July 26, 2011

In the Jungle with Amazon CARES - Day 1


By Donna French Bodkin


We arrived back at the lodge from our early morning hike and zip line adventure.  It was 8:30 am and our coworkers were waiting for us.  The boat was loaded with all of the equipment that we would need for our first day of work in the jungle.


Our boat loaded and headed to a village for work.
 We arrived at a small village called "El Chino".  We unloaded all of the equipment and the portable cages and carried them to a pavilion in the village.  This was our hospital for the day.  The wonderful news was that we were working under a shade and there were no walls, so we also got an occasional little breeze.  The crew from Peru started setting up and arranging the "hospital"  as we stood there wondering what we should be doing.  We felt pretty useless and we were all wishing that we could communicate more effectively with our spanish speaking coworkers.  Eventually everything was set up and ready to go.


Harri, Betty and Luis start unpacking and setting things up.
School children came to watch us set up.

Kendall watching the hospital being put together.


Quickly, the people started arriving.  Some people were just interested in watching us, but others were bringing their pets with them.  As each pet arrived, we had to get some information from the owners and determine if the pet was having surgery or receiving treatments.  Each pet then received a temporary paper collar.
Bruno checking people in to the clinic.
Betty began doing treatments on the pets that were not having surgery.  She did an examination and treated each pet for internal and external parasites.  Some pets also required other minor treatments such as cleaning wounds. 

Betty (on the far right) treating a dog.
The first dog needing surgery arrived.  Harri and Luis got to work prepping while our technicians watched and learned the techniques that they would be using in our mobile hospital.  Each pet was preanesthetized and then a catheter was placed and the syringe of anesthesia inserted and taped into place.  An endotracheal tube was placed in each dog and held in place by leashes (that we thankfully brought with us).  The abdomen (or flank in some cases) was then soaped and shaved with a straight razor.  Needless to say, the straight razor was initially very intimidating to our technicians who were used to using cordless clippers. Once prepared for surgery, the animal was carried to the surgery table and given a final scrub before surgery.


Luis and Harri inserting a catheter.
Inserting the trach tube.
Using the straight razor.

The final scrub

Finally time for the surgery to begin.  The surgery table was a short wooden table covered in plastic.  There were no v-trays but we improvised with rocks wrapped in trash bags.  And no electronic monitoring equipment, but our technicians were well prepared with stethoscopes and wrist watches. 


Luis neutering a cat


Kendall spaying a dog.
Kendall's first surgery was a huge frustration for him.  The surgery took much longer than his normal spay would take (which after 20+ years of experience wasn't very long).  There were many different things to get used to there in the jungle.  First the improvised surgery table that were very low and did not tilt.  After one surgery, his back was already killing him.  Then learning how to properly administer the injectible anesthesia took a little trial and error.  Oh yes, and they didn't use (or have) scalpel handles.  They just held the blade with their fingers and started cutting.  The lighting was terrible with the only light  provided by your headlamp. Most of their equipment was old and no longer functioned as well as what we were used to using.  All of these difficulties combined made for a long and frustrating first surgery for our team.  Once our first surgery was finished, it was time to make some changes.  First change:  fix the surgery table.  This meant finding some way to raise and tilt the table.  

A much better surgery table.
   Okay, that problem was easily fixed.  Although the other doctors were amazed that he was going to do surgery on this table.  Now things suddenly seemed so much more familiar and started to move along in a much better fashion.  After a few surgeries our technicians and our doctor had the hang of the anesthesia and they were getting used to the equipment.  Now we were working!! We hesitated for a moment to admire the view from our surgery window.  We had a beautiful view of the river.  And in a tree just across the river we were being watched by a sloth.  What an amazing place. 




The surgeries were getting done and it was time to start recovering them.  After surgery, each animal was brought into the recovery area.  As soon as they could swallow, the trach tube was removed.  When they started to wake from the anesthesia, they were treated for external parasites.  This was done before they were completely awake for our safety in handling them. They continued to be monitored until they were sternal and able to swallow a medication to treat them for internal  parasites.  Then they were put back into one of the cages until completely awake.  We only had four portable cages, so there were alot of dogs in each cage together.  This was another strange concept for us.  In our hospital in Idaho, dogs were never allowed to be in contact with each other for health and safety reasons.  Amazingly there were very few incidents with the dogs not getting along.  The cats were recovered in much the same way however; they recovered much more slowly.


Dogs recovering from surgery.  There is a cat recovering in the blue crate.

One of our guides from the lodge helped to recover the cats.
Interesting to note:  She was wearing jeans and jacket and she was not sweating.
 We were dripping in sweat in shorts and scrub shirts.
Waiting for the cats to wake up.
Awake enough to go back into a cage.
I don't know what time it was when Bruno told us to go eat lunch, but we could not seem to find a good time to stop working.  We decided to wait and eat lunch when we were finished for the day.  On our first day, we did 19 surgeries (5 cats, 14 dogs).  I don't know how many treatments Betty did, but she had a line of people at her table all day.  We were hot and we were tired!  We cleaned up part of our mess and then took a break to finally have lunch.  And after lunch, the women of the village gathered  together to show us some of the crafts that they had made.  Needless to say, we left with more stuff and less money than when we came that morning.  


Always plenty to eat.


Even the guys did some shopping.

We were well fed and had enjoyed spending a little money in the craft shop.  Time to return and get everything packed and back in the boat.  Our work day was coming to an end.  After everything was packed, we took a few minutes to share some whistles that we had brought with us.  One of the wonderful things was watching not just the children, but even the adults be so intrigued with something as simple as a whistle. 


Everyone wanted a whistle.

  
Catching food for the family and enjoying his whistle.

We walked back to the boat and started back to the lodge. As we pulled out into the river, we left the village to the sound of whistles being blown.  A nice relaxing boat ride and our first day was coming to an end.  It was ending so much better than it had started.

The stairs that went from the river to the village were quite a challenge.

Happy to be headed back to the lodge.

 

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