Brett May – 8/8

Today was our first day in clinic and it began with a drive to the clinic, where we were greeted by the sight of a line of patients stretching around the building. We walked in to the building to be greeted by approximately 100 patients and workers thanking us with applause and hand shakes en route. Immediately it was apparent how much anticipation was held in the community for our visit.

I spent the morning in ER working with Dr. Wagner. Throughout the course of the morning we encountered many patients, but among these one stood out. A female in her 70s came to us with chest pain and difficulty breathing. Through questioning and a physical exam we narrowed her diagnosis to one of two things. Unfortunately a chest x-ray indicated what we feared.
The patient had a tumor in her lower right lung with signs of metastasis within the upper lung. There was little we could do other than alleviate her pain and send her out with the recommendation of recurrent follow up. As she left, I had a sinking feeling that I have felt before. It arose from knowing I will never see that patient again, she is likely to die from what we discovered, and there is nothing we can do about it. I came to the realization that medicine is strange, one minute you play the role of healer, with the power to give people life by your hands, the next you find yourself powerless and unable to help those who seek your attention.
The afternoon was filled with more patient visits as i assisted Dr. Voelpel. I gained a sense of redemption through these patients who presented with issues we could relieve. The sharp contrast between the morning and afternoon seemed to reflect the thin lines we will often face in medicine, between life and death, extending life versus providing end of days care, and between patients desires and our desire to do what we think is best. Though curing Iquitos is beyond our grasp, we can continue to come here for the patients and provide them relief, whether its physical or simply mental in nature.


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