to be a surgeon... we'll see about that one though...

After spending yesterday pretty much getting the ultrasound to work, we started to help Denis and Eduardo clean up some air conditioning units in the maternity ward today. As we were starting, one of the nurses came up to me - knowing I was a twin - and told Fernando and I we should come with her... a woman was having twins in a c-section. It was again, amazing to see. Here's a picture of the twins:























This is literally less than two minutes after birth... the mom hadnt even gotten to see them yet at this point.

After we finished seeing the twins born, we went into the room where we would be cleaning the air conditioning unit. We saw our first two natural births... wow. I've got a few pictures of those... but I'll be nice and I wont put them up - theyre a little graphic.

After working on the air conditioning for a while, we took a trip back to the bodega (the storage closet where they put all of their unused or broken equipment). There are at least ten rooms - big rooms too - full of anesthesia machines, infant warmers, surgical lamps, gloves, catheters... you name it, theyve got it. I took a video of a walk through... it took over 5 minutes. I've been trying to upload it here, but its not loading properly. For now, here are a few pictures:

















This used to be an operating room... theres at least 5 surgical lamps and a bunch of other random stuff just piled in here...



















These bags are filled with catheters and other things that sat in a warehouse for two years in the middle of their transport over here for donation. All of it is expired, but they cant throw anything away until the government signs off that they can...

Tomorrow we're going to head to a different hospital with Denis to grab some parts for an x-ray machine that he needs and then we'll be working on the ultrasound and who knows what else... I'll be sure to take some more pictures and upload them when I get a chance!

If all goes well, I'll be posting pictures of Mayan ruins in my next post... so keep your fingers crossed that this government agreement stuff is actually real...


Thursday, July 16, 2009

First week in SPS

Hey!

Im still safe in Honduras, and despite all the news reports, things are completely safe and calm... at least here in San Pedro Sula. They did just put the curfew back into effect, but other than that you would never know there had been any problems.

To start over about Honduras again...

We're staying with the Director of Hospital Leonardo Martinez in San Pedro Sula, the second biggest city in the country and its center of industry. The hospital is one of two public hospitals servicing the city. As for my living situation, the house is full of guys right now - Mrs. Umana is out of town with their daughters til the end of the month... Fernando, my partner for the month, and I share a room. Then there is Dr. Umana, his two sons, Dani (Daniel) and Edgar, and their cousin, Cesar. Dani is in Engineering school studying computer engineering and Edgar and Cesar are both in school studying medicine. Theyre all about our age, so its fun. This weekend, Dr. Umana is going out of town and theyre even going to throw us a 'welcome party' and then take us to the beach one day... sure beats taking the bus.

Back to our hospital - its got about 150 beds, taken up mostly by a big outpatient clinic and a maternity ward. We've spent most of our time so far in the different parts of the maternity ward. The hospital is completely public and the patients pay about fifty cents as a symbolic fee. We go into work every morning with Dr. Umana and meet up with the hospitals technician, Dennis. He's the boss of all of maintenance department, cleaning department, the medical equipment, and a bunch of other stuff. Everybody in the hospital knows him and loves him... its really cool to see. All of the hospital staff is really laid back and fun and seem to really love their jobs. After meeting up with Dennis, we then go around the hospital and fix things for different people, or head to the bodega (equipment storage and graveyard) to grab something to try and fix.

So far, we've fixed a surgical lamp, an ultrasound machine, a neonate pulse oximeter, an infusion pump, and a handful of other things, as well as testing a few machines... I now have a few printouts of my heart's ECG and a video of my heart beating from an ultrasound machine to bring back as keepsakes... At some point later in the month, I'll put up a full list of everything we've worked on so yall can see.

Here's some pictures to give you some sort of representation of what we've been doing and a little bit of what the hospital is like:


















Here's Fernando checking out an infant warmer and phototherapy light system in the neonate ward



















This is the surgical lamp we were working on in one of the Maternity rooms. Minutes before I took the picture, the floor was covered with blood and placenta... not exactly the most pleasant smell.

















The entire maternity ward was donated by Japan. They paid about $18 million dollars for it, including the equipment and training for staff... It also brings us back to the political situation... Japan, like America, has stopped giving aid to the country until the current 'president'is no longer in charge.


















The Japanese government even provided the manuals for every machine in the maternity building... all in Spanish. In most cases, one of the biggest problems with donated equipment is they dont give the hospital the manual to go along which makes the machines really hard to repair, or if they do give the manual, its in the wrong language.


















Here is one of the many storage closets (bodegas) for donated equipment and broken equipment. Theyre not allowed to throw anything away til the government says its okay... and go figure... they never come to give them the okay so the equipment piles up. Dennis and a few of the other guys showing us around keep saying, "beaurocracy"in spanish. This room isnt even close to scrathing the surface of how much equipment this hospital has...




















Here's an aspirator for the storage room we opened up... someone is apparently missing their plastic ware for lunch in the cafeteria...



















Heres a view of the mountains from the hospital... what you can see there on the mountain says Coca Cola... according the Dani, its their attempt at a hollywood sign.


















