This morning we had an early start in order to have more time to see patients. Yesterday, we had to close the clinic while patients were still waiting in line to be seen. By arriving earlier, we were able to see more than yesterday and only had to turn away a few individuals at the end of the day. The clinic was set up in the same fashion, but students rotated to different position to experience different parts of the clinic.
At one of the stations, three students assisted the Honduran dentists in their clinic. Patients received fillings and extractions free of charge. The students’ duties included cleaning the dental supplies, handing tools to the dentist and holding the UV light in the patient’s mouth to harden the fillings. While the patients did receive local anesthesia, there was something unnerving about pulling teeth as the patient sits at a school desk, and also having cavities drilled and then filled while lying on a lawn chair in the middle of a school classroom.
Some of the other students shadowed the health care providers. This is one of the most exciting parts of our trip. The nine health professionals allowed us to assist in obtaining a history, performing the physical exam, diagnosing and deciding on a treatment plan. We are very lucky to have this opportunity to use the skills we have learned in the classroom on actual patients. The health care providers teach as they go, and they give insight to their mental process of assessing, diagnosing and treating a patient.
Most of the patients came to the clinic with complaints of a headache, arthritis, high blood pressure, foot fungus and stomachache. Luckily, our pharmacy is stocked with all the necessary medications to treat these problems. However, we learned a valuable lesson in regard to stomachaches. Yesterday and today, we assumed the pain was caused by acid reflux. We realized we were overlooking some possible sources of the stomachache. Being from a well-developed country, it didn’t cross our mind that the pain could be due to hunger. While examining a young female, a student decided to ask if she was hungry. The girl explained how she doesn’t eat breakfast or dinner, and the only meal she eats is the free food she gets at school. It was heartbreaking to hear this because there is no medication to treat hunger.
One woman had an enlarged thyroid gland with a cyst on her neck. We were able to refer her to another doctor for blood work to further investigate the enlarged thyroid. Through Global Brigades, we are able to refer patients with serious conditions that require more care to specialists in Honduras, free of charge to the patient. Another referral was requested for a three-year-old boy suffering from cerebral palsy.