by Sarah Jeyaprakash
After a lock in at the school until two in the morning, we were all packed and ready for the airport. We finally arrived in San Marcos at four that day, with a transit in El Salvador and a four hour drive from San Pedro Sula, in between.
San Marcos has a population of about 15,000. It is located on the west of Honduras near the borders of Guatemala and El Salvador. It is beautiful. TINY but beautiful. It is surrounded by trees and mountains and has such a community feel. This can especially be seen in the people. And even more so in our host family. They are lovely! Our host dad is also the main technician of the hospital who we will work with, so hopefully we will establish a really good relationship with him this coming month. This said, San Marcos has needed some getting used to.
I shall talk you through last Monday, our first day at the hospital. We had breakfast at the early hour of 6.15 and at that point we were very optimistic. Within hours I think the day turned into one of the most bizarre/ frustrating/ clueless/ draining days of my life! Lillian is my lovely partner for the month, who will work with me in the hospital, I will get a picture up of her soon. Anyway, Lillian and I were faced with more challenges than we were expecting at once! I learnt huge amounts of Spanish in Costa Rica, but I was not expecting such a huge jump into such a pool of confusion. I had to immensely concentrate to follow what anyone was saying, and still, I think I only caught about 50%. Their fast pace of speech and my utter confusion even seemed to amuse them. While being taken around the hospital, we were instantly shocked to see how limited in resources it was. The worst news I heard that day I think was that the hospital had not had a working incubator in a whole year!!! After more confusion of what our purpose was, there was the realisation of the huge challenge we had before us, the realisation we really had a huge responsibility to fix all the broken equipment. The day of cultural barriers and general challenge of meeting new people, was over we were back home and overwhelmed beyond belief.
The week has improved exponentially by the day. I am having conversations with my host family without them having a perplexed look on their face, in fact I think we now are even making each other laugh. Lillian and I have made a home in host family’s house, as well as established mark with our belongings in the maintenance department, who have definitely warmed to us. Our plan of attack is to inventory every department in the hospital, get to know each department and in the meantime see what is actually broken. You’ll be surprised by how much each department will claim things are fine until you literally start pointing to things. We have now visited many departments, have gained some of their trust and have a very long list of equipment that needs fixing. The best thing about the week has been when we finally fix something. We’ve had our hands on BP apparatuses, Nebulizers, Pumps and my favourite fix so far is an Infant Warmer!
Despite Lillian and I warming to this town and our family so rapidly, the challenges we are facing are big. Some of them are things you readers can help us with. We find a machine and there is no manual for miles and no trace of it on the internet. We finally find what the problem is with the machine and its about 200 pounds to replace the part and fix. I also haven’t mentioned yet that the nearest place to buy parts is 4 hours away! However, for me personally, the thing that is disturbing me most is that there is no working incubator. The doctors and nurses in paediatrics don’t even seem to complain about it, just look at you with a tired look. Last Friday, there was a tiny premature baby with pneumonia, and the best they could do with it was wrap it in four or five layers of blankets. We have definitely become Team ‘We must fix, find or build and incubator by any means’. When you can, please look at the website Lillian has set up on behalf of both of us. We really want to do as much as we can for Hospital San Marcos.