Monday, November 1, 2010

Dealing Drugs in Nicaragua

Despite the many wonders of October, I feel there is a more important matter to discuss. One that has been hinted at, but never fully discussed. I am of course, referring to just what exactly I am doing down here in Nicaragua.
I think I already covered the basics. Volunteering with the Jubilee House Committee, hanging out with my good friend Coury, and sticking my pointy gringo nose into Nicaraguan culture.

Working during the week, going out or so on the weekend. Exploring the surrounding area. Speaking bad Spanish and drinking coke from a plastic baggie. More importantly (at least in the sense of my, until now, ambiguous "Volunteering") I have been working in the JHC run clinic located in the near by community of Nueva Vida.

One of the JHC's major projects. The Clinic provides the residents of Nueva Vida with numerous medical services at a negligible cost. Patients either pay a fee of 30 Cordobas (less than a dollar fifty) or agree to spend half a day working for the clinic, which usually involves cleaning up the outside. For their troubles they are seen by a doctor and are given various medicines from the pharmacy.
Unlike Kim (Another volunteer who just so happens to be a trained nurse) I am not very good at sticking needles, or thermometers into people, and have spent my time working on the less important, background tasks that facilitate the clinic. I split myself between facilitating the filing system and working in the pharmacy. Filling out the patients prescriptions and desperately trying to understand the doctor's handwriting.

My clinic schedual usually follows the same pattern of: arriving, pulling patients files and putting away past ones, and then retiring to the pharmacy, which is wonderfully equipt with a ceiling fan. Depending on how many patients show up, I then spend the next few hours giving out medicine.

Leah (At some point I should probably go ahead and introduce the other volunteers in an actual post) works with me most of the time, but periodically dissappears to do "Green Pharmacy" stuff, which is a whole 'nother blog post in it's own, but basically amounts to making ointments and medicines from all natural ingredients, like Basil, Oregano, Lemon Grass and discount Rum.

Some days are more hectic than others. On Wednesday and Friday mornings Dr. Perez, the orthopedist, sees his large mass of returning patients. Though we can prepare ahead of time, because he usually prescribes the same medicine for each person: Predisone, Ibuprofen and Multivitamins, there is still a huge wave of people that descend upon the clinic. Sometimes the pediatrician is seeing patients at the same time, which slows everything significantly, as the children are often given many varied medicines.

In dire times, when the pile of unfilled prescriptions has become disconcertingly big, we call the other clinic workers for backup. Donellia, the woman who runs the clinic, and Henry, who is her second in command then descend upon the daunting orders and churn them out with frightening efficiency before returning to their numerous other tasks.

The process of filling out a prescription seems simple, but is hindered by the doctor's often erratic handwriting (for those who know my handwriting, please appreciate the fact that the doctors in the clinic are among the few living beings whose penmanship is worse than my own), inconsistent abbreviations and incorrect pronunciations. The doctor fills out a green sheet detailing which medicines and doses to give the patients, which the patients then bring to the pharmacy's window. We interpret their wishes, fill out a small card with the medical information and put that, along with the medicine in a little sandwich baggie. Tying them neatly and then calling out what is hopefully an accurate pronunciation of the patient's name, and explaining the medicine to them.

As it turns out. I am allergic to the plastic baggies. I learn this the hard way, after working in the clinic for a week or two and constantly wondering why my hands were so itchy and kept getting bumpy. Not a big deal though, I have simply had to start wearing gloves while working in the pharmacy. Which makes the clinic another in a succession of jobs where I spend most of my time wearing plastic gloves. Though these ones get signifigantly less dirty than the ones I wore on Building Services 2, or at Brueggars Bagels.

Genetic inferiorities aside, it's a relatively enjoyable job. Donellia and the rest of the clinic staff are a lot of fun to be around. Able to accomplish a lot and maintain a cheerful attitude through the lot of it. Handing out medicine has been a good, if somewhat repetitive, way to practice Spanish and if I ever do get that parasite that so many have prophesied I will have easy access to all the Albendazol that I could ever want.

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