Day 5 at Moultrie – Rained Out and Moving Out

BSN students getting ready for the last night of the first week (featuring stylish rain boots and fanny packs)

Lightening lighting up the sky as we begin to pack up our stations

Yesterday and today are the last two days of our first week and the time absolutely flew by!! Last night we once again lined up in our cars and headed out to a new camp to work with. We set up quickly on the main road leading into the camp so everything was flat and there weren’t too many bugs bothering us. The men who come to us are usually just coming off from the work in the fields and they were running a little late yesterday so we had extra time to all hang out. Over the week everyone in the disciplines has gotten close and become great friends so we no longer spend our free time with just a small group of people in our same specialty; instead, we used our free time to organize a quick soccer game for all of the specialties to play while others watched and cheered on their friends. After a few good soccer games, the workers started coming and and we all headed to our stations. I was at the blood glucose and hemoglobin station, which has become by favorite station to work at during the camps at night. All of the previous camps we had been to this week had only men, but there was a fair number of women who were working that came and saw us which was a new experience. Unfortunately, a few hours in we heard lightening cracking nearby and had no coverings for any of us so we had to pack up quickly and head back to the hotel. Normally when we are in class as students and we hear that we get to head home early everyone gets very excited, but there was a different tone when we were told we would be leaving early last night. Many of else felt sad and disappointed. We knew there was nothing we could do about the situation since the approaching lightening was a major safety concern, but it was hard for us to leave knowing there was a lot of men and women that we could not see or help out, but we hoped that we made an impact on those we did see.

BSN Student, Jessica Yang, testing blood glucose and hemoglobin on an Elementary Student while a pharmacy student helps keep her distracted and happy!

Today we woke up with our cars packed to go home and ready to head out to the last morning session at the Elementary School for the week. There were not too many kids to see and we got them all in and out quickly. I was working at the audiometry station testing the kids’ hearing with another BSN student which went smoothly since the kids knew there were no needles involved and they got to wear cool headphones instead!! We did not have to pack up too much since we would be back again on Monday but we made sure our stations were clean before getting into our cars and making the drive back up to Atlanta to be able to rest and refresh ourselves for a few days. I have had such an incredible experience this past week and feel like I’ve already learned and grown so much. Working in this unique setting has taught me so much about teamwork, flexibility, cooperation, and patience. I am so excited to be able to come back for one more week with people I’ve grown so close to and some new faces as well!

First week group with all of our BSN students, NP students, Pharmacy students, Dental Hygiene students, Physical Therapy students, and faculty!

Share and Enjoy:
  • email
  • Print
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Add to favorites
  • RSS
  • StumbleUpon

Day 4 at Moultrie – Blood, Sweat & (no) Tears

The farmworker camp we worked at and set up our stations

Last night a little after 6:30pm we arrived at a new farm, covered head-to-toe in bug spray and ready to tackle whatever the night threw at us. Thankfully there was no rain on the radar for the night, but this camp definitely brought some new challenges and surprises; there were no coverings at the camp so we were outside with the grass coming up to our knees. Even though we were at a new location, the set up went smoothly since we have settled well into all of our roles throughout the different disciplines. I was placed at the blood glucose and hemoglobin stations where we were doing finger sticks on the men that came through. Doing the finger sticks on the farmworkers can sometimes be challenging because their fingers are often very callused making it harder to draw blood for both machines. We’ve all learned techniques from each other to make the process easy for us and the men so we don’t have to stick them again. Sometimes we have to squeeze and massage down their hands (a process some nurses have termed “milking” the arm) and holding their hands down at their side to let gravity help the blood flow. The men were able to go around and see all of the nursing stations, the nurse practitioners, physical therapy, and dental hygiene throughout the night and get the help and referrals they needed.

 

One of the nursing students getting a good stretch from a physical therapy student during a break!

This morning we went back to Cox Elementary School to continue our care and screening for the kids. Another one of the nursing students and I went upstairs and got ready at our station that was testing height, weight, and BMI. Working with the children at the station was pretty simple, all we had to do was weigh them and measure their height but it required a lot of charting so, like yesterday during the vision screening, we took a lot of turns charting and keeping the kids entertained who were waiting. In our room we were testing in we also had a physician from Guatemala who was sitting with the kids waiting teaching them about Zika virus. She used coloring books and pictures to explain to them what the virus is and how they can help prevent it for themselves and others. The Zika virus is becoming an increasingly difficult problem, especially here in rural South Georgia during the summer months, so teaching these kids from a young age is very crucial. Our hotel we are staying at is also very kindly serving all of us dinner tonight before we head out to our last night at a farmworker camp for the week. We head home for the weekend tomorrow afternoon but we’ll be back Sunday night to start our second week of service here!

