Adam Gorlick’s posts from Guatemala

Stanford News Service writer ADAM GORLICK has just returned from a trip to San Lucas Tolimán, a small town in southwestern Guatemala, where he teamed with Stanford medical and undergraduate students who accompanied School of Medicine Professor PAUL WISE.  While there, Gorlick sent periodic posts for the university’s news pages.

In the following excerpt, Wise has set up a makeshift clinic with medical students PATRICIA FOO and JAKE ROSENBERG:

Stanford medical student Jake Rosenberg examines a six-month old diagnosed with pneumonia.     Photo: Adam Gorlick
Stanford medical student Jake Rosenberg examines a 6-month-old diagnosed with pneumonia. Photo: Adam Gorlick

“It takes the students about three minutes to figure out that the health problems we’re seeing are diseases of poverty,” Wise says. “It’s profound material deprivation, and in many cases political oppression, that generates the health problems we face here.”

One child comes in with a respiratory problem, and Wise teaches Foo how to find it by placing her stethoscope on just the right spot on the girl’s back. “It sounds like a wheezing and popping – like bubble wrap when you squeeze it,” Wise tells Foo.

Wise and the students work closely with a couple of health care promoters – people from the village trained to help the families in their community get the care they need, even if it means waiting for a foreign doctor to come through the area a few times a year.

Keeping tabs on the sick, the promoters make sure they take their medicine as prescribed. And they follow up to see if they’re getting better. That medical history is jotted down on index cards, and Wise, Foo and Rosenberg review each of them before asking their patients any questions.

By the time the gringos leave for the day, Wise figures they’ve seen about 50 people. But they aren’t done – the rain that’s beaten this region with floods and mudslides and washed out roads for the past month returns around 1 p.m. If they don’t leave now, the roads will be impassable.

They’ll be back tomorrow.

Read all of Gorlick’s posts on the Stanford News website.