Dr. Mary Blair-Giscombe, resident physician in pediatrics at the University of Arizona in Tucson, spent three weeks volunteering at Project HOPE’s maternal and child health clinic in Monte Plata, Dominican Republic. Dr. Blair-Giscombe’s husband, Wendell Lewis, joined her and helped by volunteering at Project HOPE’s warehouse in the Dominican Republic.
The deployment had been a long time coming. We completed a 24 hour road trip from Tucson to fly out of Atlanta, Georgia. We only had one layover before we landed in a muggy and hot Las Americas Airport in Santo Domingo where we met Teresa Narvaez, Project HOPE’s Country Director for the Dominican Republic, to take us to Monte Plata. Taking a deep breath, I knew we were in for a great adventure.
We raced through the crowded and busy streets of Santo Domingo encountering vastly different surroundings from what we were used to in Tucson. The streets were filled with cars, limited traffic signs and people peddling their wares. My husband Wendell kept asking me to translate Spanish phrases he was seeing and snapping photos of the journey. We finally made it to Monte Plata, a starkly different environment. We pulled up to our new home next to Orden of Malta Clinica de Monte Plata!
On my first day at the clinic, I was introduced to the supervisor, nurses and other clinic staff. I spent the rest of the morning with Dr. Rodriguez, a physician from Cuba. I was exposed to my first case of Dengue Fever. Dengue Fever was not what I would have imagined, until I began reading about this virus which is spread by mosquitoes.
Most of the diagnosis was made by physical exam and history of pain in the bones, fatigue, eye pain and fever. My mind was blown by the facility’s ability to quickly complete complicated blood work, fill a prescription and have the patient on the road to recovery. My first day was definitely an introduction to the way medicine is practiced in rural Dominican Republic.
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