Introduction to Tropical Medicine – Beverly

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We had finally gotten back home after a long day of travel. Hillary spent the whole night at BWI. Cathleen enjoyed her very first flying experience. I was pretty proud of myself for taking on driving on the left side of the road. It takes a lot of focus at intersections, but I otherwise just pretend I’m driving on a one way road and keep left. My fellow peers have been super stellar navigators and very helpful along the route. Dinner included goat and conch entrees peppered with discussions about the people and the critters of the island and an occasional furry visitor (stray cats). But it’s been a long day and everyone is totally zonked. Just want to unload our groceries and get into bed.

Little did we know we were about to get our first lesson in tropical medicine…

Hughes and I are chilling in our room, unpacking, checking e-mails, winding down. Shrieking ensues from the dining room. Realizing I must live up to my promise I had made only hours before at the dinner table to help “take care” of the critters, I leave the security of my bedroom to find out what lies beyond. Multiple women hugging walls and standing on chairs cursing some menace which I cannot yet see. Christa turns to me, “I got stung.”

Now, this is where I comment about how my nursing skills have trained me to learn my role. What do I see? Chaos, panic, and no one prepared to take charge of the situation. Emily has somehow contained whatever this predator is that I have yet to see. I’ve been in situations like this in the past, where critters have summoned the fear out of my peers and I’ve had to journey on to remove the pest and return the environment to safety. But never in my entire life have I seen anything like this. A hearty, brown, SIX INCH centipede is chilling on our tile floor.

“Did anyone try to kill it?”

“I tried to squash it and look what happened to me,” replies Christa.

I ask for quiet as flits of fear develop into shrieks. “Please exit the room if you are unprepared to see our visitor.” A few leave. And roles begin to develop. I form a plan of attack as Diann, the licensed nurse on our trip begins to administer google-based medicine to our wounded, who is now bleeding, swelling, and realizing the pain is not going away as quickly as she had thought. Emily and I approach from opposing sides, I am armed with an upside down trashcan, she was a magazine. Emily with the hands of a surgeon scares Mr. Centipede out of his hiding spot and I trap him over by the bookcase. Good, now we have containment.

What next though? Stomping on it didn’t end well for Christa. There’s no newspaper to slip under to return him to the outdoors. Sadly, I realize that although most of my colleagues don’t really want him killed, it may be our only option. Christa maimed him, although his exoskeleton proved to be a tough armor for our offenses.

I am barefoot. Safety first, always. What shoes did I pack…..? DANSKOS. Heavy, close-toed, this is my main weapon. Emily runs to fetch my pair while I keep my weighted hand on the trashcan. Looking back, he wouldn’t have escaped by his lonesome, but apparently I had marked him as a high security prisoner. Diann is now getting Christa’s foot in some warm water and Hughes is pulling together her Benadryl.

imageEmily returns with my shoes. I don them for the first time believing they are the safest thing I have to wear given the time and place, despite the fact that I roll my ankle once a week on my way to school while wearing them.

Hughes comes over, because she’s naturally curious and perches safely on a chair directly next to the trashcan.

“Do you want a magazine?” offers Emily.

“I don’t think that will do it, we need something with more weight,” the gravity of this situation hasn’t become laughable yet, as far as anyone is concerned we are all still in immediate danger. We look to the bookshelf and lo and behold: an NCLEX review book. It could not have been more fitting. “Jess, you pick up the trashcan while I throw the book down, okay?” A terse nod and she’s prepared. She vocalizes fear, but like a brave nurse, is prepared to press on. Here we go…

Trashcan up, book down, and the darn thing is still squirming. So, I just start pulling books off the shelf and throwing them down as hard as I can until we’re sure we’ve accomplished our task. For some unknown reason, Jess uses the trashcan as her weapon even though her efforts are likely futile. Jess lifts three heavy books and he’s still squirming around. Paper towels, Dansko clogs – I knew they’d be worth the money some day.

And at the end of it all, a picture to prove it. That is how we learned that St. Croix will be full of surprises and Public Health is all about preparedness, flexibility, and bravery. Christa survived. And we’re all laughing now… and maybe a little bit scared.

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