Guest blog by Jessica Crawford
Having heard wonders about ASRI since beginning medical school at Yale in 2006, I am now delighted to be the first American medical student to participate in ASRI on the ground in Sukadana and other small villages around Gunung Palung National Park. Here are some of my reflections from an incredible six weeks in Indonesia.
ASRI’s staff is amazing, and devoted to both the medical and conservation aspects of ASRI’s mission. The clinic is very busy, often with the entire waiting room and front porch spilling over with patients and family members. In one morning, I might help extract a beetle from an ear, administer a breathing treatment to a woman with an asthma exacerbation, remove sutures from a trauma wound, diagnose Parkinson’s disease, inject antibiotics for typhoid fever and perform a prenatal ultrasound. I saw many cases of measles and whooping cough, two diseases which good immunizations could prevent. In general, it is amazing how long people here wait to go to the doctor, until the pain is no longer bearable or until they have enough money and time to finally seek help.
I have been incredibly humbled thinking about the difficult choices people here must make when they are ill. If a man we diagnosed with advanced lung cancer pursued treatment, he would likely be forced to sell his land and belongings to afford to go to Jakarta for care with a devastatingly slim chance of cure. While giving diagnoses of this type is extremely hard, it is incredibly important, as illustrated when another patient thanked us for the diagnosis of liver cancer: he could now cease spending money on health visits to determine his medical condition and instead save money for his family in his impending absence.
For every difficult case, however, there are far more cases of patients with advanced disease that we can help. One baby who arrived in severe respiratory distress with a blood infection and pneumonia we were able to save by administering oxygen, antibiotics and IV hydration over a several day inpatient stay. If ASRI did not exist, it is unlikely that he would have survived.
About Jessica Crawford
Jessica was ASRI's first medical volunteer in 2010.