23rd October – 4th November 2012
Well what a time I am having since returning. Life is moving at a very fast pace with not much time to come up for air! Below you can see some of it. As I felt this was long enough you haven't got the most current but suffice to say life is still full on...Enjoy and I'll send the next update as soon as I can find some time to write it.
........So following a week of getting on top of emails and visits to a cafe in Cusco with Sonia to ensure we had internet connection, we are still very much in transition. Following meetings with the lawyer regarding Fani with late nights preparing the stuff that he needs and a long but good day with Ineke helping get the bookwork back into order we finally seemed to making some progress. I obviously would be unavailable for about a week as the medics visits were up and coming and are really full on. I also move house the day after, so on the Friday before I started with the medics I tried to take a bit of time to do as much packing as possible.
The medics visits started on the Saturday. To say that I was knackered after all this is an understatement!! After 5 very big days with the medics visits, not getting back until 8pm or later and back out early the next day. I then had 2-3 pretty full on days with the move with first moving then things I had accumulated then borrowing things from others so I had somewhere to sleep, a cooker, fridge etc. On the day of the move I ended up cleaning 2 houses! Carol and Paul’s house wasn’t quite so bad but I had arranged to be out for 11am so this was a bit of a struggle with washing the sheets and cleaning. To add to that it was a public holiday. One which most of the local people take so trying to find a taxi that was willing to go to my new house (it is surprising how often a taxi here says no or asks for a ridiculous amount of money) and also was big enough to take all my stuff was quite a struggle! Eventually Yeina and Nino, who were bringing me a spare mattress that they had and a 2 burner cooker, came with their taxi and I just paid all the fares. When I arrived at my house I gave over the rest of my rent money and got the keys. This is when I discovered the house hadn’t been cleaned after being painted!! I knew if I waited on my landlady it wasn’t going to happen anytime soon so said I would clean it as long as she agreed I wouldn’t have to clean it when the time came to move out again. This was written into the contract, that I had to leave it the way I found it. This meant 3-4 hours cleaning just to get the worst of it sorted....All you women know what it is like after workmen have been in!! With no brush or shovel I asked to borrow my landlady’s...well she should have done the cleaning anyway! I then borrowed her mop to clean the worst of the stoor (dust to you non-Scots ). It is a reasonable sized house with 2 bedrooms upstairs, a good sized hallway between the upstairs rooms and a small bathroom. Downstairs there are 3 areas; a good sized kitchen, a very large living area which will be the office space as well as a living room and an outside area, which is enclosed on 3 sides with a wonderful view. This is the washing area and where my secondhand washing machine will go in when I get it around the middle of November. By the time I had done this I was pretty knackered not having eaten much that morning. As time was marching on it was time to pay Sonia a visit. I haven’t told you about the fun and games around the medics visit but Sonia joined us on the first day of our clinics for a special lunch that the cook had wanted to prepare for her. Unfortunately, in the short time she was there she managed to find the only hole in the playground and trip, badly spraining her ankle! She is still unsure if there are torn ligaments or what the problem has been as it is taking a long time for her to be mobile again. Sonia kindly gave me a sandwich and after our catch up I headed back to make up my mattress for the night. The next day was our weekly meeting which allowed us to put some plans in place of what needed done next. Following this I had to meet one of the nurses, from the medics group, to collect some stuff to be kept safe for the following year. This lady (the nurse) has been extremely unwell, and was still on heavy duty medication. I was amazed she decided to come..but it was so important to her to be here again, which is absolutely lovely. To add to her troubles some of her very strong meds were running low as she had miscalculated how many she would need so she had reduced her dose to try and eek them out!! I hoped this didn’t have too much impact on her as they were immunosuppressants and in Peru it is difficult to keep clear of all the infections around, even for us healthy individuals! We are all hoping she will be with us next year! I’ll update you a little later on the details of the, always exciting, medics visit.
