Field Trip

Our medical service team left September 12, and in the intervening weeks Nicole and I have been feverishly trying to round up all the patients who require further follow-up. Some patients with hypertension were immediately entered into our Chronic Care Management Program, to be followed by our community health workers. Other patients with diabetes will have their blood sugars checked and medicines refilled monthly. Still other patients will be taken to area hospitals and clinics for any lab studies, specialist appointments and/or imaging that our medical service team was not able to provide during the field clinics.

Thus… our field trip to the big city!! On Tuesday Nicole and I took four patients to Centro Medico Bournigal, a private hospital in Puerto Plata. Arranging transportation alone was a fairly involved process, at various points employing motos, private taxis, public carritos and guaguas to get patients and their assorted family members down from the mountain and into the city by 9:00. But thanks to many reliable and kind moto and taxi drivers, it all worked out well.

Ride to Puerto Plata

One of our patients was Blaya, a four-year-old from Pancho Mateo. He was found to have a heart murmur during clinic, and so was referred to a pediatric cardiologist. We know Blaya as one of the half-naked little tykes running around Pancho with his friends, always eager to show us some new dance move. But Tuesday morning, when we picked up Blaya and his mother for our big trek, we almost didn’t recognize him: wearing tight new cornrows and even tighter new shoes, Blaya was quiet and patient and ready to go.

Cell phone games must have been invented by someone needing to pacify a small child.

That day, as he waited in interminable lines to see the doctor, get a chest x-ray and receive a blood test, Blaya exhibited incredible maturity and patience. The only time we were reminded of his young age was when the lab tech approached him with a syringe for his blood test. His eyes grew huge, and as fat tears careened down his cheeks, he grabbed at Nicole, screaming, “Griiiiinga!!! Llévame de aquí!!! Nos vaya, gringa!!!” (“White lady!!! Get me out of here!!! Let’s go, white lady!!!”) After his traumatic experience, we plied him with chinola juice and video games on our business phone, but our attempts at entertainment were quickly superceded by his first elevator ride: he was soon full of raspy giggles as he pushed button after button and felt the sudden rush of ascent.

Blaya and friends in Pancho Mateo

The good news is that Blaya’s tests all suggested that his heart murmur is benign. His new pediatrician will see him again in January for a check-up. Unfortunately, some of our other patients’ tests did not come back so well that day, and we have had a week of extreme highs and lows as we vacillate between celebrating small triumphs and mourning profound tragedies. Our work continues, both with these four patients and with others who require physical therapy, CT scans, vascular surgery and more. But for now, whenever I feel a bit overwhelmed, I will close my eyes and think of Blaya, with his strong heart and raspy giggles, waiting in Pancho Mateo to show us gringas his latest dance move.

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One Comment

  1. Posted October 3, 2010 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    Amazing how you and Nicole are able to take the vision of follow through to new heights. I am thinking of you two and Blaya and am in awe of your incredible strength.

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