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Baby has G6PD deficiency. He’s well, but mom has lots of questions about what medications he should avoid. Can she look on the Internet? (I love being asked whether it’s a good idea to consult the internet, rather than being told what Dr Google has to say). I ask big sister if she knows that girls don’t have G6PD. Mom is fascinated — apparently dad is convinced he’s the one that passed it along to baby. So I launch into a discussion of X linked inheritance, and she asks me to write it out for her to share with dad. OK — mom is a carrier, her sons can have the disease and her daughters can be carriers. If dad has the disease his daughters can be carriers, but he can’t pass it along to his sons. Mom files away this matrix that I’ve written out for her, and she has a new level of understanding of her son’s condition. One more question — should he avoid bush tea? I can’t imagine that anyone has tested the myriad plant alkaloids found in the various bush teas to determine if they induce hemolysis in G6PD… though the natural experiment has probably been done somewhere along the way, given that 10% of the male population of African descent has this condition. So the answer is, no bush tea (I think that’s always the answer no matter what). Do they eat fava beans in Jamaica?
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The doctors here know things I don’t know, and vice versa. When was the last time I saw a case of rheumatic fever, or sickle cell, or congenital syphilis? (it’s the joke at Annotto Bay that Dr Ravi is the congenital syphilis expert because he’s had 4 cases this year to date). When did I last do the initial management of a kid with congenital heart disease ? (rural Tennessee, small hospital with level 1 nursery, 1980s). There are lots of things I know, up to date and evidence based. I hope I can offer some of them politely, with appropriate modifications for the local setting. And there are a lot of things they know, practical and hands-on and real-world, that I’m soaking up like a sponge! Dr. Ramos reminded me that just because mom nods her head and says yes when I give her a list of symptoms she should bring the baby back in for doesn’t mean she gets it. “This is a third world country!” he tells me. That doesn’t mean that medical literacy is widely distributed in other parts of the world, though — it behooves us all to make ourselves clear in language our patients understand. For another day, I have a lot to say, not about what’s lacking in low-resource countries, but about American medical bloat. Fortunately I’m between jobs and on sabbatical till September, so I don’t have to experience the reverse medical culture shock of jumping right back in to a US hospital setting. For the moment, I’ll just listen to the tree frogs before falling asleep.
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… in Port Maria, and the radiology tech stuck her head in my door — “no x ray, we’re on generator.” Power and X ray came back up in time to determine that a happy toddler did not swallow a coin (his grandmother thought she saw one in his mouth). Hard to convince the mom of a vigorous premie that “no dudu for 3 days” is not a dangerous symptom– breastfed newborns can go 7 times a day or every 7 days or anything in between. At dinner the resort guests swarmed the buffet while Bob Marley sang “dem belly full but we hungry” in the background. I’ve always had a little trouble defining irony, but will look no further.
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….it’s hand foot and mouth disease, atopic dermatits, or my favorite generic diagnosis, viral exanthem. Can’t blame parents, who already have enough worries about their children, for being worried about one more threat. Got to love a dad who says, “her immune system has to take care of this, right?” about a viral illness. Right. At Port Antonio the district psychologist came by and borrowed the office I was using for about half an hour. Her task was to give the A&E (ER) nurses a course in mindfulness to help them de-stress about the difficult situations they see at work. She taught them some relaxation and breathing techniques and how to do a quick mini-meditation. Great idea — every workplace could use this! Love the drive to Port Antonio– nonstop ocean and mountain scenery. Thanks to Mr Campbell for going out of his way to drop me off in the evening. It’s Saturday morning — just took a kayak out for a paddle, now waiting on the morning snorkel boat. Hope to get a sailing lesson this afternoon, if the onshore breeze doesn’t pick up too much. Working in the clinics here is its own reward, but the accommodations are the icing on the cake!  
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I rode to work in the ambulance today. Cameron arrived bright and early. He said the usual MOH van was out, but the ambulance was free. I asked him, what happens when the ambulance is needed? he said it’s mainly used for transporting patients from one hospital to another, not for emergency response. He then launched into a discussion of the lack of EMT services in Jamaica. When a road accident happens, people just toss the victims into the nearest vehicle and make a run for the hospital — there’s no emergency services, no spine boards, etc. I did point out that he himself was not wearing his seat belt –to which he replied with an anecdote about someone who was severely injured by a seat belt — the proverbial smoker who lives to be 100. I said, pick your risks, I like my brain. When we drove into the gate of the hospital a funeral home van was coming out. Cameron told me someone was shot this morning. Jamaicans accept the risk of no seat belts. Both our countries accept the risk of too many guns. How do we change perceptions of risk? On a cheerier note, it was well babies in the pediatric clinic all morning. What’s more delightful than a nonstop stream of one to two month olds?
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