The reward in the frustration.
Today has been the most frustrating & rewarding challenge I have ever faced. It goes beyond the language barriers (I did a pretty good job of breaking those down) and even beyond the audiology barrier. Viva o Som is a non-profit organization so they only accept patients who make less than $700/month. This morning encompassed the “typical” patient – six people who have all been seen here before. I performed the annual hearing test, adjusted hearing aids, saw the biggest perf everrrrr, and learned how to make ear plugs out of earmold material. This afternoon brought about a different treat. All of the patients were from a small, remote community; they canoed to Parintins, and then walked from the Amazon to the clinic. They arrived early (before lunch) and stayed late (I do hope they all made it home ok). -We finished the last patient at 7:45pm.
The clinic has been doing a lot more advertising (a person from a radio station came in today to interview us [aka Julia]) and so word got out to this small community. Julia said it best when she said we went from either: inconsistencies of the previous audiologist, the equipment, or the environment in the morning, to inconsistencies of the patient this afternoon. I learned quickly to make a dot at the threshold and then repeat e.v.e.r.y. t.h.i.n.g. to compare. Sure enough, I saw improvements the second time around. I also learned another tool VERY fast….
The Brazilians are very vocal with their hands. Different from Italians in that they aren’t just “talking with their hands” or making a lot of gestures, but many hand symbols/gestures have a specific meaning. Tugging on your ear = divine. Shaking your finger (sign “where”) means, “no”, etc. etc.
…I ended up asking “no?” with my finger and they would respond back “no” for “I don’t hear the beep” OR they would raise their hand to tell me, “o yes, there is a beep.” This worked the best for a woman with some slight cognitive deficits. I feel like I got the best reliability from her compared with everyone else.
It is amazing being here in Parintins and working with this community. It is so hard and unbelievably challenging but it is hands down, the most rewarding experience of my life.
The other audiology student here with us has never had patient contact before today. I also found out that he will be the audiologist taking over (the last one left end of Oct) come Jan. He is going to Rio after this for more training. I feel very honored to be here with him and Julia (who is an AMAZING mentor and audiologist). I know he can learn a toooooon from both of us and as my man Mandela says, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” I can help guide him in his experiences as he gets his feet wet and I know that will have a bigger impact on this community than my one week here. I may not be able to improve the living conditions but I can help improve quality of life – & that’s definitely something.