Monday of our first week finally arrived which meant it was time to head out to clinic! We run clinics every week to different Ngäbe villages in the surrounding area and we make sure to visit the same village every 3 months so we can follow up on care. This week was a multi-day clinic week which is when we go to villages that are so far from base that we stay overnight so we can run multiple days of clinic.
The morning starts with some coffee on the dock of base watching the sunrise before breakfast. After breakfast all the volunteers grab their travel bags and head to the pharmacy to start loading the cayuco. Because we want to be as close to a fully functioning mobile clinic as we can, we bring a literal boatload of supplies including medications, wound care supplies, giveaways (i.e. toothbrushes, soap, hand sanitizer), and boxes of enriched rice for malnourished children. You get a weightlifting workout working at FD.
Once the cayuco is loaded we all pile into the boat and set off for our first destination. This week our first village was Nance de Risco. It’s a beautiful village nestled in the mountains. To get there we have to take a boat to the main port city (Almirante) then hop in multiple vans that take you up winding dirt roads to get to the village. As soon as we arrived we started to unpack the vans and get straight to work setting up our clinic.
Every clinic day starts with a huddle where the clinic manager (Jack) gives announcements and assigns roles for the day. Nica and I started our day running the intake station which entails getting basic medical history from each patient, collecting vital signs, and asking the patients briefly what they want to discuss with the provider.
After a lunch break, Nica and I got close to finishing all the intake patients and began to transition to a provider role which we had been so excited about since our first time coming to floating doctors as first-year medical students in 2019. We finally got to use years of studying and work to provide for these patients in the highest capacity we could. We saw everything from bread and butter hypertension & diabetes to tropical GI parasites and festering wound care. And a plethora of OBGYN care. One of the new improvements that we noticed was the incorporation of public health education for the communities. This included teaching villagers about prevention of dehydration and lifestyle management for chronic conditions. These charlas (discussions) have the potential to make long lasting impacts in the communities.
After a long day of clinic, we begin to pack things up and start winding down our day. The next goal on everybody’s mind is to get the sweat and grime off with a clean shower. Well the closest thing we have to that is a river running through the village. We all pack up our shower gear and hike to the river for a refreshing dip.
It’s finally about dinner time and we are starving. At every multi-day clinic we have a family who we hire to cook our food for us for the days we are there. We bring our own ingredients in a Yeti cooler. Meals typically consist of a grain (rice or quinoa), chicken, and beans or lentils. The food is always excellent and there is a local hot sauce called Bocas Sauce that is delicious and a staple of spending time with Floating Doctors (or in Bocas del Toro in general).
We also got a special treat in the Rio Oeste village where our amazing clinic manager Jack is from. Rio Oeste is a large producer of cacao and sells incredible, fresh cacao in numerous forms (nibs, baking bars, tea). The cacao was incorporated into all of our meals there which was incredible.
Last but not least it’s time to sleep. Earlier in the day we had set up our hammocks in local ranchos or buildings so we could sleep through the night. I can’t say it’s the most restful sleep ever but it really is an experience you never forget. Although we all could’ve done without the loud barking dogs and roosters at odd hours of the night.
After two days in Nance de Risco and one day in Rio Oeste (three hammock nights total) we finally head back to base. We round the week out by doing some chores around base (restocking the pharmacy and supplies for the next clinic, filling prescriptions, etc.) Then on Friday we are free to head into Bocas town to enjoy the weekend to ourselves!