Wednesday, August 6, 2008

July 2008, my return

If there are actually people anxiously waiting to read my next blog, I apologize for the long can finally rest easy. Hmmm, where exactly should I start. I'm currently in Kunming....which is in China (in case you forgot). Ashkon Akesheh (a 1st year med student at UCI), Jessie Guilmette (a recreational therapist/humanitarian worker/golden flower), and I (prospective med student) arrived in Kunming on the 22nd of July. We spent our first night in Dr. Detrano's apartment and early the next morning hopped on a bus for a long 7 hour ride to Dali. Our destination was a county called Eryuan which was just northwest of Dali. Bob (the doc) had never been to Eryuan before and was interested in it as a future location for conducting research. We spent three days in Eryuan running hypertension clinics for roughly 7 hours a day. The local doctors would gain general information from each patient like age, past medical history, chief complaint (etc.) and then Jessie and I would take blood pressure measurements and calculate BMI's (body mass index). After acquiring this necessary information Bob and Ashkon would run through a full physical check up. This generally consisted of (depending on the complaint) palpating around the neck, back, and abdomen, then listening to the lungs and heart. Because we were being advertised as a hypertension clinic, you can imagine the number of people we saw with high blood pressure. I actually measured somebody as high as 276/115 and surprisingly this woman was in relatively good shape. Even after being advised by Bob to go to the local hospital she adamantly refused, took her free dosage of beta-blocker and walked home. Most of our patients were older women ranging from 70-90 years of age. We were only in Eryuan for 3 days so we had a lot of patients eagerly waiting to see us. The tension in the waiting room was clearly visible. Jessie and I on a number of occasions watched an old woman try to cheat her way in front of the line. One woman was ostracized from the group after she unsuccessfully tried to place her medical information on top of an already organized pile. We didn't know quite what they were saying to each other, but we could tell by the tone of their voices that they weren't exactly exchanging pleasantries. We're in Kunming just for one night and then we're off to Wenshan (southeast Yunnan) to do research for around 10 days. I don't know what the internet situation will be like but I'll try to write as soon as I have a chance. Enjoy the pictures and stories and I hope everyone is well.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Heading back to Yunnan

Hello blog readers! If you’ve seen the blog or spoken to me within the past 4 months you’re probably aware of my experiences in China. The 5 weeks I spent from late March to early May were truly amazing and I’m happy to announce that I’ll be continuing this journey starting July 20th for roughly 4 weeks.  I’m also excited that on this next China excursion I will not be the only student to be volunteering with the China-California Heart Watch. Along with Dr. Detrano and me, three other students will be joining us. Finally I won’t be the only one lost in translation. 
We will be carrying on hypertension research and educating village doctors in even more remote locations within Yunnan Province. Our focus will be on villages located in North West Yunnan, some bordering Tibet. Some of the highlights of my first trip can be read on earlier blogs that were submitted, but if you’re looking for a quick, abbreviated version, let me fill you in. 
Arriving in Kunming on March 26th, we immediately caught a bus north to Hui Ze County and stayed for 10 days in a township called Yi Che. From Yi Che we traveled to villages in the surrounding area gathering medical data and running cardiology clinics. We saw a very wide variety of cardiac diseases. Because our focus is hypertension, we were always keen on handing out medication and advising patients to practice preventive care. This would usually include telling patients to cut down on their salt intake, and especially to quit smoking. 
We also traveled to a village south of Kunming called Ge Bai Kong. This location was unusually scenic as it was located on the side of a mountain with a river slicing through the valley below. Other mountainside villages could be seen in the distance, separated by miles of nearly impassable terrain. Every location we traveled to we were welcomed with open arms and treated like family. Those we treated were so grateful. 
It was as if they had been neglected their entire lives and finally someone had come to help. 
Needless to say, I’m overjoyed with the opportunity to return to China and help the China California Heart Watch. Being able to practice medicine, make humanitarian contributions, and experience a culturally rich and beautiful country has been the most fruitful experience of my life…..and I get to do it all again.