I had an early start the next day with Martin (our Living Heart driver), in the 4 by 4 and Aquiles in his taxi, another driver that Sonia uses (a nice young man who is extremely helpful). I was meeting them at 7am and we were heading to the deposito where the remains of Sonia’s furniture was, that hadn’t been farmed out already, the bulk of which was in Fani’s house! We managed to get a lot of stuff, including Sonia’s cooker, fridge freezer (which I forgotten how large it was), tables and chairs for the office and a few other bits and bobs to make my life a lot easier. Getting it offloaded and down the very narrow steps to the house was quite a feat and I really didn’t think the fridge would get down but Aquiles was incredible; with it strapped to his back he carried it down from the jeep at the top of the hill! I would have loved a picture but there was no way I was asking him to wait while I got my camera! I discovered later he spent 10 years on the Inca trail..this explained his strength and technique! I thought he was a lot younger than his 32 years. The reason Sonia is using him, as he stays in Ollantaytambo which is over an hour and a half away, is to help him as he is just starting his business and he has a young family. Anyway this done Martin took off...he getting lazier as time goes on... and Aquiles and I went to Sonia’s for the computer stuff. It was at this point when I asked where I could buy a cylinder of gas for the cooker in Cusco (I knew all this stuff in Urubamba) that Sonia went off on one as the cylinder should have been with the cooker, which Aquiles lifted from the cafe in Ollantaytambo. About an hour later Sonia phoned me to tell me the chef was putting it on a taxi in Urubamba and it would be there in 30 minutes. I wasn’t to be late as it might get pinched. I questioned this as it normally took an hour for any taxi from Urubamba. Anyway I was assured this was the case so because I had other things to collect en route I had to leave the house right away. I was quite pleased with myself as I had managed to collect a couple of second-hand blankets I had purchased about a week or so earlier and visit a large shop that has every conceivable type of plastic item you could wish for...purchasing a few items there (a few basic essentials) but know I will need to go back for a lot more. Well you know what it is like ladies when you basically have nothing....you need bins, cleaning stuff, a chopping board etc...just have a look around your house and you will soon realise. Anyway I was at Pavitos (the taxi and collectivo meeting point) in plenty of time. As I stood wondering if I had missed the taxi I got a call from Sonia to say it would be another hour!!!!! I WAS NOT HAPPY!!! I had a lot of goods already but knew I would need a taxi back up come the time so decided to go the supermarket around the corner to kill time and get some supplies. I bought a number of things on my list of basic essentials for the house as well as some food. Back at Pavitos I sat, and sat, and sat. Eventually at after 7pm the collectivo arrived. I had set off at 4pm!! My next challenge was to get everything home! Like the Thursday that I moved, trying to get a taxi was very difficult but after another 15 minute wait I found one willing to take me. The problem you see is Pumocurco, my new address is well up the side of the mountain and some taxis just refuse!! This taxi, like one the previous day couldn’t make it up to the house. If they try to take the direct route up the street climbs sharply at the top and the smaller taxis just run out of power!! I now tell them which way to go so they can at least get within a stone’s throw of my house. Anyway once we made it home, needless to say, I went straight to bed as I was so tired physically and emotionally from all the turmoil of the day! Well I did spend a little time rearranging my room. Aquiles had kindly helped me assemble the double bed we found in the deposito (a store room by the way). Before we left Urubamba on the Saturday I had bought my first tools...a screwdriver and a ratchet to tighten the bolts of the bed..quite exciting actually.. and a little difficult when you don’t know the names of these kind of things in Spanish. Sunday was to be the day for me to tackle thoroughly cleaning the kitchen, including the fridge so I could get my food (that was starting to go off) in it...yey. Unfortunately it was not to go to plan... I discovered the water had been switched off as the authorities were changing a connection the next day (the Monday)!! It might have been nice to have been informed!! It is surprising how much you can do with so little water. I acquired a bucket of water from Sonia’s and drained as much as I could out of every tap in the house. Carrying the water from Sonia’s was quite difficult as it meant walking down very steep hills without spilling my very full bucket! Slowly the house was starting to look like a normal house, ready to live in. I still need to buy a number of things but I could do that slowly but surely. At least I could have something warm to drink and eat and have a nice comfy bed to sleep in. There were a few things that weren’t been right in the house, such as 3 of the drawers in the kitchen had holes in the bottom of them and the drains were pretty blocked but everything is being repaired slowly but surely...with a lot of reminding!!
So time to tell you about the medics visit.
Some of you may have already seen the pictures on facebook on the Living Heart site so here is the detail.
It is always an adventure when the medics are here and this year was no exception. I ended up as one of the Spanish to English translators. There weren't been many body parts I didn't talk about over those 5 days.
