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A Peruvian Adventure

by Julie Pizzat, ABSN ’19

Welcome back to the blog! This is part 2/2 detailing our ABSN journey to Peru.

Day 7: CerviCusco and Pisco

Friday, we stayed at CerviCusco and helped out in the lab as well as the clinic. Since the clinic wasn’t very busy, we were done with Pap smears (“examen del Papanicolau”) and biometric tests by lunchtime, so we headed to La Plaza de Armas to explore some more. We had some great burgers (including veggie options!) at Papacho’s and then stopped by the Museo del Pisco to learn how to make our own Pisco sours. Our bartenders/instructors were very helpful and played fun music while we relaxed after a long week. We headed back to the clinic for dinner and went to bed early to prepare for our big day on Saturday—Machu Picchu!

Day 8: Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu archaeological site

Saturday, we were out the door by 6am to take our first bus of the day—our amigo Jesus was back to guide us throughout the day with a new friend, Jennifer, serving as our second guide. We took the bus to Ollantaytambo and then boarded a beautifully scenic train to the town of Aguas Calientes. Part of the Inca Trail parallels the train route, so we saw some hikers along the way, as well as more of the Urubamba River and surrounding mountains. Once in Aguas Calientes, we boarded another bus that took us on a winding and bumpy road up the mountain to the entrance of Machu Picchu. Jesus and Jennifer brought us inside the site and we saw the extensive terraces and remnants of the Inca civilization. We saw various levels of Machu Picchu, from the Inca Bridge to the Temple of the Sun. Apparently, it isn’t explicitly clear why the Incas left Machu Picchu, but some people believe the citizens experienced a natural disaster (such as an earthquake) and saw it as a sign from their gods to vacate the site, even though it was still under construction. We also learned while touring the site that the mountain seen in the background of most pictures of Machu Picchu is called Huayna Picchu (“young mountain”); the mountain, Machu Picchu (“old mountain”), is actually on the opposite side of the archeological site, often behind the viewer. The site sits in the shadow of Machu Picchu, the taller of the two mountains, and that is how the site got its current name. The original Incan name of the site is technically still unknown. Jesus told us all of this and more as we walked around the city and marveled at the architecture and the scenery surrounding us. Once our tour was over, we went to lunch at a nearby restaurant and then took a bus down the mountain back to Aguas Calientes. We had some free time there until our train left, so people split up and explored by shopping or going to the hot springs. Around 6pm we boarded our train home, climbed into our bus at Ollantaytambo, and were back at the clinic by 11pm. It was a long day, but everyone enjoyed the experience of Machu Picchu!

Day 9: Free Day

Sunday was our free day of the trip, and the majority of our group decided to participate in a private cooking class with a local chef in Cusco. The chef took them to the market where they bought the ingredients for their meal and then returned to the kitchen where they learned how to make Palta rellena (stuffed avocado), Lomo saltado (sautéed beef), Pisco sours, and homemade chocolates for dessert. 
Another group decided to hike Rainbow Mountain instead, waking up very early (before most of Cusco had even gone to sleep!) and taking a bus several hours outside of town to the trail site. After a challenging hike, they reached the summit and although there was snow on the landscape, it was still a magnificent view.
Everyone met up later for dinner at Limbus, a restaurant/bar with a great view of the city, and went to bed to prepare for our final day of service on Monday.

Day 10: The Final Campaña

Monday, we had our final campaign just outside of Cusco where we once more performed Pap smears, blood sugar, and blood pressure testing for our patients. There was a good turnout and several lucky students held some children while their moms underwent procedures.

After our service was finished, we presented the CerviCusco staff with gifts of our appreciation and took one final group picture. Some people went back to the plaza and San Pedro market to do some last-minute shopping, while others went home and began packing to leave the next day. We had one last dinner together at the clinic followed by a debriefing session to discuss our trip and our group project, and just like that, our time in Cusco was over. 

Our final group picture, including (L to R): Sam Phelan, Dr. Quyen Phan, Lexi Bradford, Alyssa Alias, Rachel Swart, Meredith Owens, Kelli Carlson, Julie Pizzat, Warren Gray, Lillie Russo, Erin Parker, Carson Gastil, Jacqlyn McKinnon, Mariel Box, Emily Gholson, CerviCusco staff, Alexa Bernstein, Pherrari Roy, Claire Pierson, Claudia Bellido, Dr. Lisa Thompson, and Dr. Weihua Zhang

Day 11: Traveling Tuesday

Tuesday was our travel day, and we made our way home starting bright and early. The new volunteer coordinator, Alyssa, saw us off at the airport and was waiting there to pick up the next group of volunteers arriving later that day. We all made it back to Atlanta safely (albeit later than expected thanks to a few delays), ready to get some rest before starting classes again on Monday. 
The past 10 days provided an amazing experience of Peru’s culture and history, and the experiences we had here will stay with us for years to come. Thank you to CerviCusco for being so welcoming and educational, to our wonderful instructors – Dr. Phan, Dr. Zhang, and Dr. Thompson – for guiding us throughout our time here, to the Lillian Carter Center for organizing this trip, and to my fellow classmates who made this journey as memorable as the adventure itself. 

¡Adiós, Peru, y muchas gracias!

Montego Bay: Nursing is an art and a science

After three days in Jamaica, we all started to have a routine: wake up, get ready, eat eggs, drink coffee, and file into the two blue buses with Willie and Mr. Miller (our amazing bus drivers) to start the day.

