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This was my second time volunteering at the Edgehill School which is a program for special education students. There are about 40 students ranging in age from 6 years to 18 years. In March, 2012, I volunteered for 2 weeks at this school which is located in Port Maria. When I contacted the director to ask if I could again volunteer through the ISSA Trust Foundation, I found out that a flood had destroyed much of the school and they were temporarily being housed on the second floor of a church. I checked with the school’s director, Mrs. Lee, to see if there were specific things they needed. They requested heating tool, glass paints, and other kinds of paints. I bought and donated a suitcase of school and art supplies. When I came to the school, I was warmly greeted by the students and teachers. I prepared art and sign language lessons for the week for all the classes. Some of the lessons were soft pastel portraits, tempera paint pictures of sailboats, oil pastels on black paper, and several watercolor projects. The teachers and students seemed appreciative of my lessons and grateful for the supplies I left for them. The teachers are training the students to paint earrings, jewelry cases and other items which they can sell. It was another “feel good” week of being able to contribute to the wonder Jamaican children. I am grateful to the ISSA Trust Foundation Director, Diane Pollard, for again helping in setting up my driver to the Edgewood school and all the help given my husband, Richard, and me with our stay and volunteering efforts. Martha Pastcan
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The Issa Trust Foundation is pleased to advise that Couples Resorts 2014 Calendars are ready for you to purchase!! For a donation of $25.00 or $20.00 each for two or more, we will send you a memorable calendar of beautiful pictures! http://issatrustfoundation.com,  select Donate.  Be sure to put #2014 Calendar” in the comment field.  What a great stocking stuffer – a way to make a difference!!
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I finished my last day of work, and it was bittersweet. According to my patient logs, I have helped many children here in Jamaica (135 to be exact), while enjoying the beauty of lush rainforest and gorgeous beaches.

The view from the bridge of Annotto Bay


On the way between Ochos Rios and Annotto Bay


Typical bar in Jamaica

On my last day, I saw a patient for the second time at Port Antonio Hospital.  She was a 12 year old girl who had come last week  concerned because she was always thirsty, and always urinating, even at night.  In fact, mom was concerned because this wonderful, active 12 year old had never had a dry night in her life.  The mother had brought up this issue in the past with previous doctors, but no one had quite figured it out.  I had them obtain some basic labwork and a urine sample.  She had normal kidney function, her urine was negative for protein or blood or sugar, and she could properly concentrate her urine (ruling out a hormonal problem that could cause this issue).  The last test that we did was to check her hemoglobin A1c, which reflects the amount of sugar in the blood present over the past three months.  Normal is less than 6.3%.  Hers was 8.1%, indicating that she had diabetes (likely type 1).  I explained what happens in diabetes, warning signs to look out for, and referred her to an endocrinology specialist at Bastamante Bay. 

What I will remember most is the gratitude on the mother’s face because she finally knew what was wrong with her daughter.  The relief on my patient’s face was even more gratifying.  When I first saw her last week, she was so embarrassed because she was twelve and was still wetting the bed at night.  She wouldn’t make eye contact, and she barely said a word.  After she knew that it wasn’t her fault, that a disease was why she couldn’t keep dry at night, and that this problem was fixable once her diabetes was under control, she started smiling.

I have learned so much over this past month here in Jamaica, and am so sad that I will be leaving tomorrow. I have learned to be very self reliant, and this experience has shown me that I am ready (even if I didn’t think I was) to take up the mantle of being a full time pediatrician starting in July.  I am comfortable with procedures, and managing sick and not so sick patients at the same time.  I realized how adaptable I can be, and I am able to utilize limited resources to coordinate care of a patient.  I am so much more comfortable now with the idea of striking out on my own. 

Of course, I had wonderful nursing and physician support to help me all along the way.  As I said before, the people here in Jamaica are amazing…especially the parents and patients themselves.  They are so respectful of doctors (everyone takes off heir shoes when laying down on the exam table), and very patient.  They will wait hours to see a doctor in the heat.

