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Tuesday, May 17, 2016: Another long, yet satisfying day

The 5:30am sunlight hits my face as my hand searches for the snooze button on my phone. I take a lukewarm shower, don my scrubs, chug two bottles of water, and fill the numerous pockets on me with essential items I will need for the clinic: tissues, a notepad, a pen, a pack of chewing gum, snacks, hand sanitizer, and mosquito repellant. I make my way up to the balcony to spend a few peaceful minutes looking out over the beautiful landscape. Two volcanos poke their way above the sprawling tree line, their enormity not lessened by their distance from the house. The smaller of the two volcanos gently smokes, seemingly oblivious to the city underneath it that is slowly buzzing to life. I shut my eyes and listen to the ambient sounds of Calle de Agua: the two-stroke motorcycles, merchants hawking their wares, barking stray dogs, and the cock-a-doodle-doo’s of roosters heralding a new morning. I try to rest and collect my thoughts for another long, yet satisfying day.

I hear Samantha telling everyone to get in the vans. I open my eyes, pick up my bag, and grab a window seat. Today, we are in a different clinic in Masagua, a few miles from yesterday’s clinic. The pharmacy, consultation rooms, vital signs area, and dental room face inwards upon a large courtyard (really a basketball court) where patients have gathered. An awning protects the patients from the glaring sun. The overall atmosphere is cooler albeit more humid than yesterday. We have just enough time to set our stuff down before we begin our shifts.

My first shift is in the pharmacy. We have to unpack boxes of medicine and set up the room so that we can quickly help the local pharmacist find the patient’s medicine. A small standing fan cuts the heat and humidity so that we can work in relative comfort. Working in the pharmacy is like playing a game of “Where’s Waldo”- can you find the correct drug quickly among the multitude of shelves?

My second shift is taking vital signs for the several hundred patients who visit. I had some trouble during the first clinic day taking blood pressure but today goes much smoother. I only have trouble finding the blood pressure of one patient: a 107-year-old woman who constantly chats to me in rapid Spanish. Despite my limited Spanish, I still try to talk with the patients. One thing that transcends language barriers: “it’s HOT”.

My final shift is in the dental clinic with Dr. Claudia. I walk in the room and give her a firm handshake and introduce myself. Unfortunately, she thinks my name was Roberto. She’s currently in the middle of injecting a small boy with anesthesia in preparation to pull his upper right incisor, but he’s squirming too much to get the needle in his mouth. I empathetically wince as I remember getting eight of my teeth pulled. He asks Dr. Claudia to pull his tooth out without anesthesia but he balks as soon as the forceps touch his tooth and begs for anesthesia again.

We end the day on a positive note. Operations in the clinic proceeded smoothly, and we were able to leave the clinic early. Back at the house, I am sitting outside, looking out over the landscape covered in fog, and eagerly awaiting dinner. The weather is perfect, the sounds are soothing, the view is stunning, and I am helping people in need. It’s too bad we’re only staying here for 8 days and not 8 months.

- Revanth Vadlamudi, Humanity First student volunteer

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