Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Yo soy Susana, trabajadora social de Holy Cross School

What an incredible day, and one in which I felt as if I "earned my [volunteer] salary."  :)  Kim had to go to el doctor this morning as the "noseeums" bites she had were much worse, so I told her I would head on to school and help cover til she got there.  I walk much faster than Kim, so was able to get there before I was due even.  It is still today, however, so very hot and I was really sweating and it was not even 9 a.m.  I was smarter today and just clipped my hair up before I ever left home, and believe me, that is the way it will be from now on.  Let me tell you, you get past any vanity you may have had very quickly here.

Just as I reached the toll bridge, a little girl from the school got out of her taxi and we walked over to the school together, chatting.  I noticed something on her arm, but I had on sunglasses not my eyeglasses, so could not really tell what it was--it looked kind of like scar tissue.  I reported in to the office and in only a few minutes, one of the grad students who is in her classroom this week brought her to the office.  What I saw was sores that were infected.  The school tried to call her home and was unable to reach anyone, but she needed to go to the clinic.  They were making arrangements and were going to send the grad student.  I noticed the girl (I will call her Bonita as she is very pretty) begin to tear up.  Of course, everyone began to tell her "it would not hurt"--which of course no one could know and I assumed from looking at the arm that it most certainly would.  I went to her at the counter and put my hands lightly on her shoulders, stooped down so my eyes were level with hers and ask "why the tears?"  She began to cry a little more then, and I asked her if she wanted to sit with me and tell me.  She did.  So they asked if I would take her and I said of course.  While we waited for our driver, she read to me and drew some pictures and we practiced my Spanish and her English.

Finally, Mr. Victor was here and we headed to the clinic, which is on the far side of town.  I went in, and there were women with babies and small children everywhere!  There was no one at the counter, so I asked a woman what I was supposed to do to register and she said take a number.  There were no more numbers and no more spaces until 1 (it was now 10).   Someone came to the desk finally (a volunteer, who is from Canada) and I showed her the arm and explained, and asked if I needed to wait, to come back at 1, or what but that Bonita needed to be seen.  She agreed, came back with the triage nurse who took our information, and we had a seat.  More drawing (I always have a pad with me, thank goodness) and more Spanish English lessons while we wait.  Finally, the doctor calls us.  She tears up again.

He sends us in while he gets some things and I remind her that is is okay to be scared, but that I am with her and will stay with her, and let's see if she needs to cry or not.  She asks if it will hurt, and I tell her truthfully that I do not know, but the doctor will tell us what to do to help it get well.  Dr. Zuniga examined her (she had fallen on a rock, scraped her arm, knee, and ankle), explained the infection and the medication and how to treat, wrote it all on her prescription as well as gave me instructions, and sent us to the nurse to clean and dress it.  The tears start again; she is afraid it will hurt.  I said it might, as they would have to clean it and showed her where the infection was, and how it had to come out for it to get well or else she would get very sick and it would hurt more.  I told her it was okay to cry if it hurt, and I would be with her, and after they fixed it, it would stop hurting.

We went in to the nurse, who was very kind, and as gentle as she could be, but had to clean the pus out of the wound, with alcohol.  Yes, it hurt and Bonita screamed and cried, but sat very still and allowed it.  Then it came time for some kind of medicine (I think the nurse called it carbolic) and apparently it burned something fierce.  The nurse had her sit in my lap and hold her arm in front of the fan, but she cried and cried and cried.  I held her, talked softly to her (just nonsense words like I would have to my own child) and finally when it dried, she stopped crying.  Then the triple antibiotic ointment and the bandage.

Next stop, the clinic pharmacy to fill her meds.  They had the antibiotic and the tylenol syrup, but not the ointment.  There was no charge for the medication, just the $1 Belize for the bottles.  Up to the front and you make a donation of whatever you can.  I had not taken much money with me to school (I don't need it normally) but I put $10 in the box and they called Mr. Victor to come pick us up.

Back to school and I took her to the cafeteria as it was time for lunch and told her grad student to bring her back after lunch so she could take her first dose of medication.  Shortly after, here she was.  We had a hard time with the antibiotic (it smelled like juice to me, but she almost never swallowed it.)  Then she did not want to take the tylenol, but finally we managed to get up to down it "like a big girl."  (She is only 7.)  That one apparently tasted okay.

When the director came back in, I updated him and told him we were unable to locate a family member and I was concerned to make sure the family understood what had transpired and about her medication.  I said I was happy to make a home visit if we had someone who could speak Spanish.  He agreed and so we arranged for Mr. Cruz to accompany us when school was out and Mr. Victor drove us.  I was able to introduce myself and my role in Spanish, and then I would tell her what happened and Mr. Cruz would translate.  For reasons I will not go into in order to protect her privacy (health reasons) she had been unable to take Bonita to the clinic.  I explained the medications, treatment, and asked if she needed any further help with Bonita to tell Bonita to let me know at school and I would come back.  

I will check on Bonita in the morning, and am wishing more than ever in my life that I had not postponed becoming fluent (or at least moderately conversant) in Spanish.  I am grateful that I can at least say some words and phrases, and vow now to stop putting it off and to learn.  I was able to understand the woman enough to understand the situation, and Mr.  Cruz was kind enough to say I did well. 

Mr. Cruz appears to be quite young himself, but he, like everyone at the school, has been incredibly kind and gracious to me.  He and Mr. Victor dropped me at the villas where we stay, and I am waiting on Kim.  She had a conference with a mother this afternoon and will be later getting home.  I can only say that this short time here has been such a blessing to me, and as always, I feel as if I am given more than I give.

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