On Friday I had my first day at the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital. Thankfully, Amanda, another Connect volunteer who has been working in the Child Life department for the past week, was there to guide me. We left our apartments at 7am and got on a bus and got onto a bus a ten-minute walk from us. As we drove through the city to get to the other side of the mountain I noticed the bus barely stopped to let its passengers off-and I thought riding the T was bad!
When it comes to actually describing the hospital and my role there it’s hard to know where to begin. I guess I’ll start off by telling you that it is very, very, very different from hospitals in the states. The beds are in wards, so there are always at least 4 children in a room together. There is nothing but a chair for parents and visitors, and Purell dispensers are nowhere to be seen! There are hand wash stations on each ward, but it seems that nurses (who are called “sisters”) and the doctors (or “profs” if they are the head of department) use these hand wash stations at their own discretion. Because of the ward set-up privacy guidelines like HIPPA are far more relaxed than in the US, the sisters talk about patients out in the open, mostly because there are few private areas. And as far as my role goes, I’m pretty much considered a full on child life specialist. It’s pretty interesting, since everything is still pretty separated from Apartheid, most of the sisters are black or colored, and most of the doctors and profs are white. So it’s pretty interesting because most of the sisters seem to assume that because I’m white I have some sort of authority, even on my first day when I knew pretty much nothing about the hospital! As an intern, I will be working with the pain management team who will refer high priority patients to the child life team, which consists of Amanda, myself, and Kate who is an occupational therapist that is acting as coordinator of the child life program through Connect, so I believe she spends a few hours in the morning at the hospital and the rest of her day in the Connect office.
The first patient I met is named Cassidy. She is just a year and a half old and pretty much the most adorable, little girl you could imagine. She was on the burn ward and had burns covering her left arm and leg. She also has major separation anxiety. According to the sisters, her mother has schizophrenia and her father’s mental state does not appear completely stable. Cassidy pretty much just wants to be held and snuggled! Amanda had been working with her all week trying to get her engaged in some play and utilizing her arm, but told me that progress had been slow. We sat on the floor, with Cassidy in Amanda’s lap, and played with a couple of toys and read an interactive peek-a-boo book, and after a while we got her to use her hand to push the sliding parts of the book in and out! This was very exciting; she even gave us a little smile! Although it was sad when we had to leave her to see other patients because she just cried and cried, we were lucky enough to have a “friend” (or a volunteer) take over. The sister (who I believe is a medical student) suggested that next week we bring in some bubbles for her to try and pop to get her arm stretching.
One patient that I saw had been in a car accident and serious injuries to her hips and legs, another had rare disease that causes temporary paralysis called Gullien’s Disease, another had a failing kidney. She experienced 3 surgeries in the past week including a kidney transplant from her father, that unfortunately was rejected by her body. I also saw a patient in the PICU who had a serious lung infection. The PICU was the only place in the whole hospital that smelled like a hospital from home. Each bed space had almost as much equipment that might be seen in a regular hospital room in the States, but no where near the amount that is seen in our ICU’s.
I’m really excited to actually get started on Monday. We have a meeting with the pain management team and I will be given some of my very own patients! I’m a little nervous about understanding the medical side of some diagnoses, as I’m not sure that I have internet acess at the hospital, but I guess I’ll just have to wing it on the first day of meeting patients, and then do research on their particular diagnoses when I get back to my apartment. I’m also a little concerned because I will be expected to write chart notes, which I’ve never actually done, and there will be no one there to tell me if I am doing them correctly or not. Hopefully I’ll get the hang of it though, the other notes from the doctors and sisters seem pretty casual.
Ok, I think that’s it for now! Oh and tomorrow I’m going to hike Table Mountain! That should be amazing!!!!
See you all in 3 months,