Zack - What has been the single most exciting experience thus far on your trip?
Juan – Other than the work we’ve been doing as a team at the hospital I’d have to say hiking halfway to the summit of the mountain in Quito. It was a great experience because it was spontaneous and unexpected. Because I had not acclimated to the altitude, there were many times when I felt light-headed and tired; however, something kept me going and in a way this experience helped me realize how far I can push myself.
J - What is one thing that you want to do before this trip is over?
Z- I think there are a number of things that I want to accomplish in regards to the hospital work, the school and even in a more social aspect. For the hospital, I want to take in as much as possible and feel like I was able to leave a positive mark, for both patients and other clinicians. For the school, I’m really looking to improve my Spanish so I’ll be able to converse more proficiently with Spanish speaking patients. In addition, I think it is important to immerse yourself into the social scene. This may, or may not include, soccer games, discotheques and traveling to different places in Ecuador.
Z- What have been some of the more difficult aspects that you have had to deal with since you have been here in Ecuador?
J – One of the most difficult things for me has been adapting myself to the schedule that people follow here in Ecuador. It’s difficult to start the morning at six thirty, get some work done for four hours at the hospital, have a three hour break then go back for another three hour block for classes. I finally come home at eight for dinner. It has been challenging for me to find time for myself because so much of our time is allotted for certain activities (work, school, and the many meetings we have a week). However, I have been able to include working out at the school’s gym which has helped me burn many of the carbs we consume via mounds of rice during lunch and dinner.
J- What is your favorite aspect of the Ecuadorian culture?
Z- I would have to say I’m a fan of how relaxed people are here. When we were in Costa Rica we would talk about “Tico” time, because people would usually show up a bit later than expected. Here in Ecuador, we’re having a similar experience. Growing up on the East Coast, where you’re expected to do everything quickly and efficiently is much different from the laid back attitude they have here and in Costa Rica. There’s definitely something to be said about taking things a little slower and appreciating the time you have.
Z-We have had some extremely insightful and fulfilling experiences in the hospital. We have also had some real difficult experiences in the hospital. Can you tell me about one of the experiences that have been more difficult or upsetting?
J – We have been working with a patient for the course of two weeks. At the end of the second week we terminated with him and, as with all terminations, it was difficult to deal with. However, upon our return to the hospital the following Monday we saw him walking around the halls. We then learned that through some clerical misunderstanding and miscommunication between staff his discharge date was moved a week later. We continued working with this patient and at the end of that week we terminated once more which was again difficult. A day later we learned that again he was going to stay for a couple of more days due to a last minute med change. A couple of days later he was finally released from the hospital and although it was a difficult situation to deal with, in the end it was gratifying to know that we were able to put our feelings aside and focus instead on the well-being of the patient. It was great that we were also able to advocate for him in a very positive and proactive manner until his discharge from the hospital.
J- Tell me about a patient you have felt a strong connection with and how that occurred?
Z- At this point I feel like I’ve had a few patients with whom strong connections have been built. For me personally, this work seems slightly difficult because I’m not fluent in Spanish. Some of the patients are heavily medicated and some patients are severely mentally ill, both of which can make communication quite difficult. Nevertheless these patients are still looking for a human connection, which is something as clinicians we can offer without using language.
Z- For those out in blog land who know the six of us, they know we like to have fun. They also know that we can all be a little silly and funny. What has been one extremely funny or memorable experience from this trip?
J- How do you pick just one moment from the many that we have had? We could talk about having dinner with Amaro and listening to his stories about “When I was your age…”, or we could talk about the constant cell phone use by our new found Ecuadorian friends during inappropriate times and our facial reactions as we try to make sense of it. But for me, the most memorable experience has been the long rides on the bus as we get to and from our weekend trips. It is hard not to laugh as I think about being surrounded by seven children jumping and screaming and having spit wars for three straight hours as I am trying to get some sleep. Nothing is funnier than hearing Jeanine say out loud “ok that’s enough” in her futile attempt to quiet the kids. I also can’t help but laugh when I think about finally falling asleep on the bus only to be woken up thirty seconds later by some little kid climbing up on my lap while loudly calling out “señor, señor”.