Waiting area at PMH in the morning
The waiting area at PMH in the afternoon

Here in Jamaica, they speak both Patois, which is a very lyrical language of shorthand English, slang, and French, and regular English.  During my time here, many parents would speak with thick accents in Patois.  Sometimes I would struggle with understanding them, other times they would struggle with understanding me.  However, they never became frustrated. One of the physicians at PAH (Port Antonio Hospital) even gave me a short half hour lecture on Patois, and some of the rules. Like, never say I, just mi.  Th is pronounced “da”, and er becomes “a” like in “It ova dere”.  Each region of Jamaica has their own dialect of Patois, which makes it even more fun. It was like a puzzle sometimes, as I would do my best to figure out what was said.


So, mi a go home. However, I will always carry this experience with me.   Heading outside to enjoy my last bit of sunshine before I go!

Waving goodbye!



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Yesterday, I worked at Port Maria’s Accident and Emergency Department.  The morning was quiet, the calm before the storm.  I didn’t have a single patient in the morning.  In the course of three hours during the afternoon, I admitted two patients and had to transfer one patient directly to Bastamante Hospital (three hours away) for emergent surgery. 

My first patient to be admitted was a 5 wk old baby boy who came in with fever and cough (likely with a cold).  However, because of his age and his immune system is not strong (and thus he is at risk for a serious bacterial infection), we had to admit him for IV antibiotics and check his blood and urine for infection. I obtained the labwork without problem, but the urine was another story.  In
Jamaica, it is routine to obtain urine specimens from children via suprapubic aspiration as opposed
to catheterization.  While it is the gold standard to obtain urine specimens this way, it is not routinely done in America.  Instead, we do urine catheterizations.  It was fascinating to see how this was done, and it seems surprisingly simple.  All you need is betadine, sterile needle and gloves, and a syringe.  You insert the needle directly into the bladder and draw back on the syringe to get the urine. 



The second patient I admitted was a very active 7 month old boy who had wriggled off his bed while
his mom was trying to change his diaper, and fell three feet onto a hard tiled floor.  He cried immediately, and was otherwise acting normally.  His exam was completely normal for his age except for a large bruise over his left forehead.  I admitted him for observation overnight.

The last patient was a 7 month old girl.  The moment the mom brought her in to the exam room, I knew something was wrong.  She was crying and whining nonstop, and nothing mom was doing was
helping.  Mom told me that she had started throwing up yesterday, and had become increasingly more
fussy overnight.  Yesterday, mom noticed that she had bright red blood in her diaper, and this
morning she noticed scarlet mucousy poop.  Her exam was notable for an increased heart rate, extreme tenderness over her entire belly, and guarding (trying to push my hands away).  Her diaper was filled with poop that looked like currant jelly.  I had never seen that before, but that sign is
pathognomonic for intussussception (the telescoping of one part of your bowel into another that can
cause death of the bowel if not repaired quickly). 





I spoke with the supervising ED doctor, who had never seen intussussception before. One of the
nurses had, and she confirmed that this was consistent with intussussception.  We called over
to Bastamante Bay Hospital, put in an IV and started IV fluids, and transferred her immediately
to the pediatric surgery service there (as there was none available at Port Maria).  Unfortunately,
Bastamante Bay is over 3 hrs from Port Maria Hospital, and is located in Kingston.



My day yesterday was very interesting, if not slightly terrifying.  I am so grateful for the help
that the ED doctor and the nurses here gave me as I was trying to take care of my patients without
knowing the system well or where things were. They patiently helped me out without making me feel
bad for not knowing.  I really appreciated that they did so, but I am not surprised.  Jamaican
people are amazingly warm, welcoming, and hospitable.  

