Tag: nursing

Cuba As I See It, Day 7, Sick in Camagüay

Cuba As I See It, Day 7, Sick in Camagüay

These observations are simply that: my observations. As the title of my blog indicates, this is “As I See It.” If I am offensive in anything I say, I apologize. That is not my intent. If I am incorrect in any information, I also apologize. I am not an expert, simply a traveler who visited the country for a few days. I hope you enjoy my views.
Each day I will tell you what we did on one day of the trip, but I will also give some observations about other topics that span the length of the whole trip.
I advise you to start at Day 1 and work your way through. As I go along I will refer back to things I’ve pointed out and discussed on earlier days.
Click here for Day 2Day 3, Day 4Day 5, and Day 6.
I hope you enjoy Cuba As I See It

Day 7
Thursday, Dec 29

After feeling sick for all day on Wednesday, I decided I needed to go to the doctor.

This was a day we could sleep in but in spite of that we awoke early to birds chirping in the courtyard and roosters having a crowing competition and we couldn’t get back to sleep. I gathered the necessary items and went to the nearest “square” to get Wi-Fi and download some past prescription details from my Walgreens account. I had no idea how Cuban medicine worked, but I had heard good things about it and knew I needed something or I would be quite sick in a few days.

After about 20 minutes of trying, I got about 5 minutes of decent Wi-Fi and took some screenshots of past prescriptions to help me know what to ask for at the pharmacy. Based on what my primary care doctor usually does, I decided to try to get some prednisone to calm down my asthma, and some penicillin to combat the sinus infection. When I arrived back at the casa I had to wait for the water delivery men who was using the front stairs to pour water from about 10 approximately 10 gallon jugs carried on the back of a cart into her 3 approximately 3 gallon jugs. I suspect this water is what they drink, but we only drank bottled water with intact caps.

I also still wanted to find a store to buy a skirt to replace mine that had disappeared in the laundry in Trinidad, but the lady who served us breakfast at our homestay offered to do some laundry for us, so I thought I might be okay without one if needed. The top priority now was getting me well.

After a bit of a walk and passing the pharmacy twice without knowing it (see, I told you it is a confusing town) a nice Cuban man walked us the 1/2 block to the “international pharmacy” (the Cubans use a different set of pharmacies). With Vince’s help I asked the nurse in white to buy some prednisone and penicillin. She looked at me with a puzzled look and asked if I had a prescription. When I said no she said I would need to see a Doctor to get one. I was trying to figure out what to do with that information when she asked where we were from. Upon hearing we were from the States she said with our travel insurance papers they could call a doctor to come to our casa or there at the pharmacy to consult and determine what I needed.

We decided that the pharmacy location would be best and Vince and I were taken to a back room and waited for the Dr to come while Steve went to the casa to get our insurance papers and my passport.

We talked with the nurse in whites (including the standard old-style nurses’ hat) until the female doctor came, about 5-10 minutes. She was also dressed in whites.

Nobody washed their hands; I don’t even think there was a sink. She listened to my chest with cheap stethoscope, looked in my ears with clean but reusable covers (a different cover for each ear) for the old otoscope which she plugged into the wall (she had to jiggle the connection because the wall socket was loose). The nurse took my temperature under my arm with a glass thermometer, and the doctor asked about my symptoms. Vince got to use a different set of words on this day, but he did fine. I sure was glad for his Spanish skills. I showed the doctor the list of meds and vitamins I take daily. I told her about my migraines, my hypothyroidism, and my asthma. She said I needed to get lab work and chest x-ray done. I was expecting a long travel and a longer wait for results but they both assured me it would be very quick. The doctor tore off a rectangle piece of dot matrix printer paper, stamped it, and hand wrote the order for lab test and x-ray. We then waited for about five minutes on Steve to get back with the insurance papers. While the doctor waited at the pharmacy, the nurse walked us 3 or 4 confusing and busy city blocks to the clinic where the blood test and X-ray would be taken. She gave the papers to the appropriate people and we waited. Within 5 minutes it was my turn at the lab.

We went into the lab room where the lab tech opened a fresh lancet which she used to prick my finger. Then she pipetted some blood from it and smeared some on 2 slides. There were sinks here, but still nobody washed their hands. No gloves had been used up to this point, and none were used now. There was also no sharps container anywhere to be seen, but there was a biohazard sign on the inside door.

