Monday, March 31, 2008

The hospital.

I don't know where to start! My harrowing life threatening ride from the hotel to the hospital or the state of health care here... both of these made for a VERY interesting day.
I have driven through times square during rush hour, that in NO WAY compare to traffic here. People are yelling, honking and fighting there way into any little space they see open. There are no stop lights, traffic signs or anything. On the rare occurrence there is a sign no one pays attention to it. I almost died several times during the ride today and that is with the SWAT teams ahead and behind us trying to get us through. When things got harrowing with traffic they'd use their SUV's as protection for us from oncoming traffic by cutting the oncoming cars off. More than once I heard people yelling out their windows about the Gringo's, probably a good thing I couldn't here what else they said about us. The guards really treat us as VIP's and are very serious about their job.
Now on to my actual mission, the reason I am here! Today we went to the hospital and meet the people we'll work with and provide the education to, we set up our work area's in the OR's and ICU's. I was literally DIGGING for my equipment, I'm missing important things and I'll be up late tonight trying to figure out how to pull things together. In the hospital the ICU is brand new, this is due to a fire on a previous Cardiostart trip caused by a ventilator fire. It's actually surprising no one died, the fire had blocked the exit to the ICU and was so hot it melted the metal of the ventilator. In the end it was a good thing because the new ICU is great! The rest of the hospital is run down, with cracked walls, old broken equipment, only one out of four elevators is functional and I even saw a guy so sick he couldn't make it up the stairs and people just kept walking past. Thats how it is. Also, people here are required to pay out of pocket for care. If you are going into surgery you are required to come prepared with all the drugs needed for surgery. The patients come to the hospital with sedation drugs, pain drugs, heart drugs, or whatever is needed. If you don't bring it, you don't get it. There are some drugs in the ICU and OR for unforeseen events, but IF they are given the drug they are required to pay for it. The hospital received money and built a new cancer center here a few months ago but are unable to open it because they can't afford to pay for the staff. Its a very humbling experience. Things I take for granted are impossible here. Now I understand why donations are so important to these places.

That was my day. After getting home we all broke open the wine, cheese and crackers to celebrate arriving alive and later went out to dinner. Once again, the food is well prepared, presented with style and WONDERFUL. Good night!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Another day, another adventure.

I admit I assumed I knew what to expect while in Arequipa (pronounced air-keep-ah), I thought it would be somewhat of a 3rd world experience. Like what you see on TV and in the feed the poor commercials. I confess to being wrong with my prejudgement. Everything I expected has been incredibly incorrect. On my journey so far I have found Arequipa to be a beautiful, friendly, warm and cultural city. The views are breathtaking leading me to go way overboard with the photographs, but I just can't seem to capture what I am seeing. The camera doesn't portray the smells, colors, the attitudes, and the feeling of being here. Its frustrating! Today we went to a spot so our local Cardiostart member, Vicente, could show us some views. They reminded me of fairytales... the happily ever after moments of the stories. One canyon in particular brought the story of Jack and the Beanstalk to mind, it was the colors, clouds and mountains. I half expected to suddenly find a beanstalk growing up into the clouds.
I want to remember every moment but I'm doing so much I know I won't. Between yesterday and today I have seen so many things and participated in so many once in a life time experiences that I will never remember it all! Today I learned some more spanish, played with Alpaca, watched local weavers work, saw street jugglers, went shopping, ate strange foods and ordered things I can't pronounce (delicious by the way!!). I also sampled the Peruvian national drink, Pisco Sour, and fell in love with it! Its VERY potent stuff but almost reminds me of a Margarita or long island tea. Its made with Pisco, lemons, egg yolk whipped on the top, Cinnamon and some other ingredients. All these strange foods we may regret eating as of tomorrow! So worth it today though...
Something that I find surprising is the security we are given. We have the local SWAT (spelled SUAT here) team following us with 2 SUV's and also 2 bodyguards following us who are trained in Marshall arts such as Judo. This same group follows visiting ambassadors. Its not because they think we are at risk, in fact we are quite safe it seems. The security has been helpful in keeping us from getting run over by the INSANE drivers, getting pick pocketed and from getting lost. Also they keep us from being stupid. All this security gives us quite the entrance when we travel as a large group. In small groups usually only the bodyguards follow.
The hospital wasn't ready for us today, so we will go to work tomorrow morning. I am looking forward to it! We did meet our translators who are very sweet and friendly. Now I'm off to bed after the most amazing day. This is by far the best trip I have taken and I've only been here 2 days. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?!?

Saturday, March 29, 2008

I made it!

