Medical Personnel from the States
This summer, the Ajoya clinic was able to function more effectively than ever before, thanks to a highly varied and capable staff.
Dr. Kent Benedict, resident in pediatrics at Stanford, who in early July brought little Manuel back to Ajoya after his surgery, stayed with us until September. Kent—or “Andres” as we dubbed him—has a straight forward and easy going manner essential to survival here. Above all, he is able to shift gears from a modern American hospital to a back woods Mexican clinic with a facility many American doctors find difficult.
Jim DiSalvo, a third year medical student, and his wife Lana, also helped in the clinic in June and July.
Angela Fogg, who has been working on her doctorate in microbiology at Stanford, took charge of our simple lab; and through analysis of urine, stool, blood, sputum and skin samples, helped greatly in diagnoses. Her most valuable assistance, perhaps, was in pinning down malaria. There has been a severe outbreak this rainy season, with cases in at least eight of the lower villages. Our first definite case this summer, we misdiagnosed until Angie found the parasites on a blood smear. It is, of course, important that malaria be treated early, as it can be devastating or even fatal. A number of children have been brought to our clinic with permanent brain damage said to have resulted during bouts of very high fever, conceivably malaria. Malarial fever can be extreme. One delirious eight year old boy brought in on mule back by his brother from eight miles away, had a temperature of 107.6F: Angie found his blood loaded with Plasmodium vivax.
Carol Plant, a medical secretary from New York City, also joined the summer staff. She assisted energetically in many of the clinical chores and helped establish a record file on patients. For the first time we were able to keep accurate tabs on the total number of patient visits. The figures proved more impressive than I had estimated. Within the first fifty days we saw over 1000 patients, with nearly 2000 consultations, counting return visits-. . . an average of forty patients a day in the lower clinic alone. Hopefully, Carol will return this autumn. In any case, she and Angie plan to be here over Christmas.
During most of the summer the upper dispensary at El Zopilote was staffed by Allison Akana, a former student of mine from Pacific High School, who has come twice previously. A native Hawaaian, Allison won the reputation among the summer staff at the Ajoya clinic as the “Wonder Girl” for her fearless efficiency in a variety of clinical procedures. At 19, with most of high school and a few junior college courses in biology and physiology behind her, she is surprisingly able. Not only can she now conduct the clinic, but with a sure hand has learned to suture wounds, place IVs, give nerve blocks and extract teeth. Most important, she has won the love and admiration of the villagers from Ajoya to El Zopilote. We are considering opening a “mid-way” first aid station in the village of Chilar, where Allison would be in charge and, hopefully, train one of the village girls to take over. The village is unanimously for it and offers to fix up a special casa.
This September, a week after most of the summer staff had left and only Allison and I remained, Joe Humphry, a fourth year medical student at the University of California who spent the summer of ‘69 with us, returned for three weeks during semester break, thus helping us to keep both dispensaries staffed.
Bob and Dorothy Steiner, who worked tirelessly in the Ajoya Clinic from last Autumn until Spring, hope to return this January.