When I arrived to work at the Santa Rosa health center, I would help nurse Roxanna clean up the emergency room as well as sterilize the equipment. On some days, the line of patients would go out the front door of the health center. To say the least, the health center could become very busy. After watching Roxanna give patients their antibiotic shots and making me practice on oranges, she would allow me to give shots to the patients while she attended to more serious cases.
After a couple of hours, I would then help Dr. Cleddy, who is charge of the health center, with her patients. I typically recorded patient information and would occasionally listen to the patient's heartbeat or inspect their throat. I learned the common medications that they assigned to prevalent illnesses at that time. After a couple of hours with the doctor, I would head over to the pediatric ward. Here, I would weigh babies and take their height.
By this point, it would be around 1 in the afternoon. I'm ready to eat a horse by now since my breakfast just consisted of a hot beverage, bread and juice. Rice, potatoes and some type of meat was what I would usually eat with my host mom while attempting to discuss what I had done at Santa Rosa that morning. After establishing what time I would return that evening, I would take a comvee for the third time that day to the clinic Cervi Cusco. Here, I input patient histories and results into the computer database.
On Tuesday and Thursday mornings, I would go to another clinic called San Jose. While there, I would shadow the doctors during their rounds. I enjoyed this experience since the doctors would ask us medical questions in Spanish! If we didn't know the answer, they would assign us "homework," to find out. On a couple of occasions, I was able to scrub in to shadow orthopedic surgeries. While I obviously wasn't able to participate in the actual surgery itself, it was great exposure to see a real operation.
Throughout my whole time in this country, I realized that while they weren't as rich in regards to material things as the U.S., they had a simpler medical system. The director of my program, Juan Carlos, said himself that he would rather get sick in Cusco (keeping in mind that he speaks English fluently) than he would in Boston (where he lived for a few years and where he had reliable medical insurance) due to the stress and complication that he would have to go through to get medical attention. While the U.S. may be many years ahead in medical technology and medical care than Peru and other developing nations, simplicity and patient care is sometimes lost among our nation's advancements.
Although I had grown up in a third-world country (Ethiopia) for seven years, I was a child then. While I faced the same conditions as I did in Peru such as few paved roads, simple infrastructure and not as many "luxuries" as the U.S., I grew accustomed to my surroundings and understood it to be the normal way of life. Going to Peru from the U.S., I realized that I had become spoiled. Constantly craving hot water, indoor heating, raw vegetables and cold water brought this realization upon me.
The Shepherd Alliance internship made me realize that poverty has many definitions based on who thinks what environment or person is impoverished. It also depends on what it takes to make someone happy and comfortable, whether it be material goods or strong family connections. This Shepherd internship spurred my interest, and now I know that it will only be the first of many similar experiences soon to come.