After the labwork was drawn, the nurse walked us across a beautiful courtyard to the radiology department. There they told me to take off my bra but leave my shirt on as there was no robe, and they showed me the bathroom to do this in. The sticker for designating the right side of the X-ray (versus the left) was old and dirty. It had obviously been in use for a while. They used a clean and working but not at all new x-ray machine for one front-facing X-ray and I went back into the bathroom to change. The x-ray machine looked like it was old, probably from the 1980’s. Remember how I said in an earlier day’s blog that the USSR used to help out Cuba but that fell apart when the USSR fell apart? I got the distinct impression that their medical equipment was from this time period. I’m quite sure with the looks of the age of the machine that I received a larger-than-normal-by-modern-standards dose of radiation. I did notice there was no TP or TP holder in the bathroom, but it was clean with a clean sink and a bar of soap. Nobody had yet (to my knowledge at least) washed their hands, though, or used any hand sanitizer.

We waited in the courtyard for the X-ray print to dry. Nothing was digital. They gave me the print of the film and we crossed back to the lab. We heard the click-clack of typewriters (not a computer was seen anywhere the whole time) as we waited. After a short time the nurse got the lab results (also handwritten on a plain small piece of paper) and we went back to the pharmacy to see the Dr who was still waiting on us there. The Dr said according to the lab work I didn’t have a virus, and my bacterial numbers were within normal limits, but elevated somewhat. She explained that the lab work meant I wasn’t very sick yet but would get sicker. And the chest X-ray (she held it up to see in the sunlight) showed some spots from my asthma. She assured me several times that they had the medicine I needed, which made me think that often that’s a problem they deal with.

She prescribed a cough syrup, a substance similar to Vicks vapor rub, and amoxicillin tablets after asking about any drug allergies and checking the package insert to make sure the amoxicillin wouldn’t interact with my thyroid meds.

The nurse told me a couple of pressure points that were good for pulmonary problems, though the Dr didn’t seem to really think that was important. They gave me great instructions, checked to make sure I understood everything, and gave me a handwritten copy of the prescription and instructions. The doctor also gave us her card with a phone number should I need any more care for the rest of the trip until I went home. After all that, a well-dressed lady came and checked paperwork, forms, passport numbers, etc, and left.

I signed two papers and we were almost done. In all, for the consultation, lab work, and chest x-ray, it took about 2 hours, part of which was us talking about how medicine works in the US, and I’m sure she would have worked quicker had we been more quiet and less distracting. I walked out with an interesting experience and solutions found. The medical people were all competent and kind. They were not well-supplied, and they worked with old equipment. Everything smelled of disinfectant and was clean, though everything badly needed a fresh paint job. It would have made me feel better for me had they washed their hands or used sanitizer, and it would have made me feel better for them had they worn gloves and had an easily accessible sharps container.

The Cubans are quite impressed with their level of medical care. From what I understand, medical care is all free (though we all know nothing is ever really free) except prescriptions which are affordably priced. Each primary care doctor is responsible for the people on certain blocks, so there is no choice in who your doctor is, but Cuba doesn’t seem to care too much about providing its people with choices, so this is not surprising. They do have the highest numbers in the world of per capita number of doctors. These doctors are actually one of Cuba’s main exports, which sounds strange, but Cuba sends its doctors to other countries and the other countries pay Cuba for their services. Our doctor this day had spent some time in Ghana. A favorite destination of these doctors is Venezuela who (until recently at least) trades oil for them. They also have a good amount of “medical tourism” in which people from other countries travel to Cuba for cheap plastic surgeries and such. It was strange to have a doctor spend 2 hours on me, waiting for me while we did the lab work and x-ray.

Happy with the experience (me for getting help, Vince for his successful use of Spanish, and Steve because it all had all gone smoothly) we went back to our casa to rest and do Vince’s quizzing. I took my new meds, and we enjoyed the cool A/C and rested.

We did notice our laundry along with some others was in the “dryer” in the courtyard of the house.

At about 4:00 Vince was finished with his studying and it was starting to cool off, so we went to visit some art galleries and get dinner. We went back to the town square with the Martha Jimenez sculptures and behold, there was the man with the newspaper sitting next to his statue. His name is Norberto Subirat and he is now 83. He loves to talk and told us (through Vince interpreting) all about his son who lives in Rochester, NY. He is obviously a religious man and said God helps him to be strong enough to come meet people. He has visited his son in the States before and hopes to do so again. When Steve told him that he is a pastor the man jumped up and gave him a very warm hug and, looking a bit surprised, said he felt the Holy Spirit of God. He was very warm toward us, talking a lot about God. Steve slipped some money in his pocket and with a “Dios le bendiga” we left him there to greet other people and went to dinner.

