Earlier this week my partner and I have arrived in Juigalpa, a few hours by car from Granada where the EWH Summer Institute has just finished spending the first month training as a big group. Probably the pace of things will slow a bit as we adjust to the Nicaraguan lifestyle but so far I am feeling like we’ve had a pretty productive 3 days!
First day we got a tour of the hospital by the head of the maintenance department. While introducing us to everyone you could hear them all say ‘oh like the guys who have been here the previous years’ so that will probably help us with gaining acceptance at this hospital (assuming the previous guys did alright!). We set up in the maintenance shed and got to work on the incubator that had been brought in with a broken door. While the technicians crafted a brace to hold the plastic back together we opened up and cleaned all of the inside components (after visiting the neonatal department to understand the problem for ourselves since someone had [I think] told us that the heater wasn’t working well but in the end it was only the door that had been the problem). The buzzer for the alarm had come apart a bit so we fixed that but in general we were just getting experience with preventative maintenance.. I saw something new in the way the case was closed: the door was secured closed by inserting a screwdriver into the piece below and turning, like a lock and key. I’ll be on the lookout for bits like this from now on.
That afternoon, presumably prompted by our arrival, a man in a lab coat brought some things from storage such as a briefcase for which the key’d been lost, a piece of EKG equipment that I’m not sure where ended up, and another device (Exogen 2000+) that they were asking me about. It was showing an error, but beyond that they weren’t even sure what it did or what department it belonged in. Since it had a manual with it, I could tell them it was for delivering ultrasound physiotherapy for broken bones but not a whole lot else since it only described how to use the device, not why/when/where. Unphased by the crypticness of the error message ‘repair unit 32’ and the instructions in the manual to send the unit away, we opened the device hoping there would to be a fix staring us in the face. We found flawless circuit boards, but the battery pack gave us a bit of hope. After reassembling a variable power supply that had been left behind by a previous group but robbed for parts, we used it to replace the batteries and hey presto ‘add coupling gel’ error – success! Slap in some replacement batteries (different type but similar total voltage) and now we have a working device.. just with no one to use it.
The neonatal nurse brought us a cable for a warming bed that had been disconnected at the earth prong and, when we fixed that, a surge-protected power board that had had its power switch broken. Apparently it’s common for the neonatal department to spill stuff on the power boards so there were some spares lying around that we could salvage a button from, just getting it out was the annoying bit because we had to de-solder a few components to get the circuit board out of the way.
We asked about a capillary centrifuge sitting in the shed and apparently it was brought from another hospital/health centre which I assume doesn’t have technicians. It was missing the rubber lining that stops the samples from smashing when they hit the wall as the device spins. We searched for a replacement when we went to pick up the new batteries for the ultrasound device, but just ended up buying a bunny rabbit..? Later Sindora made one from truck tyre inner tube, and then we fixed the motor support so it wouldn’t scrape when spinning (after cleaning out the wasps nests).
For the weekend we headed to León, just a few multi-hour bus trips away, to reunite with the rest of the group and head volcano boarding. I really enjoyed the views of and around the volcano.. some cool craters, a mix of colours from the lava, and phenomenal wind speeds… just about got pushed off a tiny edge we were walking along at the top once the boards we were carrying got picked up by the wind. Hung out at the pool in the arvo and made our debut at the local karaoke/salsa bar before the night was up.
Returned to our pizza shop/home stay in Juigalpa for some hand washing in preparation for whatever our first full week has in store..