Thursday, January 7, 2016

Week 1 of the Program

It's 9:30pm on a Thursday night here in Cordoba and I've just finished having dinner with Beatriz, my host. It's probably important to note that it is very unusual that we have already had dinner because Argentinians typically have dinner at around 11pm during the summer, but I (and my stomach) am very glad that we do things a little differently in this household. I realize that I probably should not have gone all these days without posting anything but I've been so busy that I unfortunately haven't had the time until now. So much has happened so I'll try to sum it up as best as I can!

Monday morning, one of the other program participants and I were taken to the Hospital de Urgencias by the local CFHI coordinators, Carlos and Charly, so that we could meet our hospital coordinator, a very kind woman named Mary. Charly picked me up outside of my apartment (here they are called departamentos) and we walked to the bus station just around the corner. I don't use the bus system at home, or anywhere, so naturally I was terrified of the idea of having to ride the bus to and from the hospital on my own. Thankfully, the bus ride is very short and there's a large sign that points towards the hospital right at the stop where I have to get off so it's hard to mess up (although I did miss my stop on the first morning but I blame the rain for that one).

Monday evening, the other 9 program participants and I had an orientation meeting with Carlos and Charly at the Intercambio Cultural office. We got a short but thorough introduction to Argentina and its history and people, which was helpful considering I actually knew a lot less about this country than I had originally thought. They gave us lots of tips about how to conduct ourselves in the hospital so as to not offend anyone (don't say no to the yerba mate, that's a big one) and reminded us to take full advantage of our hospital time because students here in Argentina never got these kinds of opportunities. I was placed in the emergency hospital but other students were placed in the pediatric hospital, the infectious diseases hospital, and a larger public hospital.

Tuesday morning, as I said before, I missed the bus stop for the hospital but, luckily, I had left my apartment way too early anyway so I was still 15 minutes early to the hospital. Maddy, the other CFHI program participant that was placed in the same hospital, and I met with Mary again and she walked us down to la guardia, which is basically just the emergency room that sees the patients who are urgent but not critical. The patients in really bad shape go to the "shock room", which is in the same area as la guardia but is behind closed doors. Unlike emergency hospitals in the US, the Hospital de Urgencias is the only hospital that handles emergency patients. Anyone involved in car accidents or who has wounds from firearms, for example, is taken to this hospital automatically, no matter where they are in Cordoba. This makes it hard to define a "typical" kind of patient that you would see in this hospital because really you could see just about anything.
All of the doctors, residents, and students (who I cannot actually tell apart because everyone wears scrubs and no one has any sort of identification badge) were very kind and most of them were curious to know why 2 random American girls were in their hospital. I also was asked multiple times why my Spanish was so good and overtime I explained that my family was from Costa Rica so I learned and spoke Spanish at home. Also, since it was only the first day, Maddy and I ended up spending most of our time in the break room which was located right in the middle of the guardia and didn't really get to see much. Looking back, I definitely should have been more vocal and asked more questions, but it was only the first day.

Good news though, both yesterday and today went super well and we got to observe lots of cool things like EKG's, ultrasounds, cast removals, stitches, blood draws, and basic patient history intake and physical exams. We are only in the hospital from 8 AM to about 12:30 PM but the emergency rooms tends to be quite busy so we see a lot in that short time. I still don't understand the scheduling because it seems like doctors, residents, and students, work at this hospital only one or two days a week but this means we get to meet new people everyday. Most of the younger doctors and residents encourage us to stand closer to them during patient encounters and explain what is going on, which is really amazing. Also, when we're all in the break room, everyone shares food, coffee, and mate with us, which is both good and bad because I need to stop eating so many bizcochos. They love asking me questions and learning more about California and Costa Rica so I've become very comfortable around everyone.

It's about 10:15 PM now and I've got to be at the hospital bright and early in the morning so I'll end this here but in general this week has been really great and I am so happy with everything that I am learning! I can't wait to spend more time in the hospital tomorrow and next week!

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