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Monday, April 29, 2013

Back to the Grindstone

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. 

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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