Half-Way Point

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Last night we returned to Los Erasos to give a final talk about the upcoming brigade course. Over forty people attended, representing a subset of the total who have signed up to take the course. We’re scheduled to host the program at IESA (Instituto de Estudios Segundarias en Administracion), a nearby business school, where we have room to teach some forty students. After our meeting at Los Erasos last night, Andres said with a smile across his face, “Can you imagine what it will be like to have the doors [to the classrooms] swung open, with people overflowing into the halls?” It’s a clear possibility. At least it’s a good problem to have, and we can always get back-up from Venemergencia and the Bomberos if our student-instructor ratio climbs too high.

The official sign-up for the brigade course is this coming Monday night at 7pm. Everyone who attends will pay 30 BFs (about $7), which is more of a sign of commitment than a tuition fee. (The first responder guides we print out and give to each student cost 120 BFs a piece, and there are numerous other costs that A Tu Lado and the Fundacion are covering.) Of the seven days we teach, students are required to attend at least 5 in order to receive their certificate of completion. Because many of the students have young children, we’re arranging for help with transportation and child-care.

As we prepare for this next portion of A Tu Lado’s project, we’ve had to rearrange our days to make extra time. Today was our last day in the Hospital Ortopedico Infantil (HOI), where we’ve been attending surgeries, learning about patients entering and exiting states of anesthesia, and helping make plaster casts. Our time at HOI has been very helpful in building a picture of healthcare in Venezuela, and we’ve learned a great deal.

After our morning at HOI, Andres and Amelia, another member of the Fundacion Venemergencia, picked the three of us up to attend an inauguration for a new hospital clinic in San Jose, one of the city’s largest and most central barrios. The hospital itself is a public institution, but their newest addition, an eye cancer clinic for children, was funded through the Locatel Foundation. This facility houses Latin America’s only equipment that fully eradicates lesions of eye cancer, saving not only the eye, but also the vision. Speaking with these doctors and entrepreneurs and seeing their facility was an enjoyable experience, and after telling them about our own work, we hope to have found some new allies.

Tonight was the last night of our EMT education course. Looking back on the program over the past three weeks, we can say without hesitation that we have come a long way. At first, some of the paramedics were skeptical of the program. But after the initial classes, they saw that although they had an advanced understanding of many complex emergency procedures, they were unfamiliar with what North Americans consider basic skills. Our course filled these gaps in for them, as we covered CPR, AED use, initial and secondary patient assessments, an exhaustive lesson on ABCED, extrications, and numerous simulations on each of these. Alongside the successes of this program, we have also come away with some lessons and areas for improvement. Because we adapted this course to fit a short time-frame, we could not complete the entire EMT curriculum that a course covers in the United States. While we did does cover Basic Life Support (BLS), we did not run a complete program in itself, and our course’s role in EMS education is still being determined. In January 2012, A Tu Lado, Fundacion Venemergencia and the Bomberos at USB are launching a 180-hour EMT-B program, called PAME-B (Proveedor de Auxilios Medicos Emergencias, Basico). Our experience with our three week program is highly valuable in helping us shape the PAME-B course, as well as approaching the Los Erasos program with more adaptability.

- Terence