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Kurt Schapira - Medicine in Sri Lanka

Don't fall down the drain!

When I first scheduled this experience, I didn't really know what to expect. I knew it would be really hot here and that the hospitals would not be the same as the West, but that's about all I really came here thinking.

My first experience at Panadura Base Hospital was walking into the admissions area and seeing about 100 people in a room that should hold about 25. And it would have been worse if I stood out and everyone was staring....yeah.... After that initial shock, then going into the wards and recovering from another shock, the hospital is actually quite pleasant. All of the doctors are willing to chat and the patients are alright with me doing examinations, so that was comforting.

With local kids

After getting over all the differences between here and Western hospitals (open wards with cats walking around, few machines, flies, stainless steel gurneys) the treatment the people receive is the same. Like when I was in surgery: there's really only one way to remove an appendix. And even if you fall into a sewer and pass out on the sidewalk, they'll treat you very well.

After Base I went to Kethumathie, a woman's hospital. Since I don't have much OB experience, I knew I was going to learn a lot. And did I ever? Not even just facts, but after seeing a bunch of childbirths you tend to think about pregnancy differently. I was very lucky to be able to see that though; that would be much harder to do back home. The baby clinic was interesting too because we see about 50 babies in an hour and 45 minutes. The doctors still took great care, even with the crowding, and it was fun because the babies are just like adults, except tiny and they pee a lot.

I'm now in Karapitya Teaching Hospital near Galle. I've only been there one day, but I think I'll get to see a lot. It's much different and bigger than the last two hospitals, so I expect great things.

The rest of my time here has been a mixture of getting to know the other volunteers, seeing Sri Lanka, and playing hours of mafia (it's always the German.) The people here are great overall, even if they do stare and insist that the local tuk tuk price is 1,000 Rs to go across the street. If I ever do get frustrated with everyone asking me where I'm going, I just remember the random Sri Lankan farmer who saved us from the leeches. Because leeches are not cool, man. Not cool.

Kurt Schapira

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