Share and Enjoy:
  • email
  • Print
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Add to favorites
  • RSS
  • StumbleUpon

Day 3 at Moultrie – Getting off on the Right Foot

Enjoying our delicious food prepared at the camp!

A little after 5:30pm yesterday evening, we once again loaded everyone in the program into our 30 car caravan to go back to the camp we helped at on Monday night. I felt a lot more comfortable and confident going back now that I had a night to see how everything was run and get used to the language barrier. Set up went smoother since we knew where everything went and it thankfully wasn’t raining or muddy (yet). All of the workers at the camp very graciously served our entire group a traditional Mexican dinner. The food was delicious and it felt so nice for them to welcome us into their lives in such a kind way.

Some of the housing facilities for the camp

Last night I was assigned to the foot care station where we cleaned the mens’ feet, cut their nails, moisturized and massaged their feet, and assessed for any infections or problems to refer them to the nurse practitioners and clinic. The foot care station is often the station that a lot of us nursing students dread, but it was set off to the side of the camp where we weren’t in the center of the hustle and bustle. A big part of the station involved educating the men on proper foot care and how to protect them from pesticide exposure in the field that can accumulate in their shoes, but since we got to sit with the men in a quieter environment, we could talk with them and connect and give them a bit of much needed relaxation and pampering. Unfortunately, a few hours into being at camp the clouds moved in and it began pouring so we had to close up the foot care station since it was outside. The other people working at the station and I ended up circulating and offering help at different stations as needed and tried to make the rest of the night as productive and smooth as possible.

 

BSN Student, Jessica Yang, hula hooping before the kids came in!

This morning we again returned to Cox Elementary School to help continue assessments and screenings on the kids in the summer school program. I was working at the vision testing station where we used picture charts to help test their vision for distance and also a book to check for color blindness. Gabrielle, one of the other BSN students, and I were working together and had a great flow with the kids as we would switch off having one of us filling out the kids’ charts as we tested their eyes and the other person pointing at the pictures and keeping the kids in the room entertained with stickers and funny glasses. I really enjoy starting the days working with the kids; they are so much fun to work with and they bring out a funny, silly side in everyone working and make the day so much more enjoyable. Tonight we are at a new camp working with a new group of men where more help, education, and learning can happen!

Share and Enjoy:
  • email
  • Print
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Add to favorites
  • RSS
  • StumbleUpon

Day 2 at Moultrie – Feeling the Pressure

High fashion for nursing students at the first camp!

Yesterday we had our first night working with the farmworkers at their camps and it was quite an operation; everyone in the program throughout all of the disciplines lined up in their cars next to our hotel for a giant caravan drive to our first farm of the week! We all arrived together through muddy roads and began unloading and setting up numerous truckloads of supplies in our finest rain gear: ponchos resembling giant plastic bags and our scrub pants tucked nicely into our rain boots.

 

Sun goes down, head lamps go up!

Everyone was very excited setting up and preparing to meet and work with the men here. One of my favorite parts of this program is how we have so many different medical fields working together and learning from each other. Molly, one of the other nursing students, and I got to teach a group of the pharmacy students how to use the blood sugar and hemoglobin machines and then they were able to help us throughout the night when that station got busy. Even dental hygiene students helped the student nurse practitioners identify problems in the mens’ mouth. It was really great to see all disciplines finding ways to help each other and give the men we are assessing the best help they can get. Once all of the workers started filing in, I was definitely feeling the pressure… possibly because I was assigned to the blood pressure station… but also because I was facing the reality of trying to assess and educate these men when we didn’t have a language in common. I felt confident in my technical skills in taking blood pressures but that confidence was immediately lost when I tried to introduce myself, explain what I was doing, what their results were, and education on high blood pressure management when I only spoke English and they only spoke Spanish. Thankfully, like all students do in nursing school, I figured out a way to make it work. I learned a few phrases to help build some connection and realized how important a smile and a reassuring hand on the arm can be. We also have amazing translators with us that helped with some more complicated translations and education between us and the men. At around midnight we finally had everything packed up and drove our long line of cars back to the hotel.