Looking forward to what today will bring. 
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Just kidding!  Currently, I am very sad that Kasey left Jamaica.  I really did enjoy spending time
with her, not only for her winning personality but because the exchange of ideas was excellent.  Since
we were from different parts of the country, we had our own ways of giving anticipatory guidance, or
managing certain illnesses.  We learned as much from each other as we have from the physicians in
Jamaica.  We also had a ton of fun together. 

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Snorkeling with Kasey
 
This past Monday and Tuesday, I was at Port Maria Hospital, and I worked at their pediatric health care clinic.  Monday was a normal sick clinic, while Tuesday was a shot clinic.  Both days I saw 17 patients by 1:30 pm (approximately 4 patients/hr).  So, to recap, it was busy.  Some cases still stand out though. 

One patient, an 11 year old girl in middle school, came in complaining of pain behind her ankles
bilaterally and wrapping around the front lateral aspect of her foot.  She was an active soccer
player, who had been having this pain intermittently for the past two months (especially
when exercising a lot).  She also had some swelling around the lateral sides of her two feet, and
stated that her dad also had “bony bumps” like hers.  She had already had X rays of her feet, and
those were completely negative for any fracture, or tumor.  Her exam showed that she had tenderness
over the achilles tendon bilaterally and also over the point of insertion of the tendon into the bone
(lateral aspect of feet).  I diagnosed her with achilles tendonitis and accessory navicular bones. 
Treatment for this problem would include rest (minimize activity like soccer and walking) and
NSAIDs (ibuprofen).  However, when I told the mom this, she looked at me with dismay.  “She walks 2 miles to and from school everyday.  There’s no way she can do that.”  

I was reminded anew on how different Jamaica is from America.  Here in Jamaica, all children wear
uniforms to school, and those uniforms must be pressed & cleaned daily.  There is no such thing as
a bus system to take children to and from school, and I frequently see children walking on the side
of the road to school.  Some children even take taxis every day so that they can reach school. 
School here, while paid for by the government, is still a privilege. 

The other surprising patient that I had was an 18 mth old girl with chickenpox.  I had never seen
chickenpox before, and this rash was classic “dewdrops on a rose petal”.  In Jamaica, the goverment provides vaccines for free, but not all vaccines are covered.  All vaccines that are available in the U.S. are available in Jamaica, but families must go to private pediatricians to obtain shots that are not covered by the government. The vaccines that are not covered include vaccines against Hepatitis A, Varicella (chickenpox), Meningococcus (can cause pneumonia and meningitis), Pneumococcus (can cause pneumonia and meningitis), and Human papilloma virus (causes genital warts and anal/cervical cancer). 
 
The chickenpox rash

Thursday, I met a wonderful 4 year old girl whose mom was worried because she was making a “chuffing” or throat clearing sound everyday, multiple times a day, for the past several weeks. Upon further history taking, I also found out that sometimes she would wring her mouth, or she would blink a lot. Each of these behaviors would last just a couple of seconds, and she would be completely aware throughout. She had done these behaviors for the past year. The little girl was otherwise completely normal. I diagnosed this girl with a tic disorder (? early Tourettes), and broke the news to mom that this disorder can unfortunately get worse (she can develop new tics), and that this might not be curable and medicine would not help. Mom was happy to have an answer, but unhappy that there wasn’t much more we could do. Frequently, children who suffer from tic disorders can be taught behavioral techniques to help minimize how frequently they have tics. I don’t know those techniques, and those that would (speech therapists) were not available. Here, speech therapists, along with psychiatrists and physical therapists are concentrated in bigger cities (like Kingston), with
a few scattered throughout the countryside. 

The more I learn about the Jamaican healthcare system, the more impressed I am at the doctors
here.  They truly rely on their clinical judgement, and are trained to be general practioners who can
take care of people from birth to death.  Many of them can also do surgeries like c-sections and
tubal ligations.  I like to think that during my time here, I have learned to be more decisive and
trust my clinical judgement from their example.

