Today was our second day at the Pediatric Center of Excellence (PCOE). We had rotations between different activities. The activities included: giving hearing screenings to some of the children there, making flash cards for the center, observing a pediatrician, monitoring in the speech room with Ms. Masters, and watching a neurologist with a patient. The majority of us were able to rotate through many of the activities.
It was our second day doing hearing screenings, and it was completely different from yesterday. I think this was partly due to our experiences from yesterday aiding us. At least for me, I felt more confident in my abilities to conduct a screening and also to interact with the children and parents. Additionally, we had less than fifteen children to screen all day, so that made it easier. Many of the children were fussy, and some screamed and cried, but we would just take those children back into the waiting room and have them calm down before trying again. Other children were perfectly behaved and so happy to see us. These children just light up when you smile or wave at them, and they have the most humbling smiles I’ve ever seen.
Many of us spent a lot of time in the lecture room at PCOE working on flashcards for the staff to use at the center. We mainly focused on making cards of food, toys, and basic signs from sign language. It started off slow at first, but after a while we got into a routine that divided up the tasks of drawing and laminating the cards.
While observing the pediatricians, two students were able to go in at a time. Rachael and I met with one of the pediatricians and got to talk with her for a few minutes before the first patient came in. We talked about some of the similarities and differences between America and Zambia. It was interesting to get a perspective from someone who has lived in Zambia for a long time. The pediatricians at PCOE focus on helping children who have or are at risk for HIV. The first patient I observed was an eight-year-old boy with AIDS. His mother came with him. The biggest thing that stood out to me about this appointment was that the boy had been complaining about having blurry vision for a week and his eyes were red and swollen, but the mother believed his vision and eyes were fine. His mother said she thought he just had poor posture, which did not make sense to me. I think part of her reasoning had to do with the fact that she was not educated about eyesight. So, in her mind, she wanted to blame his complaining on something more familiar to her. However, I am just speculating, and I will never know for sure why the mother reasoned the way she did.
The second patient I observed was a fifteen-year-old girl with a man who seemed to be her grandpa. I was surprised by her age, because she looked to be no older than ten. I’ve noticed that a lot here with children who have illnesses or disabilities though. They tend to look a lot younger than they really are. The part about this appointment that really stood out to me was the fact that the girl was completely in charge of taking her medications. She had no adult supervision what so ever. In my experience, my mom always controlled or at least monitored my medications. I’m twenty-one now, and she still checks up on me about things like that! But this girl was in charge of her medications; and on top of that, she was using them incorrectly. She was supposed to take two pills of one medicine and one pill of another medicine, but she accidentally switched the dosages for the entire time she had been taking them. This really struck me because doing something like that can cause serious concern for most medications. The pediatrician just made sure to correct the child and asked the grandpa to help her. I can say that it was an eye opening experience. In class, you can learn all the statistics you want about illnesses such as AIDS, but it does not truly hit you until you can put a face to it; and suddenly, it’s not just a statistic anymore, it’s an actual person.
The rule of having two students at a time also applied while monitoring the speech consultations with Ms. Masters. Alyssa and I were the last ones to observe at the end of the day. Ms. Masters would interact with the child and see if they could say or understand certain phrases such as “my turn” or “please,” and then she showed the child an application on the iPad, SpeakAll. This application is used as a communication device, but the child viewed it more as a fun game. He would move pictures around and make the iPad say silly things. He adored it, and he couldn’t stop smiling and laughing. After a while, Ms. Masters talked mostly to the caregiver in order to inform her of some communication techniques and some available resources. While she was doing that, Alyssa and I, along with a staff member, played with the patient and tried to incorporate situations that would allow for communication and interaction. I felt like this child was just like other children in the United States in the aspect of wanting to have fun and wanting to play with people. Sometimes, it’s nice to be reminded of our similarities.
Sadly, I was one of the students who was not able to observe a neurologist. So I can’t tell you much about that, but I can say the students who did get to observe in this room really enjoyed it, and they thought it was interesting to see another aspect aside from speech and hearing.
Today has been an exciting day where we were able to do many different activities, all of which were fun. It was a long day, but it felt like it went by in the blink of an eye. I can’t believe we have been here for four days already! Where has the time gone? I can’t wait to see what tomorrow has in store for us!