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Alexandra Grundy - Medicine in Sri Lanka

Me and fellow volunteer at the hospital

As I scrambled my way through hundreds of Sri Lankan out-patients in my shiny new white coat, stethoscope around my neck, I was seriously dreading some poor mother thrusting her child into my arms and screaming "help my child, you're a doctor!" Sadly, I'm not and luckily this didn't happen!

Instead my paediatric experiences have been somewhat more pleasant. I was kindly taken under the wing of Dr. Weeraman, the consultant, and his friendly team of doctors. They were very skilled at treating the patients quickly and efficiently while explaining in English, over the noise of the fans and crying babies, the symptoms, tests, possible diagnoses and treatments.

Funeral Band

A vast number of patients (and their extended families) turn up to the clinics and each is given a numbered ticket to wait their turn. Most cases are follow-up appointments after being on the wards and I've seen some fascinating cases of Dengue fever, meningitis, glomerular nephritis.. The list is endless!

The ward pace, however, is somewhat slower (unless an impromptu clinic springs up on the ward, which quite often happens) while the volunteers have free access to browse the English medical records at their leisure. I was also invited to a lecture on 'The Management of UTI Infections' last Thursday and only in Sri Lanka could a stray dog have walked into the clinic with no-one batting an eyelid!

Palm trees on the coast

I'm learning new things all the time here, but occasionally get frustrated at both my lack of medical knowledge and the limited facilities, such as there being only five beds in the I.C.U department or there being no nebulisers or oxygen masks on the paediatric wards.

I've already covered the chest unit, paediatrics, neurology and maternity, and look forward to General Medicine next week. In the afternoons at the tsunami camp I teach English and play games and have met some truly wonderful people.

Alexandra Grundy

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