 
On the hillside of Annotto Bay Hospital
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I can’t tell you how wonderful Jamaica has been so far!

I flew in on last Thursday, and started working this Monday on 4/14/13.  On Monday, Kasey and I shared a combined examination room at the Accident and Emergency Department at Port Maria Hospital.  We treated a ton of rashes that day (heat rash, papular urticaria, and tinea capitus).  I learned that when infants are taking Irish, they are actually eating mashed potatoes, and that “he du du” means pooping.   Good times.

Tuesday and Wednesday we enjoyed a wonderful drive to Annotto Bay (approximately 1 hr away from the hotel).   The coconut plantations were awesome, and the bay is breathtaking.  Outside the Annotto Bay Hospital, kids played soccer while a view of the Atlantic ocean stretched behind them.

Wednesday, we started off in the inpatient ward.  There were nine kids to round on.  The scariest part was that our sickest patient was a 4 yo male with sickle cell disease who had initially presented in vasoocclusive pain crisis in his back and abdomen, and subsequently developed acute chest syndrome.  In America, we would have this patient in the ICU and would probably be doing an exchange transfusion. Instead, the excellent nurses and doctors (guided by Dr. Ramos) were managing a very sick child on the ward, and doing a remarkable job with his pain control and fluid management.  I didn’t know that in Jamaica there are only two pediatric ICU units, one in Kingston and one at University Hospitals.  Most patients in their ICUs are on ventilators.  Luckily, our patient was maintaining his oxygen level on 4L via mask, and his pain was under good control with Morphine IV prn. 

Here I am, ready for sit down rounds with Dr. Ramos:   


In the afternoon, we headed over to the Accident & Emergency Department. I had the most interesting case, and 11 yo male who presented with R knee pain after a football (soccer) injury.  He was playing in his first game of soccer, jumped up to kick a ball, landed on his right leg, and another player collided with the front of his lower thigh.  He immediately felt pain, and was unable to bear weight or fully extend/flex his lower leg.  His exam was notable for swelling & tenderness around the lateral aspect of his R knee, his ligaments were intact, and he did have a positive McMurray sign (indicative of lateral meniscus tear).  We did X rays of his R knee, made him NPO, and gave him Voltarin IM (a medicine I wasn’t familiar with, generic name diclofenac, an NSAID).  The X rays of his R knee revealed the surprise that Dr. Mitchell (ED doctor) had already predicted. He had an R femur fracture/epiphyseal lysis (a fracture of his thigh bone through his growth plate). I had NEVER seen something like that before!   We called the Orthopedic doctors and sent him to St. Ann’s Bay.   





On Thursday, there was a well clinic at Annotto Bay.  Kasey and I enjoyed the plethora of adorable Jamaican babies who were primarily being seen at their two week and 1 mth check ups.   Both Kasey and |I were humbled by the trust that these parents placed in us…we wore stethoscopes, so we must be doctors.  We were able to give good anticipatory guidance about umbilical hernias, fevers, and no free water!

Thursday afternoon, we again went to the A&E department.  Kasey saw infantile dyschezia, while I saw a 15 year old F with diffuse abdominal pain (started periumbilically, and radiating to RLQ) concerning for possible appendicitis.  X rays of the abdomen were done and showed a nonobstructive bowel gas pattern.  I successfully obtained bloodwork, and started my first IV here in Jamaica!  When the IV fluids started dripping down the tubing, I knew the IV was good and I was proud.  In Jamaica, ED physicians regularly obtain their own bloodwork and start their own IVs.  However, in America it is very different.  I realized how lucky I am to have IV teams, scheduled phebotomists, or ED nurses willing to place IVs and obtain bloodwork.

Today we are at Port Antonio, and it rained this morning.  Kasey says that means that fewer patients will come.  We will have to see what happens next.   

I can’t wait for what the next week will bring!