The medics had some really interesting and challenging cases this year including a small operation in very difficult circumstances. The lady in our first community came in with a very inflamed part of her personal anatomy that proved to be difficult to drain and treat when they operated. They gave her very strong antibiotics during and following the operation as infusions over 2-3 days. We were in that community for 2 days so Martin, brought her to the clinic (in the school) on the second day so she could receive her infusion. It is amazing what you can rig up; a plank with nails became the apparatus to hold up the infusion bag! I should say that while Julie, was conducting the operation, it was at this time that Sonia fell so all hell broke loose. Patients were put on hold until all were checked out and sorted. Once we left this community after our 2 days there Julie and Val, the doctor, visited the lady daily in her home to make sure she was OK before we went to the other communities. She was making an excellent recovery..however 2 days later her husband was hit by a car!! Sometimes it doesn’t rain but it pours!
The first day of the medics visit was a really long one as by the time we were set up and everyone settled into their roles we didn’t finish until after 7pm. The problem I had was trying to get back to Cusco! Val kindly offered me a bed for the night which was great and what a treat as they were staying in a 4 star hotel.... I did enjoy that! The shower was a delight, thick comfortable beds with lovely sheets with dinner and breakfast thrown in....How wonderful!
I travelled back to Cusco each night after that but as I said; it made for some very long days! It wasn’t just the length of the days that was challenging but the full on day with very little time to stop. Thinking in Spanish all day added to the challenge and by the end of the day I could barely think straight never mind speak in any language! On one particular night, after I had been dropped off in Pisac and realized I couldn’t get one of the combis, a taxi (or what I thought was a taxi) stopped. He leaned down to look at me out of his passenger window and said “Cusco?” I said “Yes “and asked how much. He said 5 soles which was what you paid for the taxis, so I got in! I thought it strange he wasn’t stopping to pick up other passengers and he was driving very slowly. I was wondering if I was about to be mugged! He was an older man and seemed nice enough. He was keen to talk and we started chatting but, to be honest, this is when I really struggled after a full day of English to Spanish translating. I could barely think of the simple words!! Anyway it transpired he was ex police and a nice guy. He offered me a lift the next day and the following night if I needed it. I wasn’t leaving as early as him and as it turned out I was back in time to get a combi so never saw him again.
Each morning I arranged to meet the medics in Pisac and I always made sure I set off in plenty of time as by the time you get a combi to the street where the Pisac collectivos were(sometimes they were too full so didn’t stop) then waited for the collectivos to Pisac to fill up, you needed to allow an hour and half travel time. Unfortunately for me I then had to wait anything from 30 mins to an hour ..not because I was so early but they were always late!! Oh well it was better they got themselves sorted and it is great to have them each year.
The medics not only brought lots and lots of medicines, they also brought clothes for children with a few items for the adults too. The treats for the kids were bubbles, lollipops, pencils and tattoos. These almost caused a riot on occasions but went down very well as you can imagine, especially showing the little ones how to blow bubbles.
I probably should have said we had eight medics this year; Val and Julie, the diehards who are the doctor and nurse practitioner and to support them this year 3 nurses, a pharmacist and 2 others helping. This made urine testing, prepacking meds, taking notes etc much easier.
Our first 2 days were in a community I hadn’t been to before. I had taught in and visited the other schools often but never seemed to make it to this one. This is a strange situation as we are feeding a school in the valley which normally aren’t too badly off but this one had a large percentage of the children from a very remote community in the mountains. I was keen to understand from which community the people we were treating came from and how many were at the school. As it turned out the majority we saw were from this very high and remote community and these children had to be the poorest I had seen since coming to Peru. When it came to the donated clothes I had suggested we keep them for those in most need. To be honest we gave a lot to these kids and the elderly because of how poor they actually were. This confirmed for me our need to continue our work in this school.
..So what kind of complaints did we see and what were the memorable moments??
...Dehydration was a big thing. The number of kids and adults actually that had complaints mostly derived from drinking very little water was considerable. I became like a stuck record encouraging them to drink more water and telling them how much that meant.
Chapped skin on most faces was extremely common so a good emollient was given to almost everyone, in fact as I was trying to find out what was wrong Marco, one of the nurses, was often rubbing cream onto the child’s face. One young girl who came in said her problem was she had black skin and wanted white skin...this made us laugh and she got her tub of cream.
Acid reflux and indigestion of varying degrees in the women was a common problem -the main culprit for this was the very tight belts they wore around their skirts. They did explain to me it was part of the tradition but I had to try and encourage them to slacken them just a little and why. Marco couldn’t even get 2 fingers under to try and press lightly to check for other issues! One thing I should explain is the women are very bashful and also the clinic area was reasonably open unless the medics wanted to examine more closely in which case we held a curtain in front for more privacy. This meant a lot of examining had to be done as subtly as possible and with respect. The ladies wear a lot of layers..and I mean a lot!! Just trying to get a stethoscope near the flesh was quite a feat!
