Thursday, June 6, 2013


So it's been two days of work now and a total of 3 days in country. Yesterday, day 1 at work, was fantastic - David and the crew showed me how to consult with a patient and take a temporary cast of the residual limb (the part that remains after amputation), create a plaster mold for the cast, vacuum form a carbon fiber socket, and tons of other things. I am constantly surrounded by Spanish. Only David and I speak English, so I think I will learn very fast. I have already learned a few key phrases and words. Some of the ones I hear around the clinic the most are 

pero - but
mejor - better (important for determining whether a patient's prosthetic is more comfortable after an adjustment)
presion - pressure (on a certain part of the leg)

Well, there are tons more but that gives you an idea. I got to watch David with a lot of patients yesterday and they all took well to me being in the room. He explained that I'm a student from Duke/the US and they all seemed very pleased to meet me. 

It was so fascinating to see the countless odd jobs that David does as a prosthetist, everything from sewing a strap to drawing out anatomy on someone's leg. It really does seem to be a jack of all trades profession. And it's insanely active - I was up and down grabbing tools and sitting next to patients, grinding prosthetics and covering molds in plastic. It was exhausting but in a very satisfying and exciting way.

Some of the specific scenarios we had on day 1 were a trans-tibial (below knee), a trans-femoral (above knee), and complete leg (through the hip) amputation. It was a good variety of situations to see on the first day. Some of the time David was making adjustments of the prosthetic and others he was taking measurements to cast a completely new prosthetic. At first, I thought I might be grossed out by the residual limb, but there wasn't anything that shocking about it. There was an older woman with a bit of a sore on her residual limb, but even that didn't really bother me. 


Day 2 at work was a bit more sedentary... I was doing a literature review for a presentation that David will be giving next Friday. We're looking at tips for prosthetic users on maintaining their setup and getting into more demanding sports activity. 

The day was made more exciting, though, by a visit from Greg Krupa, who runs a sports/prosthetic medical gear company with David. He's also, if you didn't guess, David's brother. Anyway, he came by to do a delivery and is insanely awesome, just like David. We went to lunch together at a nearby taco place (I had a pollo y carne burrito with delish hot sauce) and he invited me that evening to hang out at his place with his two roommates from the states. So he met me after work at my place and we took the Ecovia, which is basically a bus-metro hybrid, to Centro Historico which is where he lives. The area was really nice, and quiet when we got there. There were a lot of sombrero (which actually just means any kind of hat) shops open -- it's in southern Quito and more where the touristy shopping is. His apartment was super nice, much more than mine, and not much more expensive. I live in north Quito so I guess the prices skyrocket in that area, though I'm not really paying that much regardless. 

The view from Greg's apt

I met his roommates, Emily and Sarah, who were awesome and we all nerded out about Game of Thrones for a while before hitting the town. We went to this cool New Orleans themed bar started by a guy who lived in San Fran and moved down to Quito a while ago. It's called Dios No Mueres, which means God Never Dies. The reason is because there was a President of Ecuador who was killed near that area (a long time ago) and apparently his last words were those. Furthermore, he is apparently buried in a tomb that abuts the bar. At the bar they were also having this art gallery presentation of jewelry made by indigenous persons. It was funny because there were photographers there for the opening and any time I'd look closely at a piece of jewelry they would take like 500 pictures of me. I started cracking up a few times, because they weren't doing that with any of the non-gringos (non-Americans). That must be what paparazzi is like. 

After the bar we went to a street called La Ronda, which the government apparently cleaned up significantly and which is now a tourist destination. We found a nice place to eat with some live music (we taught the maraca player how to politely ask for money in English). I had an Ecuadorian specialty, cuy (pronounce kwee) which is... wait for it... guinea pig! It was interesting enough, pretty tasty actually, and has been a staple of indigenous cuisine for a long, long time. I also got to try some tamales and some cornbread thing who's name I've forgotten. The walk between places was so nice, because Centro Historico is where all the old Spanish influence can be seen, and there's a lot of European looking streets and buildings. 

Down a street in C. Historico

It was great to see Quito by night, and with Greg and friends, who are very familiar with the area. I was not nervous at all about safety -- there were lots of police everywhere, on street corners and such, just watching out for everybody. This weekend I'll be going with Greg and the girls to an eco-lodge in the mountains... it's apparently ranked by nat geo as one of the 50 best eco-lodges in the world, and it only costs $29 per day with all food included. I'm so excited, and I'll be there from Friday (tomorrow) until Monday. I'm so glad I'll be going with those folks because 1) they're really awesome, and 2) it's always good to travel in groups. 

In other brief news, we got a new roommate today! A nice Italian guy named Dillon. He knows Quito fairly well so that will be muy bueno for me -- I'll make him tag along to various places. 

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