Tuesday, June 16, 2009


About a month ago, I watched two open-heart surgeries. One was performed on a five-year-old boy and another on a three-month-old baby girl, and there I was, all scrubbed up and taking pictures in the operating room. One of the couples in my training group left a training week a day early to go back to their site to attend a cardiology event and was able to meet with a group of pediatric cardiologists from the States working with the Jamaica Children’s Heart Foundation. They told the couple about the work they were planning on doing in Kingston and the couple, having heard about my EMT and clinical work, advised them to contact me and see if I could help out for the week. The first day I spent at the Red Cross in town helping out where I could during a clinic the team ran for a down town orphanage. Most of my morning was spent holding babies and being teased for how uncomfortable I looked. I met with the head of the Kingston/St. Andrews branch and told her of my desire to do more clinic volunteering and collaboration with the Red Cross. If I only knew then how beneficial that initial meeting and conversation would be in the future. That afternoon I was invited by the team to watch a surgery on a three-month-old who was needing a clamp placed around her pulmonary vein to restrict the excessive amount of blood being pumped into her heart. During the surgery the doctors would pause and allowed me to get right in there and photograph all the different procedures that took place. I thought I would have a hard time watching, but it got to a point where I think I began to annoy the surgeons with how intrigued I was and how close I kept on creeping to the operation table. The rest of the week I was able to make myself useful by working the patient intake part of the clinic and helping out with taking vitals. I just knew packing my own scrubs was a smart idea. The last day I worked clinic was for a group of senior citizens that came to the Red Cross office from a convalescent home downtown. I’ve never seen so many ailments in a single grouping of people. As if getting all the pertinent medical information from each patient wasn’t hard enough, their deep patois used made understanding them nearly impossible, though humorous at times. The day ended with another open-heart surgery on a five year old who had two holes in two different chambers of his heart. The operation was one of the raddest things I’ve ever seen. To close up the holes, all blood flow through the heart needs to be rerouted to an outside machine for life support during the surgery. So each vein and artery was detached from the heart and hooked up to tubes leading into the machine. Slowly and steadily the boy’s heart came to a stop and the surgeons began the two-hour operation. To ensure that none of the heart tissue was damaged from lack of oxygen coming through during the procedure, ice in a saline solution was placed all around it in the chest cavity. Seeing a nurse pour that into a gaping hole in a little boy’s chest was a little unnerving, but still so irresistible to watch. From that one week of working along side Red Cross and JCHF volunteers, I have had so many opportunities open up. The woman organizing the surgeons from JCHF put me into contact with some fantastic contacts that have begun helping find leads and means to construct a clinic in my community and offered to have the cardiologists work a few days up at the clinic once it is erected and running. It’s the introduction to the Red Cross staff, though, that has been most valuable, especially in my most recent efforts to get my community prepared for hurricane season. Not only have they donated first aid supplies to put into the primary and basic schools, but have collaborated with our Citizens Association to host a first aid and CPR training and certification course. I’m hoping that many future projects will come about with the Red Cross, specifically a first responder training program that is being talked about. It’s still so amazing to me the things I am able to do here that I would never be able to do in the States. I’ve been urged to consider it so many times, but I’m really starting to think about options for med school. I never wanted to go down that path, but it seems that no matter what direction I take with my volunteer work, I always end up working in the medical community anyways. Who knows; I've at least have plenty of time to decide.

1 comment:

  1. To say I am jealous of your first few months would be an extreme understatement.