I’ve been back home in Gwinnett County for almost two whole days as of right now and all I can do is slightly smile. Thinking of how bittersweet it is to be back home and which memories to share with this post. Before I went on this trip down to Moultrie, GA I didn’t think I would be so emotionally attached to this city, these people, and these memories I’ve made. I thought this would be a great opportunity to experience public health and help our state with providing health care to those who have little to none access. I did not expect the emotional rollercoaster I began to be such an integral part of my nursing school journey.
The first Sunday everyone gathered at the Ellenton Clinic where we were slightly introduced to the faculty and different disciplinary teams to learn what each of our roles were as we spend the next two weeks together. We ended the night with a lovely dinner from the Mayor of Moultrie where some amazing Pound Cake with fruit toppings were our farewell gift and a sweet welcoming to the community.
Throughout the week we slowly got accustomed to our roles and we all faced personal journeys with this program. Starting the day off in the morning at Cox Elementary where we did care for the children was definitely a life moving experience. Push aside the unknown of kids, the fear of being with sixteen 5 year olds, and the fear of not being able to help a kid and we were all surprised at what we experienced. From helping kids ages 3 to 10 we got to share some laughs and some personal memories. Working with vision, hearing, blood glucose, and hemoglobin screenings the BSN students really got to know some of these kids pretty well. You try to encourage them to be brave before we poke them in the finger or tell them the blood pressure cuff will feel like a tight hug. We listen to the kids tell us the shape of a heart is “te amo” and you can’t help but smile and agree saying, “good job!” I’ll always remember the little girl who would hold my hand to every station and smile as she did her screenings. Her smile reminded me of all the good we are doing for these young people. The innocence of these kids who are here for an education and a better life bring a sense of hope. I laugh now thinking about the boy who was terrified to get his finger pricked but laughed and told all his friends it tickled after the quick pinch.
It didn’t hurt at all, it tickled! There’s nothing to be scared about!
– The little boy telling his friends
As we wrapped up the school on Friday it was surreal to know how many kids we saw and helped. How many kids we may not see again next year and how many kids were waving to us goodbye with smiles on their faces. I don’t consider myself a pediatric person, but this daily morning trip to Cox Elementary has changed my life for the better. I hope these kids stay in school and smile as much as they can. Their smiles are infectious and you can’t help but smile with them.
After school everyday a wonderful church would open their arms and doors to us with food and blessings. It was wonderful to see a community so happy and grateful for helping another community in a bigger community sense. I can’t stop thinking about the fried chicken, squash casserole, the endless amounts of homemade desserts, and the love and smiles we received. I am very thankful for the memories we made at lunch and the encouragement we received for all of our hard work.
I’m positive you could be told how Night Camp was going to be run and not be fully prepared for how these nights would go. Dirt roads, AC blasting, and sometimes little naps that involved drool were the main parts to our night ritual as we drove to a farm each night. As we were directed in which way to park students would create bug spray clouds and quickly rub in some sunscreen lotion so we wouldn’t burn under the hot southern sun. Is it weird to say I miss that lovely combination? Night camp was a beautiful, hectic, and wonderful experience. We were exposed to so much in so little time and yet we were making such a big impact in these two weeks. From blood pressure, height, weight, BMI, and blood glucose/hemoglobin the students were really able to make an impact. Especially with the Foot care station. The ability to really share an intimate moment with someone in such a unique way is one we cannot forget. To take in someone who wants a little human contact in a non-weird way but a very therapeutic way. If you really wanted to feel like you were helping someone out, you needed to work at the foot care station. After this station I’m a FIRM believer in human contact as therapy.
Night Camp proved to be long and hard like we were told. But there is just no way to talk about how rewarding it was. With Intake we were able to learn a little about our patients and try to customize a certain care plan that fit their needs. Some farm workers needed foot care, muscle relaxants, a full body check up, and some just wanted some clothes. I can say for myself I gained more from them being there then most gained from actually being a patient. You see some pretty upsetting stuff and hear some heart breaking stories and you can’t just help but get teary eyed and keep working. You start to think this program is the least you can do for them. A patient that sticks out in my mind is a boy my age that just came over from Mexico. He was in college to be an Architect but his family needed money for his younger siblings to go to school. He dropped out of school and came over here to send money to his family. My heart broke as I heard this story and it made me realize how fortunate I am. How upsetting it is to see someone have to give up his dreams. How lucky am I to be at Emory getting an education to help achieve my dreams? Could I just drop it? This was just one example of some heart breaking stories we encountered in two weeks.
Coming back to Gwinnett County I can’t help to think how blessed and fortunate I am to have so much in less than a mile of my house. Grocery Stores, Healthcare, Education, and Public Services all just around the corner. I live in an area were I am privileged compared to where I just came from and it’s shocking. Who knew two weeks in Moultrie could change you like this. I saw a little girl at church today and I couldn’t help but smile and think about the girl at Cox Elementary. Or seeing these dad’s today and thinking about the amount of fathers in the farms trying to make money for their families back home.
This trip to Moultrie is a memorial trip I will cherish forever. From the laughs, new friends, new bonds, the different things we were exposed to, and the idea of helping those in need I can’t help but smile right now as I type this. Moultrie has a special place in my heart that’s changed my life. Thank you to everyone who got to share this moment with me and I hope you enjoyed reading about our journey in South Georgia!
We were crazy busy all the time but I ended up loving it and you and everyone made it great!
– Marcela Sanchez
– Tyler Hanke-Diego