a tale from spring break

March 25, 2009 —

 tea-in-el-salvI have tons of fun stories from our spring break trip to El Salvador. This first one is about my first ambulance ride. On March 15, the El Salvadorians had their presidential election and our team was asked to stick around just in case a riot broke out and first aid was required. Most of the day was actually very calm, which was a slight relief for most of us who have never experienced crazy madness during elections. While it was relatively calm, we get a call that an older man was having a seizure. Most of us raced over to see if there was anything we could do to help. There were already local doctors at the site taking care of the man when we arrived, so we mostly observed the scene. At first, it looked like he was experiencing confusion resembling either a hypo- or hyperglycemic attack so one of the locals gave him a soda to drink.  Even though we weren’t sure whether it was a hyper- or hypoglycemic attack (both can cause confusion), it was better to give sugar to a hyperglycemic person than to not give sugar to a hypoglycemic person. Make sense? A hypoglycemic episode is really bad. 

Shortly after the drink he went into another seizure, so then my differential diagnosis excluded hypoglycemia and included epilepsy. The doctors felt it was necessary to take the man to the hospital and they invited two students to ride with them. It was a bumpy ride! We made it safely to the hospital and the man did go into another seizure during the ride. Immediately arriving, his blood sugar (it was above 300mg/dl, pretty high!) was taken and we left him with the local doctors. That was as much as I was able to experience and we then headed back to the election. What a way to start the first day in El Salvador!

Photo: me at one of the El Salvadorean clinics we worked in. We entertained kids with stickers & balloons after their visit!

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