Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Not your ordinary desk job

I spent yesterday afternoon in the Orthopedic clinic with Julie. I sat with her translator, Max while she sent a young girl home with Ibuprofen for some minor pain, another one came in right after as Julie called the next one through to evaluate. Looking around the room I noticed the dark green paint on the walls, heavily contrasted by the bright fluorescent xray light positioned directly above the wooden chair and several photocopied messages posted next to it. A bathroom just to the left had a tiled shower with a dirty curtain, half drawn. The toilet and sink on the other side with a faucet steadily dripping water. Shelves were set up to accommodate various donated braces, plastic casts and crutches which were either organized together or strewn about when someone had searched for a certain size. Julie sat in an old folding chair at a large desk, reminiscent of an early 70's office. It was heavy and made of metal. Stacks of documents, various medicines and a old fan sat atop the scraped metal surface while Julie wrote into the patient chart, which contained a few photocopied documents inside a manila envelope.

The next patient was called in. Her complaint was that she had pain, a week after she had fallen on her left leg. There are no real visible signs of injury besides some minor swelling and very small bruises. So Julie asked a few standard questions about her symptoms, knowing that she would have to eventually see an orthopedist. Unfortunately, right now since Dr. Scott Nelson returned to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, there are no orthopedic surgeons working at the hospital. And it still remains unclear if any will arrive in time to evaluate this woman's xray. Julie decides to order one anyway, and then gave her a knee brace and crutches. The young woman reluctantly agreed after some convincing that it would be the best thing to promote less damage to the leg. We both adjusted the crutches to her approximate height and handed them to her. I began to think about how difficult it would be to be transporting oneself through the rubble strewn streets and mangle sidewalks of Port Au Prince on a pair of crutches. She is then sent on her way back home and asked to return in another week to see if a new orthopedic surgeon has arrived.

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