November Clinics and Other Actividies

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Over the last few weeks, Wuqu’ Kawoq staff have been busy all over Guatemala managing four clinics in Comalapa, Santiago, Tecpán, and Socorro.

Peter arrived to Antigua on November 6th with suitcases jam-packed with medicines. We left early the next morning for Comalapa, where we saw about 80 patients over the next two days at the clinic run by the midwives of ACOTCHI. ACOTCHI has recently moved into a new space, and as a part of the “clinic-warming,” children participating in the literacy program jointly sponsored by Wuqu’ Kawoq and ACOTCHI made beaded artwork and vibrant garlands that greet visitors and patients. Here are a few photos of the ACOTCHI-Wuqu’ Kawoq 2008 Exposition:

Wuqu’Kawoq-ACOTCHI art show

Wuqu’Kawoq-ACOTCHI art show

Another highlight of our clinic in Comalapa was the distribution of Tiqaq’omaj qi’, a bilingual (Kaqchikel-Spanish) manual on herbal medicine recently co-authored by Peter Rohloff and Magda Sotz Mux. Below is a photo of Peter in a session with the midwives, who were enthusiastic about the book not only as a medical resource, but also as a tool for literacy classes and study of Kaqchikel, as there are few books available in the language:

Midwife training classes with our new book

After two days in Comalapa, we headed to Santiago, where thanks primarily to the efforts of Wicha, our Santiago field manager, we managed to see several diabetic and elderly patients and made house calls.

The next day, we headed to Tecpán for another clinic managed by ACOTCHI and another midwife training class. As in Comalapa and Santiago, we were able to check up on several of our previous diabetic patients. And as always, working in the clinic was a great learning opportunity for us interns. One of us would sit down with a patient to collect an initial medical history and gather preliminary information, such as blood pressure, pulse, and blood sugar levels. Afterwards, we would accompany the patient into a consultation with Peter, where we learned of the diagnosis and treatment. However, we did not only learn about medical cause-and-effect. The entire clinic was a reminder of the importance of providing medical care in patients’ first languages. While we interns were able to collect medical histories in Spanish, we often observed patients opening up and talking more comfortably and freely about their ailments in Kaqchikel with Peter. In several instances, patients added several important details about their medical problems in the exam room in Kaqchikel.

As in Comalapa, the Tecpán midwives received Tiqaq’omaj qi’ with enthusiasm and had a lively question-and-answer session about various plant uses. The session made it clear that midwives’ roles as community health providers are not restricted to pregnancy and childbirth alone, as the discussion included a great deal of information about diabetic care, recognizing and treating anemia, and both allopathic and herbal treatments of parasitic infections in children and adults.

After six straight days of clinics, we returned to Antigua for a day of planning, logistics, and welcoming the medical team of Peter’s colleagues from Children’s Hospital. And then we set out before dawn on Thursday morning, armed with coffee, to make the drastic climatic transition from the cold highlands to the sweltering lowland sauna of Socorro.

After several weeks of preparation—from leading town meetings to delivering appointment slips and fecal exam bottles—the clinic in Socorro finally arrived. With the help of Meera Boghani, a nutritionist from Children’s Hospital in Boston, Dr. Enid Martinez, a pediatrician also from Children’s, and Jose Pagan, a good-natured immunologist with a knack for weighing children, we managed to pull off a very successful four-day clinic focused on improving the health and nutrition of the women and children of Socorro.

Before delving into the details, here is a glimpse of the Socorro clinic in numbers:

  • Approximately 95% of the women showed up for their appointments with all of their children in tow—190 of the 205 total children under 14 passed through our clinic
  • We received fecal samples from 142 of the 205 children of Socorro, performed seemingly non-stop fecal exams, and have treated all those with parasitic infections
  • All of the most at-risk children for malnutrition, approximately 75 in total, received thorough pediatric check-ups
  • All pregnant women of Socorro came in for prenatal exams
  • We delivered vitamins to all children, pregnant women, and breast-feeding mothers, including iron supplements to those with anemia
  • A toothbrush and tube of toothpaste were given to each child as the beginning of our dental hygiene campaign
  • During our four days of work—generally lasting from 8 am until 4 pm each day—we managed to see a grand total of about 300 patients

To give you an idea of the clinic set-up, here is an overview of what a Socorro mother and her children encountered when arriving at the clinic:

First, all children were handed over to Jose and Ruben (a youth from the community) to be weighed, measured, photographed, and given a toothbrush, toothpaste, and their monthly supply of vitamins.

Jose and Ruben

After their heights and weights were plotted on growth curves, the most at-risk children moved on to have individual appointments with Enid and Peter to assess their overall health. During these appointments, Meera stepped in to provide her expert nutritional advice, discussing current eating habits with mothers and determining the most effective food supplementation plan to be implemented in the weeks following the clinic.

Peter seeing patients

Enid and Meera discuss patients

Meanwhile, we interns managed the ever-growing crowd of patients and collected poop samples from incoming mothers. Throughout the day, we conducted fecal exam after fecal exam with our trusty microscope, allowing us to provide mothers with the results and necessary dewormers as soon as possible.

Anita performing fecal exams

Throughout the clinic, we were also assisted greatly by Magda and Paulino, who tirelessly ran errands to buy everything from slide covers to food supplements and tracked down countless patients to deliver medicines and exam results.

Sarah and Mada discuss patients

Paulino

We also are deeply grateful for the help of Maria and her family, who allowed us to invade their house for four days, setting up exam rooms and a makeshift pharmacy in almost every room.

The whole team together

Overall, we are extremely happy with the results of the clinic and want to send out a big thank you to everyone who was involved!