Maternidad, Mindo, and Militar

I’ve been super busy since I got here so I haven’t had much time to sit down and write about what I’ve been doing the last week. Last week I had my first rotation in the Hospital Maternidad (maternity) in the emergency department. I learned a lot of interesting things but it was a little different that what I was expecting. I thought I was going to see a lot of emergencies and it was going to be crazy with people running around and screaming and having babies but I didn’t see any actual emergencies nor babies being born. Most of the women I saw were there for unexplained bleeding, infections, or because they were in the early stages of labor (they send laboring women to the other side of the hospital to deliver). It was also a bit of an emotionally draining place to be. During the 3 days I was there I saw a disproportionally large amount of pregnant adolescents who were absolutely terrified (and the doctors weren’t very sympathetic or comforting). One young girl was 26 weeks pregnant and her water had already broken. The doctor explained to her that the baby was still very small and they were going admit her to the hospital to administer antibiotics and try to keep the baby in as long as possible. The saddest part though was watching the doctor explain to the girl that the neonatal center in the hospital is nearly always full and there may not be space for her premie when it’s born. They can try to treat it outside the neonate center but a baby that young would need extensive care and specialized treatment. So it was hard to watch a girl younger than myself receive that kind of news and it also illustrated how lack of resources really affects peoples lives here. The other crazy case that I saw (on the opposite spectrum) was a 46 year old Quichua woman that came in who didn’t speak much Spanish and was pregnant with her 12th kid. She was in her 3rd trimester and I don’t think she had had any medical care up until that point. Access to medical care is tricky in many rural areas and many indigenous people don’t trust Western medicine. She was definitely the talk of the day and all the doctors in the emergency room came in to see the woman with 12 kids. Apart from those memorable patients, I got to learn a little about how to read an ultrasound (although everything just looked like blobs to me) and I also got to assist with a catheter and palpate a woman’s belly to feel the position of the baby’s head, which was really cool. I’m glad I got to do that rotation but I also decided that ob/gyn is not really my “thing” (If one can decide such things after 3 days). I guess that’s a good thing to know though. 

This weekend a bunch of us students from the program went to a cloud forest a few hours outside of Quito in a town called Mindo. It was amazing! On saturday we were busy all day having fun. We started the day ziplining over the tops of trees, which wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. Then we went canyoneering down a 45m waterfall, which was much more scary than I thought it would be (but worth it). It’s such a beautiful area and the days start out sunny and clear and then the clouds slowly roll in towards the afternoon and then it starts to rain. It’s a strange feeling to know that you are being engulfed in a cloud. After canyoneering we toured the chocolate factory, which was tiny and probably not worth the $5 (my sense of what’s expensive has drastically changed in the last week and $5 is too expensive). But they did give us samples of chocolate at various stages of doneness and a sample of the most amazing brownie ever. That night we went to a “frog concert” which sounds really cheesy but was really just a night hike through the forest and they showed us different frogs and glowing beetles and giant scary spiders. The coolest part though was the bioluminescent bacteria that grows on decaying logs and can only grow at the very specific temperature and nutrient conditions found in the cloud forest. They told everyone to turn off their flashlights and the branches were glowing a light blue from the bacteria, it was sooo cool! Anything with bacteria is cool but this was especially exciting because it was visible.

On Sunday my friend Oresta (we had a few classes at OSU together) and I went on a hike to some waterfalls. We had to take a cable car over a canyon to get there, which was beautiful and terrifying at the same time because it was rickety and all I could think about was falling to my death. We kind of jogged/ powerwalked the trail in order to see all the falls in time before we had to go catch our bus back to Quito. It was an incredible weekend and a much needed break after the last very stressful 6 months in school. 

Last week I also took a salsa class which was hilarious because all the Americans in the group were pathetic (minus a select and talented few). I was sad to find out that if med school doesn’t work out that salsa dancing is not a career option for me. However, I am relieved to know that I can always just move to Mindo and become a ziplining guide.

This week I’m in the Hospital Militar (military) on the surgery floor. I got really lucky yesterday and got to observe two surgeries! One was a laparoscopic removal of a gallbladder in a really high tech OR. The military hospital is semi-private so they have nicer facilities than a lot of the public hospitals. I’ll do a different post about the Ecuadorian healthcare system some other time. The second surgery I saw was a repair of a hernia. That one wasn’t in a high tech OR like the last one so we stood on stools to see over the surgeon’s shoulder instead of watching the surgery on screens. I really like the doctor we are shadowing this week, he’s really nice and a little crazy but I guess that comes with the territory. Sadly today we didn’t get to see any surgeries because the doctor was on call. So after rounds this morning we sat in on meetings for 4 hours with the other surgeons, interns, residents, and Ecuadorian med students as the surgeons argued in loud voices the whole time about patients and treatment options, the computer record system, and malpractice insurance. It was interesting but also a struggle to understand a lot of it and even more of a struggle for all three of the CFHI interns to keep our eyes open as we sat there. I think our doctor felt bad for us after a while and took us down to the emergency room to see some patients and we got to walk through the process of diagnosing a patient with abdominal pain. I had to go sit down because I was dizzy from not eating enough breakfast so I never found out what the diagnosis was… So far I really like this rotation. It’s hard to understand a lot of what’s going on because it’s a very complicated area of medicine but it’s awesome to be able to do rounds and scrub in on surgeries and examine x-rays. Oh which reminds me, rounds are very interesting here too. We start at 7:30 and about 25 people, including surgeons, Ecuadorian med students, residents, and us 3 gringos crowd around the patient’s bed and the intern in charge of the patient presents the patient’s history and the doctors proceed to argue about the patient’s treatment. I’m not sure I would want my doctors arguing about me while I was laying there but that seems to be the norm here. I guess that’s what happens when you get too many Latin American male surgeon egos in one room.  

Well I think I’ll stop writing this novel now. I’ll give another update sometime later this week!


Me and Oresta ziplining in Mindo


Nice view of the cloud forest and el Rio Blanco 



Repelling down the scary waterfall





3 thoughts on “Maternidad, Mindo, and Militar

  1. Sounds exciting! I might change your phrase to “Scary repelling down the waterfall!” Lol! Oh & Eat eat eat 🙂

  2. Hey Missy,

    It’s really been great getting your blog, and pix. Giant spiders, o.k. that freaked me out a little, but the rest oh lordy… fantastic!!!!!!

    You are immersed in the medical it seems ….. So great to make rounds, see what you may be interested in, although like you say after 3 days???.. but really, you probably know.

    We will be seeing your parents soon, I think they will be here on Sat. p.m. We’ll be going to the Hansen’s cabin Monday nite. Should be quiet and peaceful, am hoping, AND cooler. We’ve been spared that horrible heat lately, 90 and under for about 10 days after our 9 day inferno,EXCEPT, it’s back. So cabin should be nicer for your fair parents.

    We love you and look forward to your updates.

    xoxoxoxoxoxoxooxo Michele

  3. Hi Sara, Thanks so much for your newsy letter. It is so interesting and we’re looking forward to others that you might write to us. I sent you an email to your personal email address. I hope that you’ll get that, too. Still working on our foundation and hopefully by next week the professional concrete people will be able to finish the job, plus putting in about six new stepping stones in the backyard lawnto replace the cracked ones. The weather here is great now. The Midwest and Eastern part of the US are going through a hot spell. There is a giant fire in Palm Springs and over6000 people have been evacuated from that area. That’s it for now. Hope to hear from you soon. Our Love always, GASGUT


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