We did find some parasite infections for which we had anti parasitic drugs (purchase here as the US didn’t have the right type) and antibiotics depending on what Val, the doctor felt was required. We (Living Heart) are hoping to put water filters in the schools and then eventually into homes soon as we have now found pretty good quality filters with a good flow rate, providing plenty of clean, parasite- free water. This should hopefully help with a lot of these problems. The big issue with the filters is getting them into the country!! We are working on that.
Some of the individual, memorable consultations included an elderly man who had dropped a stone on his foot about a week prior but neither him nor his wife had understood he needed to take the antibiotics he had purchased, as part of that initial consultation with the Peruvian doctor, as well as the painkillers. It actually took us quite some time to get to the bottom of this and I had to ask his wife to go back to their house twice until we understood what he was currently taking! The problem was his foot was in quite a mess.... very swollen and infected. We had to stress to him if he didn’t start taking the antibiotics he was going to lose his foot!! We gave him a different course of antibiotics just in case one lot didn’t work and instructions on when to use them if he needed them.
Another man came in who had broken a number of his ribs and was badly bruised. He had applied a poultice of herbs, coca leaves and newspaper to hold the herbs in place. This was quite a mess when Val peeled off the newspaper! Once he had been cleaned up he was given some tiger balm..this had gone down a treat with a lot of people actually as the heat really helps alleviate the muscle pain....note to Val to bring even more next year.
The lovely elderly 100 year old man, who we saw last year, came in again and after his treatment we found a warm coat and jumper for him to take away. I could see his jeans were held together with a piece of string but unfortunately there were no jeans to fit him.
In another community we had a lovely old man with hearing difficulties which was mostly caused by wax in one ear. It was this ear that Rita was shouting in until I told her.. it did made us laugh! He got it syringed which helped.
One of the sad cases was a young child with suspected epilepsy who was unlikely to seek out a specialist and be able to afford treatment as they were very poor. This and a few other cases may need us to see if any of the other NGOs are aware of specialists around and see if there is anything we can do. This little girl was so young and you just know others will be unlikely to be treated! These are the difficult ones!!
On our last day, when the team picked me up in Pisac they had picked up another lady with a problem. Rita had become aware of her the day before. She stayed in Rita’s town so after picking her up she travelled with us to the community, got some clothes, got fed and also had the ¾ inch thorn removed from inside her ear, which had been there for 3 weeks ! She was very lucky!! It took Corey an hour and half of gently syringing to get it out. We laughed on the way back as we felt the lady’s family would be wondering where she was!!
One issue working in the schools is the lack of privacy from outside (not just inside) as the kids like to climb and peer in the windows. We chased them as much as possible and put covers over where we could. The examining beds were the desks pushed together and covered with sheets the team brought with them.
On a funnier, and cute note 2 little pet lambs came in one day and were wandering around the clinic ...were they just following their young owners......or were they looking for treatment we wondered??
So as you can see there is always plenty to challenge them with some funny moments thrown in for good measure.
On a personal note for Val she was getting money out of a cash machine one day when the electricity dipped for a minute and it kept her card! The problem was to try and retrieve it she had to phone Cusco, which a nice man beside us did for her, then Val would need to visit Cusco, wait (which takes hours) and then once they confirmed her identity someone who come to Pisac the next day (no idea when) and retrieve her card! This card had all her money in this account. I suggested she would be better to cancel it and find another way of getting cash..safer as well considering the card was still in the machine. After much debate she decided to do this.
Whilst we were at one of the communities we managed to find time to see how the new greenhouse was progressing. A few changes to the original plan had taken place but other than some minor suggestions to what they had done all seemed to be well. The community were holding a number of faenas, where all the men came (and some women) meaning construction was really moving along which was great. I’ll need to visit again soon. The children had also started germinating the seeds in the small garden area above the greenhouse. This will make a big difference as when they transplant there will be some plants well on the way. Rita is doing really well and taking her role as Project Coordinator very seriously. This is the best I have seen her and Sonia and I are both very pleased with her renewed confidence and commitment to the work.
Well I feel this blog is quite long enough! I hope I haven’t bored you all too much by providing a bit more detail...so until the next update..as soon as I can find some time to write it. (It is now way past my bedtime!!) ...Keep well everyone and live life to the full.