After a dinner we wandered about looking for another artist’s shop that our guide had pointed out, but after much wandering of the confusing streets, we gave up and went to a square to get on the internet and check on the kids and emails.

Click here to continue the journey to Day 8.

Thank you!

I’d like to mention something I haven’t heard over the last few weeks in all the news, comments, concerns, and education about Ebola.

Of the 9200 who have fallen ill with it, 427 of those were healthcare workers. Of the over 4500 people who have died, 239 have been healthcare workers.

Of the 3 confirmed cases we have seen in America, 2 are nurses.

These people, more than others, know the dangers. They see the ceiling-high pile of infectious material because they put it there. They handle the diarrhea and vomit and blood, and they know that viruses are microscopic hordes and that accidents happen.

They go to work. They know that patients often don’t tell you the whole story right away, if ever. They know that a hospital is the easiest place to get sick. (Nosocomial infection, anyone?) They do their best, make tough calls, work long hours for small pay.

Then when they get assigned the patient with Ebola, they wear the hot sweaty hazmat suits which may not be enough. And then they get blamed when they get sick, as if suffering and possible death by a horrendous disease wasn’t enough.

So to all the doctors, nurses, and techs out there who daily put up with feces, urine, bacteria, fungus, viruses, disease, death, sickness, disrespect, rudeness, long hours, insurance nonsense, too much paperwork… You are heroes and heroines on the front line of a battle, and you deserve a lot more than our little thank you!

But at least we can give you that. So THANK YOU!

DIY Easy Reversible Breastfeeding Drape

photo 5

I breastfed my babies for about 4 years of my life, and I have nursed my babies just about everywhere. I am a modest person; I am very open about bodily functions (me being a nurse and all), but exposing myself isn’t something I want to go around doing. My go-to nursing drape at that time consisted of the largest receiving blanket I could find (which was never QUITE big enough), a shoestring, and 2 safety pins: not exactly a classy accessory. After I was all done breastfeeding, my daughter’s eczema was just awful and I learned how to sew well enough to make her some non-itchy clothes. I made some breastfeeding drapes for presents at baby showers, nice large stylish ones with adjustable straps, and they’ve been a big hit. I like my design better than any others I’ve found (I don’t like the ones with boning in the front. They allow you to see the baby eating, but they also allow anyone sitting next to you to do the same,) so I’ll share with you how I make them. They are REALLY simple.

Warning: If you are really good at sewing, these instructions will seem way too detailed and simple. I am in no way a professional seamstress, so if you’re a beginner, that’s okay. You do need to know how to cut material, sew a stitch, and put in a button and buttonhole.

Time to complete from start to finish (not counting washing/drying time): 1 1/2 – 3 hrs (depending on skill level).

Supplies needed:

– 2 pieces of coordinating material, 36″X 44″ You want something thick enough to not be flimsy, but thin enough to not make you and the baby hot. Remember, it will be double thickness, and hopefully even a baby born in the autumn will be breastfed through at least part of the summer, so lets not smother the little thing! I usually get a pretty cotton fabric in the quilting section. This pattern needs something that doesn’t have a one-way design but can just go any-which-way. I like to pick a material that is discreet and doesn’t yell, “Hey, everybody look what I’m doing over here” but is also classy and something a lady would wear. I see these as more for the mom than the baby, so I avoid a babyish pattern. But those are just my thoughts. You may want something entirely different.

These instructions make the sides of the drape the selvage/factory edge and the top and bottom the cut edges, so make sure that works with your material’s design.

So here goes.


– 1 large button, the bigger the better. At least 1 3/8″ is great. (As you can see here, 1.25″ and less is considered a choking hazard by the Child Safety Protection Act.)

– Thread that either matches or accents with the material. The thread WILL show.

– Velcro, 10 inches long, 1/2 inches wide. I always use the sew-on kind. I’ve been tempted to try the heat-bond kind, but I’m afraid of it coming off at just the wrong time. Nope, don’t want that!

– Sewing-type flexible tape measure

– Scissors

– Straight Pins

– Dull pencil

– An iron

– Something with a right angle, such as a piece of paper or a book

– A straight edge

– A writing pen

– Sewing Machine with button hole setting


– A Yardstick, or even better, a t-square

– Air soluble marker


1) Wash and dry your material just as you plan to wash the finished product. Use the same washer and dryer settings and detergent so you don’t get any surprises when you wash it later. Iron your material and cut off any threads that have bunched at the edges during washing.

2) Wind your bobbin and thread your machine.

