Thursday, March 12, 2015

Amazon Clinic: Healthcare in the Village (life and death)

Andres, the day after hitting a tree limb in the jungle
Andres was playing, running along the side of a jungle pond.  He slipped and a broken tree limb raked up the side of his face, splitting open his cheek and above his eye.  I heard him crying as he was helped, by his many young cousins, back to his house.  I knew it was more serious than the usual falling or upset child event, as even the adults were rushing to see what had happened.  Something about the tone of the crying that alerts them.

Before I could go down to look, Andre's cousin, Stephanie, came running into my house and said Andre's uncle asked if I had some surgical stitches and if I could stitch up his face.  While I did have the stitches for emergencies, I have never applied them to someone.  I did not want my first try to be on a boy's face.

And, after looking more closely at him, he did need stitches.  The wound had split cleanly, and was bleeding freely.  However, due to the tension in his chubby cheeks, the would would not close.  I knew that leaving it open to infection was not a wise choice.  I applied iodine to the wound and advised them to go to a town 30 minutes downriver, by slow boat, where he could receive medical help.

One and a half hours later Andres and his father returned.  The clinic was closed and no one could apply the stitches.  At this time they were starting to become desperate.  He borrowed the suture kit and tried another close village where, it was said, one of the villagers knew how to apply the stitches.  At this time it was nightfall, so a trip to Leticia would be very dangerous on the river.

Three hours after sunset they returned.  Andres was all stitched up.  His picture is from the day after the incident.

This is one example of the healthcare in the village.  The project volunteers have a well-stocked medical kit, which can handle almost anything short of surgery.  Villagers regularly ask for aspirin, antibiotics, or other things.  Mostly I give them advice, bandages, and Tylenol, but never aspirin.  Giving an aspirin to a person who has Dengue fever can complicate the illness.  And Dengue fever is common among the villagers.

One of the most frequent and worst request I receive is for anti-diarrhea pills for babies.  This usually comes after the second of third day of diarrhea.  I do not give the pills, as stopping the diarrhea and keeping the parasitic infection in the baby can be as harmful as the dehydration.  I explain about giving the baby only purified water and food that is not contaminated.  I also have powdered re-hydration mixes that they may try.  My best advice is for them to take the baby to the hospital in Leticia if he or she does not improve.  However, they will only do this at the last moment when it seems eminent that the baby will die.  The trip to Leticia is very expensive for them.

During my last three months of  living in La Libertad three people have died.  One person committed suicide after a fight with his wife.  This incident also involved alcohol.  He left behind his wife and five children.  This was two days before Christmas. The second death involved a 70 year old man.  He had untreated stomach cancer.

The third death was the strangest of the three.  A 30 year old man came down with a weakness on one side of his body.  He continued to loose strength, and weight, over a period of five month.  He received treatment in Bogota, where they found and removed a parasite from his brain.  His health continued to decline, and the doctors could not find the reason.  He was our neighbor, living next to the project's guesthouse.  He died at 1:10 at night, during the middle of a huge thunder and rain storm.  The man left behind a wife and two small children.  One of the children is Andres, the boy mentioned in this story.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A new project boat

We have a new boat!  Our boat was hand-made in Peru, of wood.  It is about 21 feet long and has high sides.  While it is slightly tipsy when getting in and out, it is very stable and rides high when loaded and under power.  We modified it by placing side benches and a roof.  The roof keeps off the worst of the rain and sun.  It is painted in oil-based paint to preserve the wood.  A light-weight, rot-resistant wood was used for its construction.  We hope to get at least three years of use from the boat.

The boat will be used for volunteers, tourism, and to transport villagers when needed.  It seats six people, including the pilot, and a reasonable amount of gear.  It is powered by a 13hp motor (owned by our village supporter Gustavo).  While this is still considered a "slow" boat, when loaded lightly in can make the trip to Leticia in under 2 hours.
Our new boat at the Leticia docks
 Below is our old boat.  The worst problem it faced was severe structural rot.  It also rode low in the water, was not covered, and made with a heavier, less rot-resistant wood.

The old boat now belongs to the village kids

Christmas dinner photos!

Now that I am in Bogota I can upload some pictures.

After boiling and cooling, the chicken is shredded
On December 25 of 2014 the Amazon Pueblo project hosted a dinner for the Children of La Libertad.  The meal was a traditional Colombia favorite, arroz con pollo (chicken and rice).  We also served chicken soup and soda.  I bought the supplies in Leticia the day before, then boated them back to La Libertad with Gustavo.  Five village women helped to prepare the dinner.  We had a good turnout, with over 100 kids attending.  We had enough extra food for the parents as well.
Betty is cooking the chicken soup
The kitchen is a popular place to wait for the meal
Chicken broth soup

The main meal, arroz con pollo
A long line, but everyone waited patiently
Enjoying the meal

Monday, March 2, 2015

I have returned! Visit us in the guesthouse!

After a long time without a blog post I have returned once again.  Much has happened with the project, which I hope to be able to pòst in the coming two weeks.

I am currently in Bogota, so the internet connection is fast enough for use.  During this trip I am going to start the process of officially registering the project as an NGO in Colombia, get more information from the Minstery of the Interior of Colombia on how to register the village as an offical legal entity, and fix a problem with my resident Colombian visa.

I have also moved the office of the project to Leticia, where I will live and teach English while managing the project.  The English teaching will, I hope, provide for my living expenses.  But more on this in a future post.

And now, THE GUESTHOUSE!  I have registered the guesthouse with AirBnB, an internet business that helps people to rent their homes.  I have used their service very sucessfully in Maine, USA, and I hope to also have good luck with it in the village.  When we have spare beds, tourist may rent out the bed in hostel-fashion, or the whole house when available.  Below is a link to our listing.  Check it out and come for a visit!