Well, I've been terrible about keeping this blog updated... although I guess the guilt associated with that is based on the assumption that people actually read this, which may or may not be true. Either way, my bad, potential readers!
Okay, so, onto the good stuff.
I've been going to the Thimpu hospital for the past couple of weeks, which has been interesting, inspiring, and sad all at once. The hospital is very crowded, and people have to wait for quite a while to see a doctor. The way it works is there is a front admissions area where people get a ticket with a number. Then they stand in line to see a general practioner, who will treat their ailment if they can. If not, the doctor sends them along to a specialist, where the patient waits in line again. It's a decent system, and usually everyone does get to a see a doctor (the doctors I've observed will stay a little late if necessary) but it's hard to watch all these people milling about, sometimes in pain, waiting to see someone for about five minutes.
On the good side, the doctors that I've seen are all really compassionate and professional. Sometimes towards the end of the day, on patient 79 or whatever (doctors see anywhere from 80 to 100 patients in a day) they can get a little cranky, but generally they're really nice. I think the conditions and the pay sort of weed out the type of doctors who just want to get in, get out, and get paid, which is certainly a plus. On top of that, since they do see so many different illnesses, the doctors here are hard to stump. Finally, everything is free-- almost all medicines, all the tests, the doctor visits, inpatient care, delivery... yeah, everything, and that is great.
So yeah, it's been fun and challenging, even though I'm just sitting and watching, and talking to everyone as much as possible. However, my non-medical student status has gotten me into a couple of fun situations. It's pretty rare for someone to just come and do research, so people just assume that I am in fact in medical school. On my first day with the general practitioner, the administrative official who explained to the doctor who I was told him that I was a medical student. I was totally unaware of this, since the whole conversation as conducted in Dzongkha (the national language) so I sat down with my notebook in hand, ready to lurk in the corner and observe. The doctor, however, had other ideas, and waved me over to his desk where he was examining patients. He then indicates to the guy who is poking his head in through the examination room door (people are really anxious to make sure they get to see the doctor, so they tend to open the door and peek in) that he can come in and sit down. The patient does so, and then the doctor and the nurse give his paperwork to me and look at me with these expectant smiles. I, of course, am completely baffled, so I just sort of smile blankly back. This went on for about five hundred years (or that's what it felt like) and then the doctor says, "Go ahead-- you can see him now. I'll check when you're done to make sure you were right,"and the light dawns. So then I had to explain that I was just a student in college, not medical school, and so perhaps me examining patients was a poor choice- -to which the doctor agreed. He did teach me how to take someone's blood pressure though, so all in all, it wasn't too awkward. Then, in true Bhutanese style (he was a native doctor) he invited me back to his house to eat lunch with his family, which was really great.
Well, speaking of the hospital, I should probably go there now and hang around. More pictures are forthcoming, I promise! And again, I miss all your lovely faces.