Sunday, June 24, 2007


Last Thursday, I began my 5 week internship at the Gudushauri National Medical Centre. This is the first time the hospital has invited American (premed) students to come and work, so we're playing things by ear. On paper, we are "volunteer nurses assistants," and for the most part, we do just that.

The commute to Gudushauri takes 30 minutes by marshrutka (a large passenger van) and costs only 50 tetri (about 30 cents). If you've read my earlier posts, then you know that Georgians are terrible drivers. Fortunately, marshrutka drivers tend to be better drivers, maybe because they drive a prescribed route. But their vans are not always in the best condition. Just yesterday, on our way to Gudushauri, the rearview mirror simply fell off, but instead of pulling over to re-attach it, the driver continued along, occassionally looking over his shoulder.

Gudushauri is recognized as Georgia's best hospital and was built with the help of America among other countries about a decade ago. But Georgia is poor, and even with the help of foreign aid to construct the building, many corners were cut and today the building is not in very good condition. Yet its crumbling facade belies the quality of care that patients receive within.

On our first day there, we again met Dr. Merab Kiladze, our supervisor and one of the few English speakers in the hospital, who introduced us to Nino, the senior resident, who also speaks English. Soon we were placed in the care of the nurses, who for the most part speak no English, and we followed them on their rounds. Our ward is the general surgery ward, and many of the patients there have had serious surgeries. At least two or three patients had surgery because of ruptured appendices and the resulting sepsis. One patient was a young woman who had suffered some horrific accident and had a large part of her thigh/buttock missing.

One thing that struck me was that every patient, old and young, recovering and dying, had family members with them, and not just one, but sometimes several. No one was ever alone. Some family members pretty much moved in, bringing televisions and well stocked pantries. The nurses make no effort to restrict the activities of the patients' visitors, because in Georgia, family is most important.

There is certainly a great deal of compassion shown toward the patients, but there exists also a warm relationship between the doctors and nurses. When we aren't seeing a patient, we hang out in the nurses'/physicians' station where the atmosphere is relaxed (and sometimes cigarette smoke filled, despite the no smoking signs) and jovial.

One of the few English speaking doctors, Dr. Vakho (short for Vakhtang), showed us a patient who had suffered multiple stab wounds to his abdomen at a bar fight. Then Dr. Vakho made a very interesting comment: he said to us that violent crime must be rare, if non-existent, in the United States because we are so wealthy. We quickly corrected him, and he seemed bewildered that this was not the case. According to Fr. Theodore, most Georgians have such misconceptions.


V.Phillips said...

Do most people carry knives on them, or is that unusual? If they do, what kind?...predictable coming from me, I know.

Ryan Erickson said...

If they do carry knives, they're just simple pocket-knives. But it's no more common than in America (or in the South at least). But it would be cool if they carried daggers, wouldn't it?