Saturday, July 5, 2008

Week 4 - Jose

This week I got to go on two Samaritan runs in the desert. I got to meet a migrant who had been walking for 7 days. When we encountered him, our Samaritan nurse and I offered him medical help (it is one of the few things we can still do legally). He had run out of water and food, had really red eyes, and had several blisters in both of his feet. This latter condition had slowed him down from the coyote and the rest of the group, which had left him behind. He had become extremely thirsty and had decided to drink water from a cattle tank. I remember the first thing he said was that he felt nauseous – an expected symptom after drinking the parasitic water from cattle tanks and walking in the desert for so long. I knew we could only offer limited help. We gave him a Gatorade so that he could recover the electrolytes lost, Toms pills for the stomach ache/nausea, and a little snack because he had not eaten for 2 days. When we left him, I felt really powerless, not only because I knew I could offer limited medical help but also because under the federal law, I am prohibited to help migrants in any other way besides offering him food and water. It is then that federal policy can become ironic to some individuals: you are allowed to take better care of a dog that crosses an invisible line than a human being who comes with humble intentions to get a job that nobody else wants in order to help his family (this even helps the US economy because taxes are often withheld by IRS after every paycheck and are never returned to this worker because he cannot fill out an income tax).

In addition to the Samaritan experience, I got a TB test and watched several videos about HIPAA and prevention of disease contraction/transmission. After I was done with all this, I began my dental shadowing experience at El Rio Community Health Clinic. I just had 30 minutes to observe before the clinic closed, but I had the opportunity to see a patient receive a comprehensive teeth cleaning and two teeth extractions.

Near the end of the week, I traveled with the rest of the DukeEngage group to the No More Deaths Camp to stay for the weekend. We hiked different well-known migrant trails, but we did not get to encounter anyone. We visited different aid stations where we left gallons of water and picked up the ones that were empty. Very frequently I encountered unpaired shoes in the desert – only one shoe was being left behind! I started wondering what all this was about: Are they now hopping through the desert? How can they survive this place when their soles of their feet have cactus spines? Who is responsible for such suffering: their ignorance and unpreparedness when crossing the desert? The lack of explanation/knowledge from their coyote? Or our government’s decision to enact Operation Gatekeeper which forced migrants to cross to the desert? Perhaps we will never arrive to a consolidated conclusion.

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