Amy Fink, Clinic Day 6: Diriamba, Nicaragua, May 2014


Nicaragua2014_D6.1Our final clinic day was “Large Animal Day” and was filled with cattle, horses, goats and one very sick pig.

Nicaragua2014_D6.2The cattle herd was a mix of Brahmans, Brown swiss and some hybrids that were collectively raised for both dairy and meat production on a little farm just outside of Diriamba. Most of the animals were dosed with a lipid-soluble Vitamin supplement and de-wormed with injectable Ivermectin. The farm hands and VIDA staff veterinarians restrained one animal at a time so the students could advance with syringes ready. It was great to see handling of these animals in a rural setting, here the workers rely on lassos, slip knots, tail jacks, and sweat to restrain. It was incredible to see them wrangle huge horned bulls with makeshift pulleys around roughly hewn-fences and a central tree stump that served to brace our enormous patients.

Unfortunately, a significant drought was affecting the entire area and these animals and the farmers were definitely feeling the strain. Our head veterinarian held an impromptu rounds session during a break and asked us to consider how much we were really accomplishing with these supplements and deworming treatments. He asked, “Will these really do much to help improve the condition of these animals? Is our work today going to help this producer make more money for these animals?” The sad answer was no, what these animals really needed was a steady, reliable food source. Some of the rural producers had to take their herds miles away to find a pasture where they could eat. Driving around the country, there were often cattle and horses loosely tied or freely roaming on the sides of the roads eating the grass there, probably because this was the closest, and most lush, “pasture” they had access to.

Nicaragua_D6.3After treating the adult cattle, we moved on to the calves. Again the head veterinarian had a teachable moment and called our attention to a little calf with an umbilical hernia. He asked us how we would treat in these conditions. We answered as though this was a case in the US and he shot down our responses. With a lengthy drought and dwindling resources, the farm’s owner was debating keeping his herd at all and could not be expected to spend time or money to fix this calf. He explained that the best thing we could do was educate. He explained to the farm owner how best to prevent hernias in the future, with cleaner husbandry following the birth to hopefully prevent an infection at the umbilicus.

The goat farm we visited was facing similar concerns to the cattle-there simply was not enough food. The owner was feeding a diet very high in roughage with little nutritional value simply because that was all she had available.

Of all our clinic days, Day 6 was perhaps the most humbling as we learned not only about the conditions these animals live in, but also saw the struggles of farmers in these small communities. As we said our final goodbyes to our staff doctors and veterinary assistants, one of the assistants, Diana said something that I hope will always resonate with me as I continue in my career. She said, “We are blessed to do what we love, you guys even more than others with the education you have access to. You have to remember to give that love back.“

-Amy Fink

Thanks to VIDA, the incredible staff, my fellow students and these wonderful communities for an incredible, and truly unforgettable, experience!



Natalie Rupp, Clinic Day 5: Diriamba, Nicaragua, May, 2014


The last clinic day we had on the trip was in Diriamba. By this time, we were all pros at setting up the clinic, efficiently admitting patients for checks up and surgery, and recovery and discharge of the patients. I was paired with Justina as my surgery partner and we made a great team. The day before, Justina and I had dealt with an incredibly scared and fractious cat that bit her in the hand and scratched up my arms and hands. Going into today with some fresh battle scars, we were given a lot of puppies to do physical exams on. It was a great way to end the trip because who doesn’t like puppies?

Nicaragua2014_D5.1After the cat incident, the veterinarians sat us down to discuss how to handle a fractious animal and what may have been a better way to approach the situation instead of just carefully lifting the scared cat out of the box it was brought to us in. We learned that we should have put it in a squeeze cage to administer anesthetics easier and also cut down on handling of the animal. Another thing we were taught was a better method of placing a harness on a cat. Unfortunately we hadn’t gotten a harnessed placed well on the cat before it decided to try and bolt away while munching on our hands as it ran. It was great experience dealing with animals that were not used to being held. In fact, throughout this entire trip, I feel that this was the most significant thing I learned…how to restrain properly and approach scared animals. Without a doubt, this is a priceless gift to have!

On this last day, we did 21 surgeries, yet we were completely finished with the clinic and cleaned up at 4pm. This was amazing timing considering the last time we had gotten through 21 surgeries, we were still finishing up surgeries around 4pm. Everyone was working as a team so well and no one sat around waiting for others to finish. If someone wasn’t finished, the group would be pulling take home drugs, writing prescriptions and finishing discharges to help the unfinished pair get their patient out faster.

Diriamba was one of the smallest clinic spaces we had because it was all in one room. The intake area actually had to be set up outside to make more space since the schoolroom we were able to use was so small. This was tough with the wind but also inevitably helped keep the clinic quieter and less frantic because dogs were separated more. Each new setting we had to adapt to was tough but it just made us better at adapting to any situation we might be put in in the future. If I can stand in a surgery with long pants on, a facemask and surgical cap in 95 degrees and extreme humidity, I feel like I could handle any surgery site! What a great learning experience!

~Natalie Rupp



Stephanie Palumbo, Apoyo Lagoon, Nicaragua, May 2014


After spending 4 days living with our homestay families in Masaya and working 2 more clinics days, we were given another day off! This time we spent our day at the very beautiful Apoyo Lagoon. This amazing place was by far one of my favorite experiences during the trip. The lagoon was within a crater that was created from the volcano erupting and filling with water. I have never seen water so clean, you could see right through it. The sides of the lagoon were covered with beautiful green vegetation and flowers.

Nicaragua2014_Lagoon1When we arrived at the monkey hut, we were each given a card with a different location/person/object on it as our identification card while ordering food all day. While we were pre-ordering our lunches everyone took advantage of the elevated deck to take pictures of the gorgeous lagoon. In order to walk down to the water, there was a very steep ramp and steps. We grabbed inner tubes and chairs on the way down. I was expecting the lagoon to be more crowded than it was. Pablo told us that the lagoon was more of tourist destination than a place the locals hang out. It was very peaceful to be able to spend time with our group and not have to worry about there not being enough chairs, inner tubes, etc. Pablo warned us to apply a lot of sunscreen, but since I was one of the lucky ones who did not get burned at the beach I didn’t take as much precaution as I should I have…big mistake. Even after spending a lot of time in the shade I managed to get sunburned pretty badly. Aloe definitely became my friend the next few days.

Nicaragua2014_Lagoon.2Clinic days are an amazing opportunity and learning experience, but they can be extremely tiring in the humid heat! I spent most of day sun tanning on the floating platform 50 feet from the shore, floating for hours in an inner tube or reading a book on the beach. You can’t have a relaxing day at the lagoon without stopping by the monkey hut for refreshments! Pina coladas, strawberry daiquiris and fruit smoothies were by far the most popular drinks of the day. Every fruit drink made in Nicaragua is made with fresh fruit cut right in front of you. So delicious! Lunch was ready by 1pm and was once again amazing. I decided to have chicken tenders, rice, palatines and a side salad to have a more American type meal. I liked every meal I had in Nicaragua, even the palatines that seemed to have an unlimited number of different ways to be prepared! In the afternoon, I spent most of the time in the shade talking to the rest of group, reading my book and occasionally napping.

Nicaragua2014_Lagoon.3The Apoyo lagoon was the perfect place to spend our recreation day relaxing and building more memories and stories to share with everyone back home. We left the lagoon around 4pm and traveled to our next destination for clinics in Diriamba!

~Stephanie Palumbo