Vision Salud, Salud Chacao, & Los Erasos

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A recap on the last four days:
Sunday we went to Petare with Vision Salud.  Here’s a brief rundown of who they are, what they do, and how they do it:

-Formed three years ago by students as a seed project

-Have organized over 50 ‘jornadas,’ temporary clinics set up in vulnerable areas

-Provide dental, diabetic, dietary, cardiovascular assessment, sexual education and other information to patients

-Connect patients to clinics and hospitals for further treatment and preventative care




While with them on Sunday, we helped check blood pressure and glucose levels. Patients visited the tents in the plaza, and we also went to visit some patients in their homes who were unable to make it to the plaza.




The plaza is in the center of a community on the outskirts of Petare, where many people live in “bloques.” Kind of like projects, bloques are government provided housing units sometimes up to 20 stories tall. In many ways are an improvement over typical barrio conditions. The buildings are more stable, have consistent and decently constructed electricity and plumbing.  But things don’t always work.  We were told that for about 10 years, the elevators in one nearby building were broken. Many elderly and sick people living there didn’t leave their apartments the entire time. Recently the local government installed new elevators, and it changed many peoples lives.  We took the elevator to the 16th floor and visited a 52 year old man who suffered a stroke. He doesn’t leave his apartment anymore, and he and his caretaker showed gratitude for having Andres, ourselves and others from Vision Salud attending to him in his own bedroom.


Later that day, we played basketball with paramedics and soccer with some local kids.  Suffice to say we represented our country well.




Monday we went back to the University of Simon Bolivar to practice extraction and rescue techniques with the firefighters. We learned to use the Jaws of Life and the Halligan Bar.  In the afternoon, Seth celebrated his birthday Bombero style by standing at attention and being drenched with a hose.




Tuesday we split up for the first time.  Ethan and Seth went to the Hospital Ortopedico Infantil and Terence went with the paramedics in the ambulances of Venemergencia. Getting to know the paramedics was great, and they are helping us get experiences with other emergency services in Caracas.  We hope to join the Bomberos of Miranda State and the ambulance service in the Baruta Municipality to see how their public services operate.  We’re told “La estructura del sede esta malisimo, pero la calidad del trabajo, buenisimo.” (The structure of the seat is terrible, but the quality of work is superb.)


In the evening, we began our second week of the EMT course. We covered patient history, and the differences between medical and trauma assessment and transport.




Wednesday we had our first day at Salud Chacao, the ambulance service that covers the Chacao municipality. Taking turns on calls, we rode with paramedics in their brand new ambulance, a rig larger than most in the states. Back in the station, we talked with the nurses that receive the patients. The ambulance garage is actually part of a small clinic that can stabilize patients before they decide which hospital they can transport them to. On a city-wide scale, it’s like a large triage bay, where patients are brought in and then redirected.




Back at the office, we finished the first draft of a survey that will be distributed throughout the barrio where we are going to teach the first responder courses. The survey includes questions about what they consider to be a health emergency, the response capacity of the community, what obstacles they see to accessing healthcare, and what they think could be the solution. Their responses will be invaluable as we decide how to proceed and how the project is being received by the community.


That night, we visited Los Erasos for the first time. Walking with manikins up the main road of the barrio with our hosts, we were introduced to young men and women that had heard about the project. Near the center of the community, we came to the “sala de usos multiples,” a building that served as a school, a neighborhood meeting room, and the outlet for our project as well. Having gathered a small crowd, we went inside and gave a presentation about the project. The meeting was only one of many that were being given to build interest in the volunteer brigade. Every week for the past month, Andres had been visiting this same community, and every week, another crowd came to listen. After gathering names, we taught a short lesson on the basics of CPR practiced compressions with the prospective students. Maybe it was just us, but we left excited for what the next few weeks would bring.