Day 20

Woof, I slept well last night. That wine tour really did me dirty. This morning, for the first time in about two weeks (thanks, Safari), I was able to sleep in! After a slow wake-up (something you take for granted until you don’t have it… ever), I went with Tess, Morgan (not Morganne), Sarah, Sophia, and Georgia (all Connectors from various places) to brunch at Tashas to celebrate Sophia’s birthday! Tashas is on the V&A Waterfront and has a delicious Spanish-inspired brunch menu. Their old school omelet was yum and their fruit platter was stunning: guava, banana, mango, kiwi, dragon fruit, etc.

After a hearty breakfast, Tess and I went to see Ocean’s 8 and, man, that was a badass movie filled with a lot of badass actresses. Big fan. If you’re into crime/heist/action movies or just love to watch some famous women tear it up, I’d definitely recommend it. Sandra Bullock is an absolute queen.

On our way out of the V&A mall, we ventured into their Steve Madden store to check out their winter styles. Surprisingly, not unlike literally everything else here, the shoes were SO inexpensive! Some were on sale for R 399 which translates to $29.75 and I don’t think a single pair cost over $150 USD! I don’t really understand the world economy except I did benefit from it, scoring some cute shoes for cheap.

For dinner tonight, I met up with Nanki, Roxy, and Lauren, three girls from UVA all working on a public health projection Khayelitsha. My cousin actually worked on this same project two years ago, so hearing what they were up to after she’s gone was really cool! They’re basically conducting interviews and helping with support groups/an eventual community center in Town Two, a neighborhood of Khayelitsha. We went to Asoka, one of my favorites, for their delicious tapas and live music on Sunday nights. All three of them were so interested in everything I’m doing and me in their projects. We ended up staying for three hour talking all about experiences in Khayelitsha and how our fields overlapped. It was also nice to be surrounded by UVA students for the first time in a while because we could use the same lingo, talk about school life and studies, have a lot of the same friends, etc.

Anyways, after a lovely day filled with incredible food, it’s time for Grey’s Anatomy and some sleep. Goodnight to all and the Xhosa word of the day is “town”: dolophu.

Day 1

This morning my alarm went off at 6:30 and I sprung out of my bed ready for the first day of work!! Just kidding… the alarm did go off at 6:30 but I struggled to tear myself out of bed before 6:45 when I proceeded to run around making my breakfast before racing downstairs to catch my 7am shuttle. I arrived at 7:01 only to realize the shuttle actually left at 7:20. Wonderful start.

After a packed ride to Khayelitsha (4 other interns in the clinic and 1 elsewhere in the township) as the sun rose, we arrived to the clinic. I’m not sure what I expected but it definitely wasn’t what I saw. The township of Khayelitsha has grown from 400,000 to 2.4 million people in the last ten years with 50% under the age of 19. Additionally, 70% of residents live in temporary housing (shacks). If you Google this township, the pictures will speak for themselves. It’s nothing short of devastating.

The six of us entered the clinic, eagerly observing our surroundings. After meeting the facilities manager, David, we were given a tour around the facility’s six units: Dental, Emergency, Maternity, Pediatrics, HIV/TB, and OPD (outpatient care). While the single-story buildings may seem small from the inside, they’re packed wall-to-wall, seeing 45,000 patients every month (one of THREE clinics in Khayelitsha). I was most struck by the differences in sanitation and technology. Sinks were scattered across the facility and some medical materials came in individual sterilized packages but, for the most part, it lacked resemblance to any American health facility where Purell dispensers are stationed every three feet. As for technology, all patient files are on paper. Throughout the entire clinic, I spotted five computers and only two of those were in actual units (the other three were in administrative offices). At first glance, I was shocked that a health center of this caliber had such a huge capacity, but I soon came to realize that the passion and drive carried by every staff member pushed this clinic beyond its physical boundaries.

After a quick introduction to some of the heads of departments, I was placed alongside Austin (one of the other Connect interns) in the Emergency Unit. After meeting the other two interns working in the same unit (from Mercer), they told us some stories from yesterday when they started working. However, yesterday all ten beds were full and today they were almost all empty. The first hour this morning were pretty much spent standing around and waiting for cases. However, around ten things picked up as we watched the one doctor on staff set three bones (humerus, tibia, and ulna) and put them all in casts. The ulna was actually a compound fracture with a puncture wound as well so she set him in two places as well as stitched up his wounds before putting him in a temporary cast and sending him to the bone specialist at the local hospital. On that note, most patients in the Emergency Unit are transferred to the hospital for further treatment after temporary care in the clinic.

After a few lunch breaks (everybody at the clinic takes lunch breaks as well as shorter ~tea breaks~), we continued to literally watch over the doctor’s shoulder as she did consultations and tended to patients. Most everybody who came in (all lovingly called “Mama” or “Tata”) received fluids or oxygen and had nurses (“sisters”) attending to them. One girl came in with hot water burns that needed to be dressed, another man had a stab wound that needed stitches, and, finally, a woman needing resuscitation (who lived!). All in all, I was pretty quickly thrown in the ring and was lucky to see some serious cases. The staff members were all so gracious to welcome in untrained interns but let us know what they were doing and taught on the go, even if that meant switching languages from the native Xhosa (a clicking language!! pronounced here) to English.

Around 3:30, we headed back into Cape Town all sharing stories about our days and the different cases we saw. Now, after a trip to the gym, a warm shower, and a viewing of Tangled, I’m ready to hit the hay and prepare for another wonderful day tomorrow. Sala kakuhle! (ya ok I had to look that one up but the Xhosa will come eventually)