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This has been a remarkable three week experience.  I am amazed, honored and humbled everyday when I put on my stethoscope.  Funny story from Rena’s first day at Port Maria, there was a 5yo F w/ severe genu varum(bow legs) which had required surgical intervention with external fixation pins still in place.  She refused to believe that our fantastic Dr. Chandra was a doctor.  The reasons she listed were that her other doctors didn’t have eyelashes or long hair, her mother simply corrected her by saying but “ah but she has a stethoscope.”  The respect with which we are given by our patients, the staff, the nurses and other physicians by simply wearing our stethoscopes is humbling.  I am greeted with “Yes, doctor.” Which is extraordinarily formal to me, but to decline would be disrespectful.  I accept it and work harder to earn the privilege.

I know I shouldn’t pick favorites but I will likely always cherish my Annotto Bay experience the most.  Coming back for my third week, I am finally feeling familiar with my surroundings in both the pedi ward and the A&E.  I have been able to orient Rena to the general jist of our day to day activities, and I continue to watch our favorite 24wker grow.  She is doing fantastic, almost up to full feeds.  

In regard to the medicine side of things what I learn is heat + asthma= a full A&E experience.  I was able to care for a fantastic 13yo, who had instead of telling her family about her difficulty breathing been sleeping with her inhaler for the previous two days.  It was a good teaching moment of reviewing proper use of her inhaler, and why we shouldn’t ignore the warning signs of an asthma attack.  It is clear that the dilemma of transitioning the care of adolescence with chronic diseases is an international weak spot. I think the most valuable things I bring with me on a daily basis are a)my brain b)stethoscope c)otoscope and d)portable pulse oximeter.  We just stumbled upon this delightful pulse oximeter which was hidden away in Rena’s computer case, it has been key in my management of the various wheezers. 

Out at Port Antonio today, we met a Swedish pediatrician who was also visiting the region.  We were able to share our experiences.  I think our common theme is that here, or any third world, clinical skills direct management and he reiterated the value of a good physical exam.  The ability to share these experiences is just amazing.  My experience here has made me more thoughtful with my lab ordering and mindful of medication selection.  I will likely post again before I leave, but if I don’t this has been phenomenal.  

P.S. Jamaica I love you


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So living in paradise and working in the tropics is amazing!!! I have been here 12days now, and my adventure is starting to wind down 🙁 but I plan on enjoying every bit of it.  Highlight of my week, there are many, but biggest is that I have a roommate!!! Yay Dr. Rena coming from Ohio to join the Issa fun.

I made it out to Port Maria this week on Monday.  I commandeered another corner of the A&E in the name of Paediatrics, saw a few sick visits but as it was a rainy day there was limited turnout.  What I did see was a pretty impressive L mandibular dental abscess which had been referred to the A&E from a local dentist.  I admitted her and started her on IV Augmentin, I attempted to use Clindamycin but there was none available.  The downside was that I knew that even once the antibiotics improved the inflammation, that she ultimately needed the tooth extraction.  This is a down point because access to dental care is even more limited than health care down here.  The happy ending is that when I returned to work on Tuesday, and visited her on the ward she was able to fully open her mouth and her pain was improved.  Though the ending is not ideal, I did make a difference.

Wednesday may be my favorite day of the week here.  The day starts with inpatient rounds, and the medicine is overall similar but the drugs of choices and incidence of drug resistance are worlds apart it seems.   There is always good discussion about Western trends in medicine and whether or not it is applicable herein Jamaica.   From there I wander down to the A&E.  It is always curious to me when the nurses ask me if I will see a child >12yo.  It was explained to me that their Pedi wards go from 0-12yo, but this limitation is due to the size of the beds.

Back down in the A&E my day was just about down when a frantic father brought in his 4yo son.  Seems the unfortunate little one was found at the other end of his sister’s bucket and had been hit directly in the eye.  His conjunctival edema was so impressive that I was very worried about a conjunctival laceration.  We were able to refer him fairly quickly to Bastamante Children’s to see ophthamology.  After this busy day I get to ride back along the countryside and watch the sunset as I rode.   Working in paradise, is a gift.