3) Your material probably shrunk in the washing/drying process. That is the point, after all. The length from selvage to selvage, whatever that is now, will be how wide the drape is. You want to leave the selvage as is, make the corners square, and make the 2 pieces the same size. How? Do this. Probably one piece will be slightly smaller than the other. Work with it first. Make the sides and corners of the smaller piece even, straight, and square. This is where a t-square or yardstick will come in handy. If you don’t have those things, use a straight edge of some kind and a square corner (like a piece of paper or a book) to create a 90 degree angle. Leave the selvage uncut. Use it as the basis of your square corner. Use your air-soluble marker (or pen if you don’t have one of those) to mark the edge you want, and cut it out. Once you have one rectangle as you want it, place the other piece of material under it, right sides together, and cut the second to match the first. Now you have 2 nice, even, matching rectangles.

Find the cut edge, not the selvage. Cut off a 3 1/2″ strip of material from the bottom of each of your 2 big rectangles. This will be your strap. Cut off the end of each strap piece so they are each 29″ long. After you are done cutting, you should have 4 pieces of material: 2 big rectangles and 2 long strips. The strips will be 3 1/2″ x 29″. The big rectangles should be somewhere around 30″x40″ but it will vary a little.

4) First we’ll work with the 2 big rectangles, so set the 2 long strips aside for now. Put the 2 rectangles with right sides facing each other, match the edges up, and pin together or baste around the edges. This will be the body of the drape.


5) Sew around the edge with a 5/8″ seam allowance. (On the selvage edge, sew it just inside where the printing starts. It will probably be a little more than 5/8″. Go all around except leave a 7 inch opening on one side. Use your scissors to cut a small snip in each corner. Be careful not to cut the stitch you just made.

photo 2

6) Using the 7 inch opening, turn your material right-side-out.

photo 3

7) Using a pencil stuck through the opening you left, poke the corners out so they’re not squared off and not rounded. Do this gently so as not to poke holes in your material.

photo 4

8) Press your material with your iron. Put your hand inside the opening and push the seams tight as you iron them. Make the edges nice and crisp. The seam should be at the edge of the pressed material. Don’t iron the opening yet. Of course, don’t iron your hand.

photo 5

9) Fold an edge at the 7 inch opening to match the rest of the edges that are sewed, and iron flat. Pin the opening shut.

photo 6

10) Now sew a stitch 3/8″ from the edge all the way around, paying special attention to secure the opening you left before.

photo 7

11) Now fold it in half, placing the sides (the selvage ends, the shortest sides) together. Place a pin at the top at the 1/2 way fold or mark it with your air-soluble marker. Measure 3 1/2″ on one side and make your buttonhole up and down, perpendicular to the edge.

photo 2

12) Now measure 3 1/2″ on the other side of the 1/2 way pin and place the end of the soft, loopy side of the Velcro there, extending toward the side-edge of the drap. Put it just inside the stitch you made in step 10. Pin it in place. Sew as close to the edge of the Velcro as possible while still catching the edge. Take out the pins as you go, not sewing over the pins.

photo 3

(My measurements are a wee bit off in this picture. Sorry for that.)

13) Now set that aside and get out the 2 long strips you cut in step #3. As I said before, this will be the strap.

14) Put the 2 strips right sides facing each other, match the edges up, and pin together or baste around the edges, similar to how you did the large rectangles in step #4.

15) Sew around the edge with a 5/8″ seam allowance. Go all around except leave a 4 1/2″ opening on one side. Use your scissors to cut a small snip in each corner. Be careful not to cut the stitch you just made.

16) Using the opening, turn it right-side-out.

photo 8

17) As before, using a pencil stuck through the open end, carefully poke the corners out so they’re not rounded.

18) Iron your strap. Put your finger or use the pencil inside the opening and push the seams tight as you iron them. The seam should be at the edge of the pressed material. Don’t iron the opening yet. Again, don’t iron your finger.

19) Fold an edge at the opening to match the rest of the edges that are sewed, and iron flat. Pin the opening shut.

20) Sew a stitch 3/8″ from the edge all the way around, paying special attention to secure the opening left before. Now your strap is sewed.

photo 9

21) At one end of the strap, attach the button just inside the stitch.


(This button is smaller than I like. Get a bigger one for yours to be safe.)

22) At the other end, on the same side of the material as the button, pin the rough strip of Velcro, the side with the tiny little hooks. Sew as close to the edge of the Velcro as possible while still catching the edge. Take out the pins as you go, not sewing over the pins.

photo 10

23) Now the strap is done. You are almost finished.

24) Button the strap on the drape. Put the strap around your neck and velcro the other end.

photo 4