As the blue vans started driving down the rugged gravel roads, I still could not grasp the fact that we were driving on the opposite side of the road. The separation between each lane were so small that it felt like we were hugging the other drivers going the opposite direction. However, both Willie and Mr. Miller had no fear or hesitation. They swiftly diverted the pot holes, the sharp turns, and the other experienced drivers.

We started the day by heading to a day school for children. Remi (BSN ’17) took charge and started the education with hand washing. The children excitedly washed their hands in the court yard and then vigorously rubbed glo germ all over their fingers. With a black light, Remi and the other students demonstrated how well the kids performed the hand washing. The children’s eyes widened as their hands glowed. We knew that this activity captured their interest. We then followed the hand washing education with teaching children how to brush their teeth and how to eat a balanced meal. Dr. Ades would be proud!

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We also continued to provide free health screenings to the educators of the school. They continuously smiled as we taught them about diet, exercise, and their overall health. Overjoyed with appreciation, they showered us with hugs and genuine compliments.

Filled with affirmation, we drove to Cornwall Regional Hospital where we were greeted by the Chief Nursing Officer, Marva Lawson-Byfield, at the Ministry of Health Jamaica. She intently started at us as she shared her love for her patients and for the career of nursing. “Nursing is an art and a science. The art is in the heart and the science is in the conscious.”

Her words reminded us of our choice in nursing and those words continued to resonate with us as we toured the different wards of the hospital. When we reflected afterwards about this humbling experience, we realized that different aspects of the hospital impacted us. Some of us recognized that their lack of an EMR system served them well and allowed them to break away from routine and use their minds to serve others. Some of us saw this as an overwhelming experience and how this hospital reminded them of why they decided to become nurses. Lastly, some of us witnessed nurses creating innovative solutions and loving care to their patients. Ms. Lawson-Byfield said it well when she ended her welcoming speech emphasizing how attitude towards your job and towards your patient is every thing.

With our stomachs growling, we headed to Juici Patties to culture ourselves with Jamaican patty. This flaky baked pastry shell contained different fillings (beef, chicken, or vegetables) that exploded in my mouth with a diverse mixture of mesmerizing spices.

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We then continued our day with a Cornwall Regional Hospital Nurse Graduation. The soon to be nurses slowly walked into the church with their blue striped hats and their crisp white dresses. As I watched them, I couldn’t stop my mind from wandering to our own graduation either in either May or December of next year.

After sharing the experience with Jamaica’s future nurses, we ended our day with a children after school program that overlooked the lush Jamaican mountains. As our blue van slowly drove up to the gate, Candace (ABSN ’17) opened the van door and said “Change of plans”. As team lead with Blair (BSN ’17), they decisively directed five of us to quickly prepare a skit about bullying, delegated three of us to follow the skit with yoga, and sent two of us to the office to provide health screenings for the staff.

Prior to the skit, Dria (ABSN ’17) invited two of the children up to participate in the skit and stand up for the girl that was being bullied (me-Lisa, ABSN ’17). The girls courageously said “stop!” and stood in front of me to hinder Dria and Sarah (ABSN ’17) from their actions. Through this experience, we started to see their understanding and their strength.

Alex (BSN ’17) also creatively took a few females to the corner of the playground to discuss women’s health. Besides the unexpected rap performance by the girls, she ultimately created an open space for the girls to speak comfortably about being a women, about hormones, sex, and contraceptives.

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Although the day was long, hot, and sweaty, we witnessed health promotion at work through each other and through the people of Jamaica. It’s amazing to see the amount of heart and commitment my peers have for those they serve. I am excited to see our next adventure tomorrow! 

Reflection before we go: ABSN Dominican Republic

Tomorrow morning we will begin our journey to San Francisco de Macoris, Dominican Republic as part of a Quality and Safety Improvement Project. In preparation for this journey, our group of 8 students obtained $390 worth of funds through hosting a “Kid’s Day” fundraiser and through donations of our families in order to purchase medical supplies for Hospital de San Vincente de Paul. This morning we met at the nursing school and divided up the supplies into all of our suitcases. These supplies included, but were not limited to, infant stethoscopes, a newborn blood pressure kit, pediatric resuscitation equipment, surgical drapes and gowns, surgical instruments, vaginal speculums, prenatal vitamins, tylenol, baby blankets, pacifiers, preemie diapers, and sterile gloves.

For our Quality Improvement project, we will be talking with members of Proyecto ADAMES, an organization that formed to address maternal and infant mortality in their community. We will be speaking (in Spanish!) to nurses at the hospital, community leaders in the surrounding barrios, and people at the university.

Dominican Republic is a country in the Carribbean that shares the island of Hispanola with Haiti. Approximately 9 million people live in Dominican Republic, with over half living under the national poverty line (Foster, et al, 2010). As with many lower-income countries, Dominican Republic is marked with financial inequalities as the poorest half of the country owns less than one-fifth the GDP and the richest 10% own two-fifths the total GDP (Foster, et al., 2010). Although 97% of all births occur within a hospital, there is a high rate of maternal (150-160 deaths/100,000) and infant (22 deaths/100,000) mortality (Foster, et al., 2010). While this rate is much lower than that of other “developing countries,” hospitalized births with skilled birth attendants are not the norm in other countries, as it is in Dominican Republic. Therefore, a need exists to improve quality care.

Foster, J., Burgos, R., Tejada, C., Caceres, R., Altamonte, A., Perez, L., Noboa, F. (2010). A community-based participatory research approach to explore community perceptions of the quality of maternal-newborn health services in Dominican Republic. Midwifery, 26, 504-511.