 

After what only felt like 30 minutes of sleep, we were up again today and back at Cox Elementary School in the morning. Thankfully, almost all of our supplies were still set up from yesterday so it didn’t take too much work before we got to start seeing the kids. I was at the blood pressure station, but unlike last night I also had the added bonus of handing out stickers to the kids who came through. Many of the kids were very young and could only speak a little bit of english but we still made sure to have fun! They all got excited to get their blood pressure taken by a cuff that would “give their arm a big hug” before picking out the perfect sticker. I loved being able to joke around with the kids and show them how all of the equipment worked, which for them included squeezing the air pump of the blood pressure cuff until their hand got tired and tapping on my stethoscope as soon as I placed it in my ears. All of the kids there are so sweet and I’m so glad we can come and do our part to help them the next two weeks. Tonight we are back at the same camp we were at last night to continue our care for the rest of the men. It’ll be another muddy night but I know it will be worth it!

All smiles in the car ride back from the Elementary School!

Share and Enjoy:
  • email
  • Print
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Add to favorites
  • RSS
  • StumbleUpon

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

Share and Enjoy:
  • email
  • Print
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Add to favorites
  • RSS
  • StumbleUpon

Moulin Sur Mer and Tabarre

After seeing hundreds of patients this week, we spent our day off with some R&R at Moulin Sur Mer. It was a beautiful beach with clear, blue waters and soft waves. Later that evening, the Foundation For Peace organized a Creole class to help us better communicate with the patients we were seeing.

Relaxing and bonding at Moulin Sur Mer

The patient population we saw that day was quite different from those earlier in the week. They were more educated and some even spoke English. The kids were more playful and eager to ask questions. A lot of the care we provided was surrounded around patient education and prophylactic treatment.

Joya discussing adolescent growth

The day was filled with a great amount of teamwork as the Pastor of the church, Pastor Valentin, was present the whole day to keep things organized. Pastor Valentin’s sister, who is a NICU nurse in Haiti, was also present to help triage and assess vital signs.

Our amazing team for the day

We were fortunate to work on a team with many hard workers that came together to provide optimal patient outcomes!

Share and Enjoy:
  • email
  • Print
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Add to favorites
  • RSS
  • StumbleUpon

Black Lung

Across Appalachia, coal miners are suffering from black lung in record numbers. There has been a major resurgence of the deadly disease, also known as coal worker’s pneumoconiosis. Miners develop black lung from breathing in coal dust. The dust particles settle in the lung where they cause inflammation and, eventually, fibrosis. Black lung causes shortness of breath, fits of coughing, and chronic bronchitis. It is progressive, incurable, and deadly. The Centers for Disease Control estimate that more than 76,000 Americans have died as a result of black lung since 1968.

Why the resurgence now? Many attribute the rise to changing mining practices. As the coal seams that are being mined shrink in size and become more difficult to reach, mining operations must break up more rock to get to the coal. The rock in these mountains contains high amounts of silica, which aerosolizes into very fine particles and is implicated in other fibrotic diseases of the lung. This may be the reason that case numbers of the most serious form of black lung have risen dramatically.

More miners are also coming to clinics for care. Although it is against the law to fire miners for getting chest x-rays or being diagnosed with black lung disease, many believe that if the mining company finds out that you’ve been tested–they’ll find a way to replace you. With the decline of the coal industry, more than 40,000 miners have lost their jobs since 2010 and six hundred mines have closed. Those laid-off miners are now coming in to clinics for care–and black lung diagnoses are sky-rocketing.

Here in Cabin Creek, The Breathing Center in Dawes, WV is a comprehensive pulmonary function facility with a rehab clinic and a federally approved Black Lung Center. The clinic provides pulmonary testing and rehabilitation, and a community-centered approach that allows people suffering from this difficult disease to come together and support each other. Importantly, the clinic also provides legal help to miners filing a claim for benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act of 1973. This is a federal law that provides monthly payments and medical benefits to miners disabled by black lung. It’s an arduous process, so navigation help is critical. These benefits make a huge difference to the miners and their families.

Many in our group have able to spend time in the Breathing Center, learning about black lung and seeing patients in pulmonary rehab. This is a unique experience, as this disease is rarely seen outside of Appalachia. These miners worked very hard, in very dangerous settings, out of a necessity to provide for their family in a place with few other options. Getting to spend time with them is enlightening, and helps to illustrate the brutal legacy of occupational hazards endured in the pursuit of profit in this country.

