¡Hola! This is my third week in Tarija, Bolivia.
This past week was a more in depth healthcare experience. I volunteered at a clinic that specializes in chagas, an infectious disease that is more recurrent in latin American countries, and that is thought it affects more than 50% of the city’s population.
I spent this week learning about this disease, the organs it affects, the treatment available, counter effects of the medicine, and the extreme cases of the disease that can lead to death. I also learned that for most people, when they hear chagas, they immediately relate it to death.
Many of the patients who were diagnosed when I was in the clinic would cry as soon as the doctor handed out the results. I was able to learn an extremely important part of being a health professional- dedramatise the disease.
As explained by the two doctors I was able to work with, people in this country have many wrong beliefs of chagas, such as being transmitted by saliva, making the parasite “angry” when taking the treatment and therefore experiencing counter effects, and even some supervisors do not hire people who have the disease.
I had the opportunity to learn so early in my career that it is crucial for doctors to not only help the patient with their physical health, but also help them be comfortable, help them understand their disease, refute the lies and tabu about it, and take care of their mental care.
I took this picture right after seeing a patient who was finishing the chagas treatment. He is a father of two, he provides the only income for his family, and he is a strong individual who decided to do the treatment. He said he did it for his family, and even though it meant the possibility of having counter effects, he could not risk leaving his family alone.
The doctor explained to me that he was very hesitant about the treatment, because one of the restrictions of the treatment is not being exposed to the sun light, and he is a police officer, so he had to give up his job for two months.
The doctor had to explain to him everything about the treatment, about treating the side effects, the complications that could result in the future. The doctor had to reassure him, and take care of the patient’s mental health. I realized the importance that a physician has, the importance of the connection between a doctor and her/his patients.