Working is great, but this is Jamaica we are talking about and I now have a fantastic partner in crime.  So far we’ve taken in tons of fantastic food, shopping and reggae dancing.  I look forward to the International Gala the resort is having tonight.   The setup looks fantastic and I am sure the food will be amazing as always! 
The view from Annotto Bay A&E








Port Antonio Paediatric Ward, about 10 beds and cribs in one large room.

Looking out at the island at the end of a long day…
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Every morning I look to my left and there is the amazing Atlantic.  I am about one week into my rotation, and I’ve now been to the Annotto Bay and Port Antonio Hospitals.  The commute from the resort to Port Antonio is about two hours, I can’t tell you for certain because I was completely distracted as we were driving through the rain forest.  Crazy lush foliage going up hills/mountains, crossing over the Rio Grande and the Atlantic Ocean is pretty much always just over your left shoulder. This is all in a day’s commute.  Mr. Campbell,who is one of the adminstrators at Port Antonio, drove me on Friday I used this time during the commute to learn about the quality of life in Jamaica from education to shopping to roads. 

Once at Port Antonio, I had a chance to visit their Pedi Wards.  They are set up differently than ours in the US but they utilize what all of the resources are available.  There is definitely a need present.  Their facilities have relied on a lot of international donations, I am at total a 4hr flight from home and technically Hawaii or California is further but the difference in resources is night and day, Seeing how they are functioning on minimal resources(no code cart, limited number of nebulizer machines(like 2), no cardiac monitoring or unreliable pulse oximetry).   I never thought I’d actually be recommending the use of oral Albuterol, but the need forces your hand.  It forces you to rely on clinical judgment which I guess is why its the practice of medicine.

A common theme, seen both in the US and here in Jamaica, is the difficulty in chronic care management of our children with cerebral palsy and what to do when families become overburdened with their care.  I had a good discussion with Dr. Barrett about how best to optimize their care with simple interventions such as benzos and stretching to improve spasticity to increase their ease of care.  

Life back at Couples is fantastic, the staff is amazing.  It is the weekend, so I have tons of free time.  Between just enjoying the sun so far today I’ve been kayaking and sailing on a “Hobie” in the Atlantic.   I am pacing myself because all of these water adventures occur between delicious meal times and sunbathing.  Well cocoa bread is calling me and there is still some sun left, I will tell you guys more later. 
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To say it is beautiful here is a gross understatement.  The land, the water and the people have eased my transition into life on this amazing island. I know my predecessors have mentioned the amazing scenic views on the way to work, but I was still awestruck.  There is something fantastic about living and working within walking distance to the Atlantic.

I started out my adventure at the Annoto Bay Hospital on the inpatient ward. I was intrigued and impressed to see the team caring for a former 24wk infant( rocking out on bubble CPAP alone!!!) who was continuing to beat odds on a daily basis.  It was good opportunity to use my prior NICU experience to add additional insight, but I was reminded how spoiled I am back home with what seems like limitless resources. Here they’ve two incubators, and no ventilators at this facility with only limited numbers at other hospitals.  The care they provide here relies on clinical expertise.  I feel I both have much to give and so much to learn at the same time.

From the inpatient wards I wandered down to the A&E with Dr(s). Mitchell and Espinosa who also welcomed me with open arms, which translates to happily tolerated my frequent questions and requests for translations.  There I was able to see the variety of sick children who came in whose illnesses ranged from viral gastroenteritis to seizures.  The pharmaceutical trade names here are totally different, also your repertoire is limited to what is easily available to these patients.  Ever heard of Lucozade? Me either but between the patients and the other physicians they helped me figure it out, overall I had a great first day.  I can’t wait for day two!!!
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