December 15, 2009

Dr. Erica Coleman: surprised by heat; impressed with clinic.

My name is Erica Coleman, a veterinary surgeon from England.  Arriving in Iquitos on a Sunday evening, the heat and humidity hit me like a brick.  I took a mototaxi (a hybrid between a motorbike and rickshaw) to the clinic, situated a stones throw away from the Amazon river.  The wind rushing through the open back was a welcome relief from the heat, even if the vehicle had all the safety features of a badly constructed amusement park ride.  The clinic looked deserted when I arrived, and I was a bit worried that I had remembered the wrong address. Ringing the bell, an Australian vet answered the door, and I was warmly welcomed upstairs to the sleeping area, where I met vets from New Zealand, America and Spain.  I was also introduced to the group photographer and the group journalist - also volunteers. 

The clinic itself was surprisingly well equipped considering its location and the non-profit budget with which it was built.  The front area had IV fluids, a centrifuge, a microscope and basic stains for looking at blood and diagnosing blood-borne diseases (which are common in the Amazon).  The treatment area held several dogs recovering from bad skin disease and one recovering from ear surgery (the cacaphony from the barking had to be heard to be believed).  There was also a surgical room with a stainless steel table, surrounded by counters with various (slightly out of date) drugs, syringes and needles which had been donated by vets from first world countries (they still work).  The clinic is staffed permanently by two vets from Peru and two lay nurses with wonderful animal handling skills.   From the warm welcome I received and the conditions in the clinic, I could tell I was going to be in for the experience of a lifetime!

Photo of Erica Coleman by Anthon Cauper

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