Joyce Zhang Shares About Her Experiences on the PODEMOS Medical Brigade in Honduras

Friday, October 30, 2015

Joyce ZhangThis past June, I spent a week in Honduras with the PODEMOS medical brigade organized by OSU’s College of Medicine. As a team of pharmacy students, medical students, pharmacists, doctors, and nurse practitioners, we set up chronic and acute care clinics at five different villages in El Progreso. We had intake stations where we took blood glucose and pressure, respiratory rate, height, weight, and the patient’s chief complaint. At our clinic stations, the doctors and CNPs would then assess and diagnose the patient, and we set up a pharmacy room where we dispensed medications from suitcases. In chronic care, we mostly treated patients for hypertension and diabetes, as blood pressure and blood glucose are fairly easily monitored. In acute care, we treated patients for all sorts of things such as infected wounds, GI problems, sexually transmitted diseases, fevers, aches and pains, and more. I’d like to share about just a few of the patients I met there.

First, I encountered a man with temporal arteritis, or inflammation of the arteries supplying blood to the brain. He needed emergency medical care, as the disease can lead to blindness, stroke, or other severe complications if left untreated. We gave him money for a taxi, but that day the traffic was so bad that no taxi would pick him up and drive him to the local hospital, so we had to do the best we could with our limited supplies. Our doctors prescribed 60 mg of prednisone for 5 days, but we only had prednisone 5 mg tablets. To make it easier for him, I individually unwrapped 60 foil-covered blisters of tablets, and put 12 in each bag, labeling the bags with Day 1 through Day 5.

I also met a young, 12-year-old girl. Her chief complaint was of sharp, stabbing pains in her lower belly. Upon delving into her medical history, the pediatrician I was working with found out that she had suffered a miscarriage just a few weeks prior. We comforted her when she began to cry as she told us how she had felt intense pain in her abdomen as she was playing soccer, and she was in bed for days afterward as the baby left her in clumps of blood. We sent her to the hospital in case there was still tissue remaining inside her that needed to be removed before it became infected and made her more sick.

Finally, another man I came across had hyperhidrosis, or excessive sweating, on half of his body. If you look closely in the picture below, you can see the line down his face and chest, and that there is sweat on his left side while the right side is dry. A neurologist on our amazing team of doctors was able to diagnose him with Dejerine-Roussy, or thalamic pain, syndrome. However, as our supplies were limited, in the end, one of our own doctors treated the man with his personal amitriptyline prescription. I worked with and learned from a talented, diverse, multidisciplinary team on the PODEMOS trip and formed lasting relationships. I shadowed the neurologist on our team a few times in August at his clinic in Dublin and at Martha Morehouse Medical Plaza, and I ran into one of the primary care doctors at the Nationwide Children’s Half Marathon this October. Overall, to be able to provide a level of healthcare to Hondurans beyond their means was the most rewarding experience I’ve had so far as a pharmacy student and inspired anew my desire to become a pharmacist. I was humbled by the gratefulness our patients showed, and the poverty in which they lived. I was once again reminded how lucky I am to even have the opportunity to go to pharmacy school, and that my career will allow me to help others every day.