Into the Jungle

Wow! (I may start every blog with “Wow!” just because it so aptly describes my experience in GMI). This blog, I’m going to start with the fun stuff and end on the important stuff. I’ll keep experimenting with how to write my blogs just to keep you on your toes. Sound good? (I can’t hear your reply so I’m going to assume, “go for it!”).

Fun Facts about Costa Rica:

  • It is possible to get 10 mosquito bites in 5 minutes
  • Certain types of monkeys growl and bark like dogs
  • Life expectancy here is equivalent to the USA because of preventative care measures
  • Currently, hospitals are scheduling low-priority appointments for 2022

Monday, we traveled here to EARTH University. It is a small university about 15 minutes down a dirt road that has a distinct summer camp feel about it. Needless to say, I am immensely enjoying my time here in the outdoors. I have seen monkeys (they almost dropped a mango on my head), coatis (google it), exotic birds, iguanas, and more bugs than I care to remember. I also caught and kissed a toad that we found outside our room. “Pura vida,” right? So maybe I’ve been enjoying the outdoors a bit much.

Monkey-ing around in the jungle.

The toad that didn’t turn into a prince, but I tried

This was especially true Tuesday when I took a walk right after jogging and gave myself heat stroke. I realized what I had done mid-afternoon during an hour-long car ride. I would have made it back to the university okay if we had not stopped for groceries (which I am grateful for because I bought bread that got me through the next day). So after a couple bathroom breaks while in the store, I piled back into the 12 passenger van. Sadly, I sat in the very middle of everyone. About five minutes of dirt road away from the university, it happened. Luckily, Tasha recognized what was happening and gave me an empty grocery sack before I made a mess in the car. Dr. Richardson, alerted by the grotesque noises emanating from behind him, pulled over. After Chandler unbuckled my seatbelt, I staggered to the side of the road. After that incident, I almost made it the full 5 minutes back. Let’s just say I added to the monkeys’ pile of half-eaten mangos right before the driveway. I won’t go into detail but suffice it to say that I had a fun night. Shout out to Josh for the Gatorade, Anna (my roommate) for going into full-mom mode, Ryan for looking for ice, and the entire team for their understanding and support.

Hopefully, the Ticos (Costa Ricans) reading this will forgive me for disturbing nature that day. In that vein, I am constantly impressed by Costa Rica’s environmental initiatives. To give you an idea of how amazing they are; for 200 days last year, they generated 100% of their electricity from renewable sources. (The USA only generates about 15% of our electricity from renewables).

Solar panel array at Astra. Just one example of Costa Rica’s many environmentally friendly initiatives. Also note the small wind turbine in the background.

They have many wind turbines and solar panels in addition to their hydroelectric generation from rivers which provide the majority of their electricity. Other initiatives that I have seen include: sun-drying laundry, using paper towels sparingly, not using disposable eating utensils, and turning off the lights and air conditioning. Also, I have not seen any Styrofoam here. These practices are certainly making a difference; I have not experienced any smog in San Jose as in other big cities. On the contrary, the air felt clean and fresh. In my opinion, Costa Rica more than deserves its reputation for being environmentally friendly.

Astra’s plasma rocket that will take man to Mars one day.

Looking past Earth, we were privileged to tour Astra, the company that will be instrumental in sending the first people to Mars. They showed us their plasma rocket and explained how it worked. In a nutshell, plasma is superheated gas. Because it is so hot, it offers better alternative to traditional fuels for traveling through space. With their engine, we could get to Mars in 39 days instead of 4-6 months, so they’re a pretty big deal. They are also pioneering hydrogen fuel technology and experimenting with wind and solar power as well. Interestingly, those who care about space also deeply care about Earth.

 

DialOasis project computer model. It is a sterile room for patients to perform dialysis at home.

Our biggest task this week was to understand and kick off our implementation project DialOasis. This project was designed by last year’s GMI students and now we get to carry it onward. It is a small, sterile room for dialysis patients to use for treatment at home. Currently, treatment at home is allowed if the patient has a dedicated clean-room in which to do dialysis. However, these rooms cost up to half of a year’s wages and so are unaffordable for many patients. This means that they must go to the hospital 6 days per week for about 10 hours each day to receive treatment. This peritoneal dialysis treatment relies on natural processes (diffusion) to work and thus is much slower and less expensive than dialysis in the Unites States. With the completion of this project, we will be helping many people across Costa Rica by enabling them to live more of a normal life and not spend almost all of their waking hours in a hospital.

Physical therapy unit at the hospital. Just one of the cool devices that maybe one day I will be a part of designing.

We also visited the hospital several times. My favorite area was physical therapy. They gave us several concrete needs that have the potential to develop into design projects for us such as a device to pull patients’ fingers to stimulate blood flow during healing and a method to convert normal beds into standing beds that can improve bedridden patients’ blood flow. I was in heaven the entire hour that we were there. Everything was hands-on and mechanical based so it was right up my alley. The jury is still out, but I could definitely see myself pursuing a career in physical therapy devices. We will see what happens the rest of the year and where God leads me.

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