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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

All is quiet....until it's not

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. 

1 comment:

  1. Rena, thank you so much for sharing your experience! This is really a call to action to accelerate progress to generate and share knowledge, to address health problems, and engages in respectful parternships and friendships! Bless you!
    Diane Pollard, President
    Issa Trust Foundation