 

Abandoned mine site. Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/24/opinion/sunday/black-lung-incurable-and-fatal-stalks-coal-miners-anew.html

 

West Virginian Word of the Day:

Red Hat (n.): For the first year on the job, a new underground coal miner wears a red-colored hardhat to signal to everyone on the crew that he (or she) is a rookie.

Share and Enjoy:
  • email
  • Print
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Add to favorites
  • RSS
  • StumbleUpon

Wild and Wonderful WV

Self-care is so important for providers… Here in WV, we took a day to explore the stunning beauty that surrounds us, and get to know this amazing place just a little better.

A day on Summersville Lake

Grace scales 30 feet of sandstone. Rock climbing and white water rafting are super popular activities. West Virginia is an adventurer’s paradise!

The stunning New River Gorge.

Kate masters a stand up paddleboard.

Admiring the New River Gorge from the trail. Tourism is now West Virginia’s most lucrative industry. It’s easy to see why.

Share and Enjoy:
  • email
  • Print
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Add to favorites
  • RSS
  • StumbleUpon

Addiction in Appalachia

Appalachian communities are among the hardest hit by the national opioid addiction epidemic. According to the Centers for Disease Control, West Virginia has the highest rate of drug overdoses in the country. Opioids are killing 40 people per 100,000 that use them in West Virginia–a truly staggering number. Here on the ground in the Cabin Creek Clinics, nearly every patient we have seen has been directly touched by opioid addiction in some way. We hear about it every day.

So why has West Virginia been hit so hard by this crisis? And what are health leaders here doing about it?

Today’s opioid epidemic is, in part, an unintended consequence of providers trying to better serve their patients. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, there was a push to improve treatment of patients with pain. Pain became known as the “fifth vital sign”, and a whole generation of providers was schooled in this new understanding of pain. This, of course, had good intentions. As providers, we want to be able to do something to alleviate pain for our patients. At the same time as this push for better pain management began, however, several new opioid drugs hit the market. Purdue Pharmaceuticals released OxyContin in 1996, billing it as a safer and less addictive opioid. This perfect storm of more varied and widely-available opioids entering the market (marketed aggressively as less-addictive and safer), and a call to more thoroughly treat pain or be seen as doing a disservice to your patient, is likely one of the primary reasons for the opioid epidemic. Today, more than a third of Americans are prescribed painkillers every year. Once a patient is hooked on these addictive meds (and they are highly addictive, despite misleading advertising from the drug companies), they often have to turn to buying opioids on the street to sustain their habit. It’s expensive to buy pills, so many switch to heroin. In most places, heroin goes for next to nothing–less than the cost of a six pack of beer. The rest, as the say, is history.

Much of the primary industry here in West Virginia is highly physical, dangerous work. Coal mines, oil rigs, and agriculture jobs often lead to injuries and physical aches and pains. These jobs can also be isolating and stressful. Many in these industries are considered working poor, living paycheck to paycheck under constant mental and emotional strain. Opioids don’t just help physical pain. They tend to numb the emotional and mental pain, too. In a place like Appalachia, for a myriad of reasons, there is plenty of all these kinds of pain to go around.

Most experts agree that addiction is a mental illness. Once someone is addicted, they will always have that addiction. So what can be done to help these folks break the habit?

Here in Cabin Creek, providers combine Medication Assisted Treatment or MAT, with an extensive behavioral health program. The MAT clinic, located in Kanawha City, provides methadone, suboxone, subutex and vivitrol to patients who are addicted to opioids. These medications help reduce cravings for opioids, which allows patients to remain in treatment and reap its benefits. Patients are required to attend weekly individual and group therapy to remain in the program. Therapy is key–the medication can treat the symptoms of addiction, but therapy helps people deal with the emotional and mental pain that keeps them using.

Many providers in primary care, including those at Cabin Creek, have pledged a more mindful approach to pain management, prescribing only short courses of opioids when absolutely necessary for trauma, and turning to other methodologies such as PT, massage, or NSAIDS for other types of pain. Further, Cabin Creek clinics are slowly weaning patients who have inappropriately been prescribed opioid pain medication, off of them and employing more proven modalities. This is a long and arduous process, but Cabin Creek clinicians believe it is critical to prevent potential addiction and abuse. Treating patients in a fast-paced clinic often means you only have time to prescribe a pill and send folks on their way. The opioid crisis is forcing prescribers to step back and reassess the long term damage they may be doing to their patients with this approach.

