Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Last Days in CT

As my trip came to end, I did as many activities as I could.

Firstly, there was Boulders Beach which had stunning views and African Penguins.

Boulders Beach

I also took a trip to Robben Island where Nelson Mandela spent 16 years of a 26 year sentence. It was great, because one of our tour guides was an ex-prisoner who had served for his efforts during the apartheid era. He was very humble and did not hold any bad feelings towards the ex-guards and people that had abused him during his time at Robben Island.

Tour Guide: An Ex-inmate of Robben Island

The View of Table Mountain from Robben Island

I also visited Cape Point, the most south-westerly part of the African continent, with the group of 50 Connecters that were in Cape Town at the time. It had some of the most stunning views I have every seen.

My roommate and I at the Cape of Good Hope


I also went on an ostrich tour and got to feed and ride a few ostriches a few miles outside of the city. Ostriches are some of the most weird looking animals I have ever encountered. But I did have a fun time.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Fun in Cape Town, Birthdays, and Midway Point

Even though it's winter here and really cold, I'm still finding a lot of things to do here in Cape Town. Last weekend a group of friends and I climbed table mountain.

On the top of Table Mountain
It was the most intense and first hike I have ever been on, it was also my birthday (Yay, I'm 20!) which was a fun thing to do. Later that day I went to a rugby match with some of the people from Connect. I've never seen rugby and I don't think I'm a big fan lol. Apparently South Africa is really good and is ranked 2nd under New Zealand.

Newland Stadium: South African v. "The World"

Later at dinner I tried something new -- lamb and ostrich. I don't know which was which but I liked one and not the other.

Home Visits & Hospital Rotations.

On day two we attended a meeting at a private hospital -- it was much like what you would expect from most American hospitals, but it was strikingly different from Victoria. The dean of the medical school was there and he talked about the status of health care and physicians in South Africa – which was pretty cool. They only have about 8 medical school while we have about 150 at home.

Later that day, I got to go on home visit with Sister Pitout (a nurse). As a part of the palliative care program, where terminally ill patients live out their time at home. The nurse brought them medicine and equipment to make caregiving easier for the families. We visited some of the worse neighborhoods in Cape Town. It was humbling to see, as it was strikingly similar to what I have experienced from Jamaica. We visited three different families and also saw different sides to the average Capetownian. 

The first patient lived in a home whose rent was about R300 a month (about $30 US dollars), which can be considered quite expensive, when most of the population is unemployed in South Africa. These patients suffered from mild dimension, pancreatic cancer, and a variety of chronic illnesses. 

Some of the neighborhoods We Visited


On day three, I followed a medical team as they did their rounds in the wards. Each team has an attending physician, a registrar (medical fellow), an intern, and a last year medical student. The doctor I was with today really emphasized that medicine is about understanding the community that you’re serving and thinking logically, "what exactly is going on in their life? What is their day-to-day life?"

Since most physicians in South Africa come from more wealthy families, he expressed that medicine is not just about text books and studying but it is about serving the community and developing social skills in order to communicate with your patients.
I really feel that I am getting a really good experience about what medicine is really about. This is definitely something I would have not been able to see at home.

On the social side,  Cape Town has also been a lot of fun as well. I have gone to a few restaurants, the mall, and the waterfront. Today, the connect 1-2-3 participants went to a local wine bar and met up with everybody. Although I ended up leaving around 9 because I was tired and had to get up for work at 6am the next day.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Day 1: ICU, Blood, and More

Today I started my internship at Victoria Hospital in neighborhood called Wynberg just within the boarder of Cape Town. It’ s a public hospital that serves about 1,000,000 people – most patients only living on less than $1 a day. Among the black population, HIV and Tuberculosis (TB) is significantly high Cape Town compared to the US. However it has some of the lowest rates in all of South Africa.  I even saw a patient who had HIV, TB, hypertension, type 1 diabetes, and renal failure. Surprisingly a chart like this is not uncommon here.

In South Africa there is a private and a public health care system. 80% of the population is served under the public health care system (mostly black bantu) and 20% are served under the private (mostly white Afrikaans).

I had an interesting conversation with one of the doctors I shadowed on the first day. Apparently, South Africa spends 10% of its GDP on health care (quite staggering). 60% of the funds goes to the private health care system. The other 40% of the budget serves 80% of the population. 

The gap between rich and poor here is astounding and not just socioeconomically, but racial level as well.

Anywho, my first day at Victoria Hospital was crazy for a lack of a better world. In the morning we joined a group of last year med students, interns, and residents in the ICU where the doctor probed them for answers on how to treat each patient that was there. He challenged them which different drugs and possible syndromes. I really didn't know what they were talking about, but it made me excited. I could imagine myself a few years from now in their shoes answering similar questions.

Later that day, I shadowed a register (medical resident in the states) on his rounds. I was really taken aback by how caring he was. It was obvious he was wealthy (by the patients standards) and probably never experienced poverty quite like some of his patients. He took his time to explain their conditions and what was happening without being condescending or pretentious. Which was quite heartening to see.

Later that day I shadowed another doctor in the ICU. This is where the day got crazy. There was a patient in an isolation room who had viral pneumonia and chicken pox (which can be extremely deadly in adults). His lungs were in extremely poor shape and a few of the participants and I suited up in our gear and observed in the room.

One of us also got to shock the patient after he started experiencing heart failure. The patient woke from the intense shock and began tearing out his IVs -- which was intense and scary. But later had another cardiac arrest. Myself and two other volunteers were allowed to participate in two cycles of chest compressions and his heart did start again. However the patient eventually died and I had witnessed the whole thing and participated in the attempt to save his life.

I'll admit I am a really sensitive person. I cry during the animal abuse commercials with Sarah Mclachlan (LOL) so seeing someone die in front of me was really scary.

I have never experienced the limbo between life and death this personally before, and I’m grateful for this experience.  It confirmed for me that I really DO want to be a doctor. But I have decided emergency medicine is definitely NOT for me.

It was definitely a crazy first day.

Victoria Hospital Entrance

Kaapstad, iKapa... Cape Town!

After an eleven hour flight from London, I arrived at Cape Town International Airport.  I was picked up by the connect 1-2-3 people, given a welcome pack and brought to my apartment.  It's really nice, and makes me feel like I am a real adult.

There’s an indoor pool and sauna on the roof with great views of the city. I recommend this program to anyone looking to do any kind of volunteerism, studying abroad, etc in Cape Town.

Because I came on Sunday, most places were closed so my roommate and I explored the neighborhood a little bit before going to bed because we had to be up at 6am to start our first day at the hospital.



My name is Jenine and this summer I am doing a medical internship in South Africa! ( I know, how exciting!). I flew out from Newark Airport to London before flying to Cape Town. Which is cool because I got spend the day in London with some family members.  I saw Big Ben,  The London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abby and so much more! I then hopped on the tube later that night to catch my flight to Cape Town.

NYC from a 777
Westminster Abby
Buckingham Palace
By the London Eye