We played this a lot as kids—as I recall, with either Molly or that huge doll Heidi as the patient. I think Anna was usually the nurse and I, of course, was the doctor—that’s what bossy older sisters do. It’s a darn good thing I got the practice. I’ve needed it this week! So, one of the things that confused me about the school the first little while here was that whenever one of the students was injured, within a day or so they were on a bus home. I understood with things like broken ankles and back injuries but the infected scrapes or the rashes had me puzzled. “You’re sending them home to get a Band-Aid!?” I thought. Now I understand.
First, the medical supplies at the school are limited to rolls of gauze [the old fashioned kind, heck, they might even just wash it out between uses], ridiculously sticky fabric tape, and an industrial-sized bottle of iodine. No Neosporin, no painkillers, no Ace bandages, nothing. Second, the “nurse” is by default whatever female happens to be within shouting distance when the injury occurs, none of whom have had any sort of medical training, and most of whom are not particularly good around blood.
This week, one of the kids [Markos] stuck his hand in the forrajero [the maching that chops up the elephant grass for the cows.] Not pretty. Por suerte he was actually wearing the gloves they’re supposed to have on [haven’t managed to convince them of the need for eye protection yet] though they’re pretty much non functional now as three of the fingers were ripped completely off—the glove’s, not his. He escaped with a missing fingernail and a couple loose flaps of skin. [this photo is from Day 5, but you get the idea]
AnaMaria, the aforementioned nearest female, poured some iodine on it, wrapped it in gauze and sent him back to work. I tried to just stay out of it, but a day and a half later, when the third wrap of gauze was soaked with blood and oozing grossness, I casually asked if there was any sort of antiseptic on it. Nope. Back at my kitchen table, I spent a good 20 minutes disentangling the non-non-stick gauze from his shredded finger, and nearly an hour [no joke] the next day picking out the bits of gauze that had been “healing” into the mess. Needless to say, he loved the alcohol treatment, but the red streaks that were starting up the back of his hand are gone now.
Since then, I have treated a student who stepped on a nail, one who sliced his ankle open on barbed wire and one who very nearly took off the top of his thumb with a machete [thanks, Dad, for demonstrating exemplary butterfly bandage technique for that one]. I actually had to purchase more non-stick gauze, tape and alcohol when I was in Asuncion this weekend.
The thing that’s a little unnerving [and a bit humbling when I stop to think about it] is how many things I am an “expert” in here. How simply having had a first-aid course and anatomy makes me the resident nurse, simply being an education student puts me in charge of curriculum design etc. etc. Makes me feel keenly both the weight of my opportunities and the importance of never losing sight of the knowledge and skills and experience and perspective that those who aren’t considered “experts” can offer.