At Marshall Medical School here in West Virginia, medical students are receiving 30 hours of content on pain management in their first two years of medical school. Faculty believes that the earlier the exposure the better, and that the more providers understand the impact of opioids and see that impact in their training, the better able they will be to serve patients in this area.

I, for one, know that the West Virginia Cabin Creek rotation has given our group a first hand look in to this crisis. Several of us have actually gotten to work in the MAT clinic and see what these patients are going through. Pain is an issue for patients in every setting. We need to remain current on the evidence for how best to treat each condition, and remember the far reaching affects our choices will have.

West Virginian Word of the Day:

Pepperoni Roll (n.): A distinctly West Virginian food made of a soft white roll with pepperoni baked in the middle. It is the unofficial state food, found across the state, especially in convenience stores.

Share and Enjoy:
  • email
  • Print
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Add to favorites
  • RSS
  • StumbleUpon

Guatemala Days One & Two

In all seriousness, our first day was wholly a travel day. The travel adventure began at 0400 for some of us and others at the slightly more reasonable time of 0700. The day did not end until 1900, Guatemala time, which is 2100 for those of you reading on the East Coast – which roughly equates to 14-17 hours of travel, depending on who you’re talking to from our trip. We flew into Guatemala City and were ushered onto a bus by Sofia (She’ll make lots of appearance on this blog, I’m sure. She’s our fearless leader and organizer from CEDEPCA – the organization we came with) and Oswaldo (He’ll also make lots of cameos – he’s our bus driver and we all love him. PS you say his name OsValdo). We quickly learned that things didn’t really run on a schedule as what was supposed to be a four hour drive to Cobán became a six hour long trek down a well-loved road. Our hotel was lovely (see picture below), dinner was delightful (think well-seasoned eggs with onions and tomatoes with some plantains and beans), and then we all crashed.

This morning we met with the ministry of health and the nurse who’s in charge of all the midwives here, Erica (she’s also in charge of TB, but that’s a different story for a different group). We talked all about our role here, educating, and how the midwives have historically been viewed in this country. As a future midwife, it was fascinating, but I won’t bore you with all the details. I do think that it’s significant to let you know that the midwives deliver 45% of the babies born out in the community, which is an impressive percent when compared to the out-of-hospital births in the United States (according to one source, it’s roughly 1-1.5% of births). These midwives do this with limited resources and the closest hospital/back-up provider about two hours away (if they can find a car).

After our meeting we got back into the van and drove two hours to the city of Chisec. Parts of Guatemala seem so untouched, like humans have never stepped foot on the majority of its land. I keep mentally comparing it to Jurassic Park because it has the same level of lushness and similarly impressive mountains. It’s crazy to think about the Mayan people walking these mountains that felt so uncomfortable to drive along. The cities and neighborhoods themselves are obviously impoverished, but a few of us have noted that in spite of the poverty, they feel exceptionally clean and friendly in comparison to other countries we’ve visited. As we drove along the roads we could see two of the major commodities in the country – corn and coffee. The corn is essentially grown over every square inch of available land and comes right to the edge of the road with the occasional rectangular house breaking up the jungle. On the other hand, the coffee is grown in beautiful lines or concentric circles up and down the mountains. It looked like my version of heaven – caffeine and order. Chisec itself is much lower than where we stayed last night (and when we return to Cobán on Thursday, I’ll give you the scoop), and it’s hot and muggy. Imagine Florida during the dead of summer and you’ve got the weather we’re staying.

Tomorrow is the first day where we actually get to meet the midwives and all of us expressed excitement at the thought tonight during our reflection time. Don’t worry, we do this every night so I’m sure you’ll get to hear all about them at some point. Anyway, it’s almost 2100 my time (2300 Eastern), so it’s time to go tuck in bed, watch an episode of Arrow (no, I’m not kidding), and set my 0630 alarm.

Jenny Foster and Marissa Storms [me!] enjoying all the fruit and yogurt for breakfast.

The courtyard at our hotel in Cobán

Our hotel in Chisec – it’s rained like this on and off since we got here.

Share and Enjoy:
  • email
  • Print
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Add to favorites
  • RSS
  • StumbleUpon