It has been another busy week in clinic. Monday came as Monday’s sometimes do, and it just happened to be one of those days. I arrived in clinic a little late as I was catching up with Tabby in the office and discussing a challenging case that had been weighing on me over the weekend. When I got into clinic it was almost as if I could see the expectations from the patients in the air, or maybe it was just the expectations I was putting on myself. People were lined up and waiting behind the clinic and in front, and I knew from the time I rode by that it would be a busy day. Some days I feel very challenged to see everyone and to fix everything, even when I know it is just not possible. Last Monday was one of those and I let it weigh me down, just a little. The nice thing about having a day like that when I work in Los Angeles is that I get to ride home, clear my head and I can appreciate the beauty around me as the sun sets over the lake as the volcano changes colours. The other thing about those kind of days is that the next day can be something completely different, which was exactly what happened.
The next day happened to be my birthday, a day I usually try to keep quiet about. I figured I had managed that just fine while still organizing a small dinner, under the guise of a summer solstice event, and had put it out of my mind. That is until 5 am, when the band started… outside my door… followed by knocking to make sure I was really awake and up. It turns out I hadn’t managed to keep the day quiet after all. I opened my door to see Gary dancing, Laura taking pictures, Tabby and Max trying to find other ways into my room and Angela laughing at how surprised I was. You really have never been properly woken up unless you have woken up to a brass band playing a birthday medley in your front yard for close to an hour. Needless to say all the neighbours were up and well aware of what day it was, including the older man who takes care of the school and the howler monkeys. Once the band left, my neighbours came out to play their birthday cd for me. The morning was busy in the hospital but I was in a great mood and decided to take my time and do a little more acupuncture than usual. I had one more patient before lunch and was just going out to call them when the door opened to the sound of an accordion and singing. Angela’s uncle and aunt who live in Alta Gracia had come in to sing me happy birthday, and they managed to get 2 other doctors, 4 nurses and 4 of the cooking ladies to join in as well! It was one of those times when I wish I had a camera to show others what happens here, but it is a mental image I will never forget! The afternoon went well, many patients and I was fully booked. I even received a few more birthday greetings which surprised me, apparently the girls working admissions were telling patients on me, in case I decided to leave early. Later that evening, amidst a bit of a downpour, we had a little pizza party with everyone – work, friends and neighbours; complete with a delicious carrot cake from Laura and Gary. I feel really fortunate to have such great friends here, the kind that wake up at 4:30 in the morning to come with a brass band to sing to you and so I would like to thank everyone, including someone at home, who were involved in making it a very memorable day. Perhaps people would be happier if occasionally they had a surprise dance party in the morning before work, or half a carrot cake in the fridge…
The rest of the week was busy and business as usual. I am seeing a lot of patients returning which has been nice to be able to follow their treatment and progress, as well I am continually seeing new patients. There is a pretty even mix of returning patients to new patients, and I am always surprised by how far some patients come to be seen by me. I have patients who come both to the clinic and to the hospital who catch a bus at 6:30 in the morning and will wait all morning if they get a number or are able to put their name on a list for a consult. I often feel pressure to see people quicker or to make sure I see them as a way to acknowledge how challenging it was for them to come to see me, but I am also aware that for the most part they would be doing the same thing to be seen at the hospital or the local Centro de Salud. It is a system I am still confused by and yet there is a patience in people here that I would never see back home. I was talking with Laura one day about how come people would choose to come and wait to see me over one of the other doctors, and she said it was perhaps because I listen to them. It was something I hadn’t really thought about but likely is true. People will tell me their entire history of problems, which is daunting, but is likely because they have never been given that opportunity before as the health system here is stretched so thin. It still makes it challenging as people always ask how come I can only see so many people in a day and yet when they get in for their appointment it is hard to get them to leave so the next person can come in. This past week in clinic has been busy as well, but really positive. Many people coming in feeling better than the last time they were in and the list of problems they have are getting smaller, which makes me smile. Also I have more people coming in on referrals from others, which to me, means that people have trust in NDI and naturopathic medicine and really feel it is benefiting them. It is weeks like this where I feel really honoured to be working here with NDI and to be able to offer people another option in their health care and have it be accessible to them.
This past weekend was the Omepete Tourist Fair and Expo 2011, held in Moyogalpa just at the end of my street. NDI had a booth on Saturday and so the team came out to talk to locals and tourists about NDI, as well as share some information that we have been compiling regarding prevention of sex tourism on the island. Unfortunately the day wasn’t as busy as was expected, but I feel it was good that NDI was there to show that it is a part of the community and there was definitely interest in both the clinic and the information we were giving out. We packed up a bit early due to some heavy rains, which continued into the night and kept me inside rather than joining the neighbours at the fiesta. I did venture out Sunday night for some music and some dancing, and then some dancing in the mud as the rains came again. We left a bit early again as the park was turning into a giant mud puddle and as the electricity went out from the thunder storm. But like any good party, they had back up power and a sound system that was good enough to hear over the thunder from a few blocks away.