Well its over, after a month of interviews, shifts, and EMS courses and conferences i have finally completed my Independent Study Project. The final product was a 44 page research paper in Spanish detailing the structures, strengths weaknesses and challenges of the Emergency Response System in Santa Cruz de la Sierra in addition to an overview and introduction to the system the paper also included documented the three various systems: public, private and governmental as well as descriptions of normal shifts with organizations in each of these sectors.
Though i am incredibly happy and proud to have completed this project, there are still things that I wish had been covered that unfortunately were not. In the majority of my interviews and shifts with various organizations I heard about a plan for mutual aid system as well as a movement to create a 911 like unified dispatch system for the city. Though these two important development projects were mentioned frequently it was impossible for me to get any concrete information on the topics. Other than being able to get substantial information about these two projects my only other significant research challenge was getting meaning full time with patients and their families to ask about their impressions and experiences of the system as a whole. This was challenging for me for two reasons, firstly the nature of the emergency health system in Bolivia limits provider patient contact much more than the American system and secondly because of the very limited number of people who utilize the emergency response system instead of transporting themselves to a clinic or hospital. I overcame these two research challenges my modifying my research question and focusing instead on the structure of the current emergency response system. By only exploring the structural strengths and weaknesses of the emergency response system I was able to write a comprehensive research paper about one component of the system instead of a being forced to omit important opinions, experiences and developments that I would not have been able to gather in the limited time I had.
Over all this project was an incredible experience, living and working independently in Santa Cruz was a highlight of my semester and i look forward to bringing the knowledge and experiences I gained through this research project back to my community. I hope that my paper and presence in Santa Cruz over the past month will help the organizations I worked with and look forward to continuing to assist them in any way I can upon my return to the states.
I'm writing to you today from Santa Cruz de la Sierra two weeks into a month of independant research. Its been two weeks packed with meetings, overnight ambulance shifts and medical conferences. Working, researching and living independently in a new city has been a challenging and exciting experience. Santa Cruz, Bolivia's largest city and the economic hub of the country is located on the edge of the Amazon basin in a climate much more tropical than that of Cochabamba.
Over the past two weeks I've met with various different emergency response organizations including aeronautical firefighters, the national police firefighting and ambulance unit as well as various different private and volunteer ambulance and fire fighting organizations. Generally these organizations have been really receptive to my inquiries for interviews or to tag along for shifts, though these various experiences I have begun to get a sense of the emergency response system with in the Santa Cruz metropolitan area. Over this next week I will wrap up my interviews and ride alongs and begin composing my paper, summarizing my findings about the system as a whole through stories about the various different organizations with whom I have interacted.
Its crazy to think that there are only 16 days left of this program and that between now and December 7th, when i am scheduled to return to Cochabamba, I need to complete my research, my paper and provide the published the document to the organizations that i have met and worked with over the past few weeks. I am anxious and excited to see what the next two weeks of research hold for me and look forward to sharing the stories with you in my next post.
This past week has been filled with project related activities! two Fridays ago I spent the evening with SAR Bolivia as i have for the past few weeks and finally got my first call! Though simple and relatively uneventful i was happy to get on the ambulance and assist with things instead of just sitting in the office like i had for the two previous weeks. The call was for a potential cardiac issue in the center of town at about 9:45pm, just when the night-time traffic was picking up. The ambulance that we took to the call does not have lights and the sirens that it does possess are often not respected by the other divers on the street which made getting to the call a tad more difficult than i was used to. Upon arriving we found a 30 something male semi conscience on the exterior steps of an apartment building complaining of severe chest pain. After examining the patient and checking his vitals we transferred him to the ambulance and transported to a nearby military hospital. Though very little treatments were provided to the patient while in route to the hospital it was obvious that the patient and his friend who was riding up front were very grateful for the free volunteer run services that they were being provided.
This past Friday I was at SAR as usual but this time specifically to attend the bi-weekly Quechua class that SAR provides for its members. Quechua is the primary indigenous language in Cochabamba and the surrounding areas and there are many do not speak Spanish and are only able to community in Quechua. This class is part of an effort by SAR to be able to provide comprehensive healthcare to all residents of the Cochabamba area not just to the patients who speak Spanish. Though i was lost for most of the class i was able to pick up on some vocabulary words as well as learn that Quechua has to different verb conjugations for the first person plural, one that is you, me and everyone and a second that is me and everyone but not you. Though this class was very educational i think I'm going to stick with learning Spanish for the moment.
My final EMS related experience this week was early sunday morning at a splinting class for medical students at the university of San Simon, Cochabamba's largest public university. The students arrived by 8 am equipped with string, torn up table clothes and sheets and a whole lot of cardboard. With these few tools they constructed splints , slings and supports for every imaginable injury while the professors wandered through the group of students offering tips and constructive criticism. I found the ingenuity and creativity of these students and their professor amazing and learned so much about how to easily support and secure injuries when the official equipment was not at hand.
I am spending the next two weeks designing a research project around what i have learned so far and preparing to move to another city to continue to study EMS issues in Bolivia.
What a month its been! Our program spent weeks in the Bolivian Administrative Capital La Paz meeting with the famous Bolivian artist Mamani Mamani, a feminist lesbian indigenous rights group and a non profit youth theater and circus troupe. After our time in La Paz we traveled to Lake Titicaca for an indigenous home-stay on the Island of the Sun to learn from a community that has existed for over 3,000 years. This rural isolated island in the middle of the world's highest navigable lake is accepted as the spiritual and cultural center for all Andean civilizations dating back over 4 thousand years. These past few weeks were filled with new experiences, long bus rides and lots of potato soup, all these experiences were also incredible different than what the final part of my semester is about to turn into.
I am preparing to work on ambulances in Bolivia and learn the strengths and weaknesses of the EMS system in Latin America's third poorest country. At this point I have just begun to explore various organizations and research opportunities in Cochabamba where I currently live as well as the country's two largest cities, La Paz and Santa Cruz. I have my first official ambulance ride along tomorrow (October 18th) with SAR Bolivia, a volunteer ambulance, fire fighting and search and rescue organization whose 450 volunteers are Cochabamba's primary emergency response organization. I have had a few interviews and meetings with the one of the founders of the organization and have learned a little bit about the sacrifices that the volunteers must make in their professional and familial lives in order to be apart of this organization. Though I am really excited to work with SAR Cochabamba I will likely end up completing the majority of my research in another city.
I will make sure to provide an update this weekend after my ride along and will include as many photos and stories as I can.
Though I arrived in Bolivia only six days ago it could as well have been more than a year. After 18 hours of travel from DC I dropped my bags early Monday morning in a small hotel in the middle of Cochabamba. At over 8,000 feet this city of 700,000 just south of the equator is known as the city of eternal spring due to its continuous temperate climate. The weather in the city was much warmer than La Paz where I spent early Monday morning huddled over cups of coca tea and espresso in an attempt to ward off the cold of the Bolivian Capital situated a half hour north and over 5,000 feet above Cochabamba. ...continue reading "What a Week!"
My name is Kai Neander, I am senior in the Elliott School concentrating in International Development and Minoring in Emergency Health Services. This fall I'll be studying with SIT in Cochabamba, Bolivia in a program titled "Multiculturalism, Globalization and Social Change." Over the past two years at GWU I've gotten involved in greek life, student government and EMeRG. Prior to college I worked at a zoo in my hometown in northern California and had the opportunity to work with Jane Goodall as an ambassador for her youth initiative Roots&Shoots. I'm beyond excited to see what this semester abroad will bring to me and I can't wait to share stories, adventures and maybe even some awkward photos with you all over the next few months.
Until Next Time!!
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