So here I am, in Arequipa Peru! I arrived bright and early this morning around 6:20am and was greeted by the local members of Cardiostart. I was more than happy to finally arrive after 24 hours of travel. Everything went well along the way. When I arrived in Lima I had a slight freak out session as the plane landed. That's when it hit me that I was all alone in a foreign country where I don't speak the language. I started worrying about getting through customs, getting onto my next flight and wondered what I would do if something went wrong in Lima. Figured this time mom and dad wouldn't be able to bail me out! Plus being one of the first to arrive there was no one to call from Cardiostart yet. By the time I got off of the plane I was collected, I figure what happens happens and its to late to turn around now (and I probably wouldn't of even if I could!) and I was definitely excited again.
Lima was beautiful at night. I will have to come back sometime during the day. You could see all the boats and barges on the water as we flew in and the city just kept going. The airport in Lima was nice, which is good being I had a 7 hour layover. I had problems getting checked into my next flight, they lost some of my info so that took awhile. I discovered that language is definitely going to be a barrier. Luckily so far everyone is friendly. I had my first 'adventure' in the Lima airport! Once I finally settled in there an earthquake hit! That was definitely cool, not scary. It wasn't a very big one and didn't even last a full minute... but it definitely shook things up. I was talking to the local cardiostart members and they said that here in Arequipa earthquakes are common due to the volcano's. I look forward to some more... small ones of course! The altitude hasn't affected me at all which is nice, found out I am getting 18% oxygen in the air here verses the normal 21%. Once we go on some tours we'll go higher and than I may notice the effects more.
My hotel it amazing. It is more than I had hoped for. I was lucky enough to get my own room. Its clean and quaint and has free wi-fi :) I'm an Internet junkie. There is a nice courtyard which is where I am at currently as I type this and visit with everyone. The floors here are all tiled and the building is made of white volcanic rock which is very pretty. There are bright red geraniums everywhere you look which make the white stone appear even more white. On top of the hotel you can see the city and 3 volcano's with their snow caps. Plus you can see the monastery which I hope to visit tomorrow(pics will follow).We already did a little exploring to stockpile water and see the city. I love it! I'm so glad I signed up for this. Tomorrow morning I go see the first hospital. I better get going, time to clean up, meet more people and than we are going out for dinner on the town. More to follow!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I'm off!

Well in just a few hours I will be off on my way to Peru! I'm so excited! My last few days here in Rochester have been hectic. Paper work, doctors appointments, trying to set up my next job assignment (yet to be decided upon) and packing have kept me running. On top of all that work was beyond busy on Thursday. Two of my girls and I went out for drinks Thursday night. Nothing like ending a hard shift and preparing for a big trip with some Perfect Margarita's! Well everything but my laptop is packed up and ready to go. I fly into Lima and than into Arequipa arriving Saturday early morning. I've got some long flights and layovers to look forward to tomorrow. So on my trip I plan on doing one week of adult open heart surgeries followed by one week of pediatric surgeries, I'll be managing the ventilators and post operative patients and of course I will be doing a LOT of education. I was informed that we will go into La Joya for a day and will also be spending some time at an orphanage that Cardiostart assists. A few dinners are planned along the way and also some time for me to just be a tourist. My camera is charged and sunblock ready. I'll try keep in touch along the way!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Easter Weekend

So this past weekend I made what seems like the never-ending drive (7 hours) up to my parents to spend Easter with them and to celebrate Aunt Kelly's surprise 40th birthday party. I arrived just in time to join Dad and Amy on the trip to pick up supper (pizza) at the oh so famous Lightening Bar. They decided to get some drinks, being I don't drink beer and didn't want to buy a large bottle of hard liqour I was pretty much out of luck. That is until the bartender offered me a glass of Captain Diet to go! Oh yes... the perks of small town living.
Its always nice to go home for the weekend and see the family. I don't get to see them nearly as much as I'd like. When I do make it home its always jam packed with activity so Amy and I always end up visiting with mom till 2-3 in the morning leaving us exhasted the next day. None the less we repeat the night every night we're there! I always leave totally exhasted and wiped out. After the usual whirlwind Johnson weekend I was lucky enough to fit in a night at Britta's before coming back to Rochester. For those of you haven't seen it, Britta's new house is great! A visit with Kris and Britta is always so refreshing and puts me in a great mood which is sure to last a for a few days.

Anyway, 'Baby' sister Tena took a bunch of pictures over the weekend, here are a few of them.

~Group pic of the sisters and Grandma... we almost got a smile out of her!

~Part of the Johnson crew waiting to surprise Kelly

~The sisters and brother...

~Us girls....

~A couple of the cousins

Monday, March 24, 2008

I caved...

So I finally caved and decided to start a travel blog. You will all finally have an opportunity to follow along with me on my random adventures as a Respiratory Therapist moving across the states. This could be an interesting undertaking for me! I'm not exactly known for my writing skills so I apologize in advance. For those of you who are wondering where my current location is I am staying in Rochester with some good friends while I try to cram in a few hours of work. My next adventure... Peru. I leave Friday! Well I must go, but I will try and be a good blogger and update everyone tomorrow.