Spooning Cheetahs

OK wow there are a million things I want to write about but I have limited time and am using a friend’s laptop (thanks again Larissa!). First off, I want to give a brief overview of the medical highlights of the past week and today. My week at St. Mary’s was slow, but I saw two Caesarian sections, three endoscopies, tons of TB, physical therapy on a five year old with cerebral palsy, horribly burned pediatric patients, complications due to diabetes and HIV, and had a patient whose baby died inside of her so they had to induce a miscarriage. Today was my first day at King Edwards Hospital, home to the Nelson Mandela School of Medicine, so it is an actual teaching hospital. Today I saw two patients with horrible gangrene, one patient who had most of the skin taken off of her foot because of her diabetes (the wound was still open), several stabbing victims, a man who when the doctor saw him, he said, “We gave up on him two weeks ago, but for some reason he is still alive.” Because I am currently in a surgical rotation, I went into the OR and saw a completely open abdomen with the colon just kind of chilling on the side. Needless to say, I have seen some things here that have made my jaw drop.


Non-medical highlights though are mostly from this past weekend in St. Lucia. I have now seen wild zebras, a cheetah, wildabeest, warthogs, elephants, hippos, crocodiles, giraffes, rhinos, and two types of monkeys ( know I am forgetting other animals). It got to the point on the safaris where we didn’t even stop because we saw so many animals. However, the coolest part of this weekend has to be spooning a cheetah. I am not kidding, I had the opportunity to literally spoon a cheetah (If the internet connection wasn’t so bad I would post a picture but watch out for them sometime soon hopefully!). Also, I got in a fight with a monkey who tried to steal my apple (I won, just saying).

Some medical stuff that I want to comment on:

First off, the day of endoscopies I saw someone get diagnosed with the same cancer that killed my father. I had the opportunity to see the tumor, but that was definitely a weird experience for me and sad for the 35 year old woman. It felt like a punch in the stomach, but so far the only thing that has caused me to tear up has been the physical therapy of the cerebral palsy patient. This five year old kid was screaming and crying in pain as his joints were straightened out. His face was extreme pain, and I couldn’t help but think about how he will have to undergo this pain for the rest of his life. He will never be able to walk completely independent. The fact that I had the opportunity to play with him before his therapy did not help. However, I also had a surprising revelation. Before coming here, I did not want to go near a pediatric unit because I do not want to be a pediatrician and I don’t think I can handle kids suffering and dying. While I was on rotation at St. Mary’s hospital, I spent a day in the pediatric burn unit. These patients were my favorite of the week. All of them had some of the most horrible injuries I have every seen most with burns on over 25% of their bodies, but I loved interacting with them and talking to the 12 year old boy. I am going to have the opportunity to spend a week at the pediatric unit at King George hospital my final week here in Durban, but as of now, I have had a complete turn around in my feeling towards pediatric trauma. Today was my first day in my surgical rotation at KG and wow, it was a bit crazy! This woman had extreme pain in her left ankle, but the doctors cannot find anything wrong so they are going to do a below the knee amputation. WHAT?!?! This patient is not septic; there might be some nerve damage but amputation should be a last resort, not some sort of explorative treatment. Phantom pain may even make her existing pain worse! I am struggling a bit to comprehend how the doctors find this an acceptable surgery. I also saw gangrene on both feet of a man whose bilateral amputation surgery I may have the opportunity to observe tomorrow. There are a bunch more things I want to talk about but I do not have time now! I will post more about the past two weeks soon!

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2 Responses to Spooning Cheetahs

  1. Kirsti Zitar says:

    Sarah – I am so impressed with the experiences you are having and am moved by your words and reflections! Your posts are amazing, difficult, sometimes heart breaking but overall honest. We think of you all often and enjoy knowing how you’re doing. From all impressions, you are doing a great job!! Keep at it. Your internship will end before you know it. You are an inspiration.

  2. Ashton says:

    Will you let me know the details of which safari you did in St Lucia? I want to spoon cheetahs! I’m living vicariously through you and planning all of the things I want to do when I get there

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