Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Jamaica Jammin': The Medical & Dental Clinic

My blog has been a bit neglected lately - but no worries, mon….

I've been in Jamaica - for my annual dental/medical clinic mission trip, and as Bob Marley says, "every little thing is gonna' be alright."

Pardon me if I throw more Bob Marley at you, because he's pretty much STUCK IN MY BRAIN - and has been for the past week. Don't get me wrong - I LOVE Bob Marley…but 24 hours a day, pretty much, for seven days in a row…gah. Over and over and over and over again…Jamaica LOVES to play their beloved Bob Marley at every opportunity, and so I'm soon headed to a Bob Marley detox program to get him OUT OF MY HEAD.

Until then, I'm not going to worry about a thing…cuz every little thing is gonna' be all right.



The trip. Let's talk about the trip.

Today, I want to talk about the work, because, really, that's why we go. The work.

The team this year consisted of approximately twelve people…and Jesus.

Well, in full disclosure, that's not REALLY Jesus, duh, but that's what some of the local Jamaicans called him. I guess he sorta' bears a resemblance. He's actually a nurse, so in a way, he DOES heal…right?

A doctor, a dentist, nurses, and a dental assistant and hygienist…and the pharmacist. I can't forget the pharmacist, because #1. she's very important, and #2. she's reading this, so she'd kill me if I forgot to mention her, and so that's why I threw in the part about her being very important. She's my roommate when I go on these trips, so I gotta' do what I gotta' do to keep her happy, or there could be hell to pay next year. Snicker.

Anyway…here's a photo of the pharmacist and I from LAST year's trip:

We pretty much look the same THIS year, so no worries.

Ack. More Bob. Sorry.

After we've gathered our medical professionals, we head to a small clinic located in Falmouth, Jamaica…on the northern side of the island, midway between Montego Bay and Ochos Rios:

I managed to find a pretty cool (and short) tour of the clinic on YouTube that another team did…it will give you a walk-through of the facilities with good explanations of what goes on in each room:

Tour of the Clinic on YouTube

In case you don't want to watch the video (and really, you should…#1. it's a great tour, and #2. it's short. Win-win.) here's a quick photo tour of the clinic:

Intake Room/Triage Area…height, weight, vitals are checked here...

The patients are then moved to the Waiting area:

They are then assigned to either one of these three examination rooms for medical treatment:

…or they go back to the Dental clinic:

Their last stop, if necessary, is the Pharmacy, where they can pick up antibiotics or diabetes medications:

As you can see, it's pretty basic. The equipment is basic, as a lot of it has been donated by previous medical teams, but we do what we can with what we have. Once you've worked here, you get a HUGE appreciation for medical services back in the States…trust me.

We usually open the clinic around 7:30 or so each morning…and by the time we arrive, there will be dozens and dozens of Jamaicans lined up on the outside porch, as it's a first-come, first-served operation. Some of the patients will tell us that they arrived at the clinic as early as 5:00 a.m. in the morning to insure that they were seen. Wow. I can't even imagine.

It's not a free clinic. Oh, our services are free - we donate them - but the local church who runs the clinic charges small fees to the patient to pay for the water, electricity and taxes on the building. This is a snapshot of the fees from last year; rumor has it that the fees were increased this year, but I didn't get to take a photo to confirm:

Keep in mind that this sign is in Jamaican currency…divide the numbers by 100 and you'll get a fair idea of the costs…$3 for an office visit, $10 to pull a tooth, etc.

When the patient arrives, they are met in a Triage area, where our nurses do a quick intake - obtaining their chief complaint, their vitals, and medication allergies. They're then directed into one of the examining rooms to be seen by a physician or nurse, or back to the dental clinic for a cleaning, filling or extraction. We knew we were in for an extraction when a patient complained of the "shaky teeth" - which meant that a tooth was really, really loose and needed to come out. We love shaky teeth. They come out quick and clean. It's when a tooth needs to come out and it's imbedded that can lead to loads of fun. Not. There was a gentleman, Bunny, who took over 2 hours to get a tooth out. Yowza. Bunny wasn't so hoppy when he left, poor guy.

As far as the medical team, their biggest population are folks who come in complaining of "the sugar" or the "pressure" - i.e., diabetes or high blood pressure. When you see the diet that some of these folks have (and I'll be doing a post on that later), you really see why they have medical conditions. Eep. The diet is horrible.


We'll see as many patients as we can until we break for lunch, usually around noon…and after a quick bite to eat, we're back to work until 5:00 pm or so. However, there was one evening this year when the dental clinic stayed open late, not finishing up until 9:00 pm. I was beat.

Some have asked what it is that I do, in particular, as I'm NOT a medical professional. Well, I assist in the Dental clinic…my primary job is to sterilize and sort the tools and instruments, but I also comfort patients, entertain children, assemble the dental goodie bags, keep the music playing so everyone can relax, and take photographs of everyone so we have a record of what we did.

Here's a photo of my area, which shows the Autoclave (pressure chamber) that I use for sterilization, although I like to call it the Easy Bake Oven:

I swear I'm going to put a cake mix in that thing one of these days, just to see what would happen.

Here's a photo from last year of me at work…and again, I pretty much look the same this year (even the same scrubs), so it will give you an idea of what I do:

Here are some photos of the folks hard at work during the week, along with some of our AWESOME patients:

Our dentist, Pam and her assistant, Trish, would either pull or fill the teeth...

Our hygienist, Mary K, calming the fears of a young patient before a cleaning…

The Pink Sunglasses provided great eye protection for our patients…as well as a few smiles and giggles...

There's not one, but TWO air-conditioner units in the dental clinic, and Pam and Trish like to use them to their full advantage. I swear that the temperature every day was 50 degrees in that clinic; I not only froze, but our patients would chill up with "the bumps" (goosebumps) when they walked in. We managed to get our hands on some blankets, and I spent a lot of time draping the patients in them so they wouldn't get the bumps. I think I had a permanent case of the bumps before the trip was over; I DO know that I got a terrible cold during the week.

I mentioned music earlier…I brought a Bluetooth speaker this year, and played music in the clinic for everyone's enjoyment. It became increasingly evident that Bob Marley was much more popular with the Jamaicans than, say, Eric Clapton or the Moody Blues. Go figure. So, when we had a particularly nervous patient in the clinic, I'd pop in Bob and we'd be jammin'. Toes would be tappin', and some patients sang along - all while dental tools and dentist hands were in their mouth. No worries.

The hours were long, the work was hard, but the smiles and hugs were what made it all worthwhile. Sleep was easy to come by at night, when you're exhausted…although for some strange reason, my dreams were jammin' to Bob Marley all night long.



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