The lab girls wanted to teach us how to measure a hematocrit... This is Fernando having his measured.


















This is a view of part of the hospital... I'll definitely have more pictures in the future of it.






















Dennis was helping us put the electrodes on me so we could test out a donated EKG machine.


















To our surprise... it actually worked!



















After work today, we got to play soccer on a team with a few guys who were friends with dennis, all around our age. I'm proud to say I scored in my first Honduran futbol game, although we lost 7-5 after leading 4-0...



For now, I need to go to bed... we've been getting up at 6 every morning to go running in our neighborhood...

But I'll be posting more pictures soon, so be sure to come back and check!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

We've made it!

I'm sitting in our house in San Pedro Sula, getting ready to go to church with our family, and coming off of 17 hours of straight sleep. Fernando and I went to take a nap at 3 yesterday afternoon and just woke up... We did only get about 2 hours of sleep last night, so we're not completely bums.

The house we're in is amazing. I'll have to put some pictures up. We're staying with the director of the hospital and his three sons that are all about our age. His wife is out of town for the next couple weeks, so its a bit of a bachelor pad. They've already offered to take us out into the city if we need anything, to meet their friends, or play basketball or soccer. They all speak English too, but theyll only speak english to me if i cant think of a word, so it works out perfectly.

The city seems nice, but definitely much poorer than Costa Rica. I never would have been able to tell there was anything political going on though aside from a handful of army personell at the airport, but for all I know that could be normal. Anyways, I'll keep you updated and post some pictures of the hospital and our house in the next couple days!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Updates and Pictures

Sorry its taken so long since the last post. I've been waiting til I had a decision from EWH as to whether we were still going to go to Honduras or not. Since we don't have any groups of students going to Tegucigalpa, and the situation is somewhat under control, they have decided to let us go. They made this decision with the help from all of our hospitals, a few of their reps in Honduras, and from our spanish teachers here in CR. That means we leave on Saturday morning!!!! We've already been here for 3 and a half weeks... crazy.

So to catch you up on whats been going on here:

My Spanish is rapidly improving. For example, last week my class went to an art museum in San Jose and were lucky enough to be there the same time as the artist of one of the exhibits. He gave us a little tour of his art and told us all about it... all in Spanish. I understood almost everything. (I also bought a children's book in Spanish and read little red riding hood last night to practice... its definitely helping)

Last weekend, I went to Cahuita, a tiny Caribbean beach town. It was amazing... check out these pictures:

















The hotel we stayed at was right on the beach, with hammocks out on the palm trees... pretty nice for $10 a night, huh?


















The beach we went to at the national park... we tried to go surfing and lets just say it didnt go so well




I know it might be hard to believe, but we do actually work during the week. At this point, Fernando and I have used and taken apart an Electrosurgery Unit, Aspirator, Blood Pressure monitor, an EKG, a Defibrillator, a Pulse Oximeter, a Centrifuge, and a few other things. For a few of them we have also written "quick start guides" in Spanish so that we could tell a nurse or doctor how to properly use them if we need to. Here's some proof:

















Using the automated BP machine to take my blood pressure and pulse with the top of the machine off so we could see how it works.



While we've been here, I also mentioned that we did some salsa dancing... last week we had a second lesson. As much as I hate doing this, I feel like i should post some pictures of this as well:






















This is me dancing with the teacher; she was a little bit intense...



Last Friday, our groups also switched and we got to go to a different hospital. For me it was a hospital in San Ramon. It was a hospital definitely up to american standards... the machines were all new and under contract, everything was clean, and was even separated and setup like an american hospital would be (they even had a butterfly garden for the patients to walk around in...). We got to work on some equipment... but it was all working before we took it apart. Here are some pictures from the hospital:



















This is one of the engineers, Susana, talking to us about the mammography machine they have in the hospital


















Here is another one of the engineers, Alex, showing us the different parts of the oxygen concentrator they have at the hospital.


In addition to that, here are some pictures of this last weekend at the Arenal Volcano. I ended up going zip lining, hanging out in the hot springs, and hiking to a waterfall and swimming underneath (I dont have the swimming pictures right now cause i was in the water... but one of my friends took some, I just gotta get them from her).






















This is Fernando zip lining... I was the designated picture taker, so there are none of me.























After going down a couple lines, we had mud sprayed all over us from the rain on the wires...

















Our hotel was pretty nice I'd say... the view was pretty decent too...


















Here's the waterfall we hiked down to and swam in its pool and river...

















Fernando and I ate at a local soda (their lunch cafe kinda things) for lunch on Sunday. Here's the casado (traditional plate) that I got; it included rice, beans, plantains, fish, salad, something else i dont know the name of, tortillas, and fresca - all for under 3 dollars. This is something we would get for lunch every day during the week.

















This is the best view of the volcano we got all weekend, while we were waiting at the bus stop. It was too cloudy to see the lava the night we were there... Que Mal (bummer...)























Costa Rican sunset from the bus... A nice way to end the weekend...

If you made it this far, congrats. Sorry for such a long post!