Today was amazing. It was work, but well worth it. I was able to experience my first Shoulder to Shoulder experience in a makeshift clinic in a local community called Tunibamba. The clinic wasn’t the tradition clinic held in the states; this clinic was constructed at a school. Each building seemed to house a different team of workers specializing in certain tasks. I was stationed with the screening team and shared a room with an Ecuadorian organization called, “Vista Para Todos” or vision for all.
For screening, my group’s task was to take blood pressure, glucose readings, hemoglobin, height, and weight. We started with two automatic blood pressure machines, however, one stopped working and I had to start taking blood pressures manually when there was more than one person waiting to be seen.
People of all ages and sizes came to the clinic. It is surprising how young the people in the communities look. There are some people that I would say are in there teens when I found out that they are over 40. Although the looks can be deceiving, so can the language barrier. Apparently, the people of Tunibamba speak a specific dialect and most of the older ones do not speak Spanish. Some cases required our translator from the Peace Corps and a second translator from the community.
Being one of the earlier stations my group finished before most of the others. This allowed me to observe other specialties in action. I had never seen a tooth be extracted, but today I got my chance. In fact, 38 teeth had to be extracted today from people of all ages. At the end of the clinic, many in the community had been helped. Some received medications for their pain while others were taught how to stretch and exercises to ease their aches. Children received toothbrushes and learned proper brushing techniques. Young and old walked around wearing soccer gear that my friend Jacob brought. Helping the people was gratifying enough, however, corn, potatoes, and queso fresca was made as a gift. Our translator told us it would be rude not to eat the food, as this was all the community could offer to us as thanks for our efforts.
Today was not completely filled with work. My roommates and I quickly learned that being near the equator doesn’t always mean that the pool is warm. With swimming out of the question, members of the brigade turned to a field we found with small soccer goals. We started playing Frisbee but switched quickly, to soccer. People who had never watched soccer, yet alone played, were taking part in the activities. My team lost but it was still fun.
Tomorrow is going to be a completely new experience. In the morning, the brigade is leaving for Santo Domingo de los Colorados. After a 5-hour bus ride the group will arrive at a convent that is to act as our housing for the next few days. I am told there will be no more warm showers and internet will be scarce. At least there will be a field where another game of pick-up soccer can be played.
Jim Buscher, who will start at UK Medical School in August, is a two-time graduate of the College of Arts & Sciences with degrees in psychology (2009) and biology (2010). But before he enrolls in gross anatomy or makes his rotations in the hospital, Buscher has embarked on a journey to Ecuador as a volunteer with Shoulder to Shoulder Kentucky, an international organization dedicated to improving the quality of life in resource-limited communities.
Jim will spend time working in health clinics performing screenings and tackling the issues that confront the community’s wellbeing, but he also plans on doing more than dealing with health initiatives. Following the lead of Jacob Sither, a friend and student in UK’s College of Public Health, Jim will take part in distributing donated equipment to help develop a soccer program in the community, hoping to build a self-sustaining recreational program to supplement their efforts to improve general public health. The whole point of these enterprises, Jim says, is to improve the lives and families in the community by addressing health, education and economic issues.
Follow Jim's adventure in Ecuador through this blog. To learn more about Shoulder to Shoulder visit: http://www.shouldertoshoulderky.org/.