Guatemala Day Three-Five

Part of the fun of international travel is always finding reliable internet connectivity. Since my last post I have been fighting quite aggressively with the internet and my computer, but finally I overcame (which is impressive if you knew how little I understand about computers). Anyway here is what I had typed up for day three and then some extra added to it to include days four and five (so it’s crazy long):

Afternoon storms are becoming a normal part of our routine – I think that they’re the only thing that actually runs on schedule here. Those of us who need internet, for homework or more leisurely activities like Netflix viewing, are watching the clouds and lightening roll in from the open, covered area where we get internet at this hotel. It’s making things significantly cooler here, which is such a blessing. The rainy season has begun in Guatemala, which means that the entire night was filled with rain falling on the tin roof of our room and that the entire day felt sticky and hot.

This morning, as the midwives started walking into the courtyard this bubble of excitement overwhelmed the table that where we were all sitting. We wanted so badly to go and greet them, and know them, and express our appreciation for them being there. Two issues with that desire: we didn’t want to overwhelm them and none of us speak their native language. Instead we settled for the traditional “Buenas días” and a pat on the arm/kiss on the cheek as they headed to our conference area.

Rebecca Gloss and Hannah Lake-Rayburn did the teaching today. The spent the entire morning dialoguing with the midwives about high blood pressure during pregnancy, preeclampsia, symptoms of these conditions, and when women were traditionally referred out. We then broke off into small groups and taught these midwives how to take blood pressures using the BP cuffs and stethoscopes we brought down for them. It was so exciting to realize how veracious these people are to learn new skills and about new equipment that they knew would help the women that they love so much.

Not that this teaching didn’t come without challenges: the majority of our group speaks some Spanish, but that becomes completely moot when trying to communicate with the majority of the midwives because they speak a traditional Mayan language that sounds and tastes nothing like Spanish. It’s harsher sounds, stronger syllables, thicker tongues. Luckily, we had a translator there, Maria, and quite a few of the midwives also spoke both, so in the end it all worked out from that standpoint. We were also educating a couple of illiterate individuals, which made taking blood pressures difficult for them because while they could hear the sounds and understand where on the monitor they needed to note numbers, they couldn’t dictate what the number actually was – which almost defeats the purpose. Our solution? Mark on the cuff monitor which pressures indicated an emergent situation and necessitated a referral. This job requires nothing if not adaptability.

After eating lunch with the midwives, they began there journeys back home – some of which would be more than two hours – and we returned back to our rooms for a quick siesta. At 1530, we met back up with one another and took the bus into the town of Chisec. We could hear and see the storm rolling in, but we were determined to get in a little bit of walking in spite of the obvious incoming weather. We paid for our stubbornness and got caught in a small shoe shop during a torrential downpour. All of the people who were in town took cover under something and we just watched the streets quickly fill with water. Luckily, the shop keepers were extremely pleasant and allowed us to stay under cover until Oswaldo came and picked us up in the bus.

The rest of the evening was spent putting together small packages for the midwives – consisting of gloves, umbilical ties (they don’t do clamps down here), new scissors to cut the umbilical cords with, sterile blue towels, and a couple of pairs of sterile gloves. All of these new goodies will provide the midwives with a very limited supply of some of the resources that they need – but we’re trying. These packages coincide beautifully with the educational session about sepsis and neonatal infections that will be conducted tomorrow by myself and Tamara Noy.

Our teaching went well. We got to have lengthy conversations about infections and how the midwives traditionally care for their women. I think at this point we were all quickly coming to the realization that these midwives are so so so knowledgable and so passionate. It becomes much more of a dialogue and much less teaching – an exchange of treatments and options and ideas. It’s so inspiring to learn from them and to hear what they go through on a daily basis.

We got to do a home visit with one of the comadrones, which was very eye-opening. The woman we saw five months pregnant with her fifth child. Her husband, her four daughters, and she lived in a building that is roughly the size of typical dorm room with dirt floors and a large curtain splitting off some of the sleeping areas from everything else. There were three chickens living in the house with them and a large (I mean large) bin of corn in one corner. Even though it was small, and the family was obviously impoverished, everything was clean and well-cared for – and the woman had pride showing us where she lived and introducing us to her daughters (all through the interpreter mind). We also got to see the return OB visit, the midwife did Leopold’s (basically felt the belly to determine the size and position of the fetus) and then did a mini rubdown of the woman’s legs and belly and arms – kind of like a massage. It was wonderful to see a midwife in another country utilize similar tools that we do in the States.

Finally, on Thursday, Chelsea and Michelle did their teaching on postpartum hemorrhage. They used chucks and poured different amounts of fake blood on to them to have the midwives determine which needed a referral and which was okay. We also supplied the midwives with headlamps and showed them how to use them so that they could see when they were walking in the middle of the night and check for tears in poorly lit buildings. Chelsea and Michelle mimed a birth with a postpartum hemorrhage and asked the midwives what they would do throughout. It was a very successful learning day.

We then went a stood in a circle with all of the comadrones and began throwing a ball of yarn from person to person. The person with the yarn would share what they had learned or what they enjoyed most about the past three days, would keep a hold of the string, and pass the ball along. At the end, we were all connected by this string which physically exemplified the way in which we were connected by our profession and our passion for the women that we get to care for on a regular basis. I think it’s safe to say that these three days in Chisec were inspiring and uplifting on both ends and just made me so much more excited to enter this profession.

BP practice with the midwives.

Erika, Hannah, and Becky teaching the midwives.

Jenny, Becky, and Tamara teaching more about BP

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