The last trip to the field was both a hit and a miss. I got a few more interviews done in Isolationville, but not all the interviews that I wanted. The cuasi worked for one day, and then refused to start for me again. *big sigh*
So, I didn’t get all the interviews I wanted, but I did have enough to work with. I spent the rest of my time in Integrationville finishing up scanning and extracting data from the archival health records in the Mission and writing up and piloting questions for a cultural consensus survey about tuberculosis with Lida, one of my field assistants.
My supervisor and another global health instructor asked me to take lots of photos of myself ‘doing global health research’. This is what it looked like last trip:
I look pretty unimpressed, but that’s just my ‘trying to read illegible doctors’ cursive in Spanish’ face. The records kept at the Mission go back 25 years, so I’m really excited to have that much history to draw on. Particularly because tuberculosis is such a slow-moving disease. People can be infected in their youth, but the bacteria lay dormant and active disease doesn’t develop until decades later.
The records are kind of spotty, because they used to be kept in a wooden cabinet, and termites burrowed up under the cabinet and ate many of the paper records. Luckily they seemed to have left the tuberculosis records alone, but a lot of other health information was lost. These records tend to be either (1) a single record of a visit to the health post, unattached to any patient or family history of health, or (2) a running daily tab of patients seen, their major health complaint, and medications disbursed by the health post. The first kind of record is kept on special forms which appear to have been phased out (or perhaps the more modern ones became termite food), while the second is kept on your normal, everyday rule lined notebook. I’ve scanned all the available records (with my VuPoint Magic Wand Scanner – highly recommend to other fieldworkers who need to scan stuff in low tech settings), and I’m slowly putting them in a database I am going to leave with the health post.
Since I arrived back in Asunción, I’ve been working on paperwork that will allow me to make the necessary changes to my project and trying to track down the lab supplies I need. And (with the help of a personal loan my parents helped me get) I bought field vehicle #3 to replace the cuasi:
Isn’t she beautiful? I’m a little nervous about how she’ll hold up out there, but the third field vehicle is the charm, right? I haven’t driven a stick since I was 14 on backroads in rural Manitoba, so I’ve been practicing when it’s deserted downtown under the supervision of friends. It’s not nearly as fun as driving the cuasi, but it will be nice to store field equipment inside the vehicle instead of strapping it on my back.