Sunday, July 24, 2011
Friday was a whirlwind of emotions; excitement of heading back to the U.S to see loved ones, actually having a hot shower and not worrying about everything I eat and drink, but also sadness and some guilt about leaving where I have put my entire heart this past month. I don’t think when I was getting ready for the journey over a month ago, I was prepared for what my heart and mind was about to go through. The highs and lows, challenges and successes, every moment of this trip was spent feeling something. Happiness, sadness, warmth, humility, guilt, anger, fatigue, confusion, and achievement are just to name a few. It can only be described as a life altering experience. The people of Piura told us daily how we were changing their lives and how we were their angels, but I don’t think they realize how much they taught me this past month. Every day I encountered Christ in some way, through the people and my work. The biggest thing they taught me is humility and simply being happy. It is quite an overwhelming feeling when you walk into someone’s home made of bamboo walls and dirt floors, and they pull out every chair and stool they have. Then to wash their hands and feet is something I never thought could make me so emotional. I can’t describe exactly what I felt in those moments but it was one of the most peaceful and serene places I have been. When in reality I was surrounded by dirt, flies, no running water and a hole that they use as a toilet. They have so little and yet they go to the very edge of their resources to accommodate you and make you feel comfortable with no ulterior motive in mind besides just wanting you there. And as little as they have they are so happy to just be alive.
At about 4pm on Friday, a bunch of the people we have become very close with, our Marquette family, Meg’s family and some others came to the church to hang out with us and say goodbye. Merci, a woman I had met my second weekend in Piura, comes to church at Santisimio every night. She always found me after mass and gave me a hug and kiss. She came up to the church at 4:30pm to say goodbye and spend some more time with me before I left. It really touched me because besides seeing her in church and maybe once out in the village I hadn’t really spent time with her besides when I first met her on the procession. She lives about 15-20 minutes away from the church (via mototaxi) and she came all that way just to say goodbye. As I was spending my last moments with the people who have captured my heart I realized that as much as I want to come back here, I just don’t know how realistic it will be; maybe in a couple years but not anytime soon. So much changes here in a matter of a couple years and who knows if I will even be able to contact these people to meet up with them next time I come. I never thought that this is the last time I could ever see these people who have hold of such a big part of my heart. We started saying goodbye and the first two times around I was doing pretty well. I was keeping my composure and able to talk to them without tears. For some reason there was a problem with the car and packing our luggage, so our goodbye turned into about a 45 minute ordeal, which was one of the worst things that could happen. This prolonged goodbye felt like someone was taking off a band-aid one hair at a time. Each hug and kiss broke down a little piece of my wall and the tears were about to bust out. The moment I lost it was when one of the little girls in Meg’s family gave me a hug and then as I was stepping back she made the sign of the cross on me. I was shocked at first, I don’t think I know an 11 year old in the U.S who would ever do that and the action of being blessed by one of the people of Piura just rocked me to my core. Religion and faith is such a huge part of their life that an act such as this really means a lot. They don’t do it often so to receive this from such a young girl really touched and yet tore my heart apart. I lost it after that and I couldn’t stop because Erika, the mom of our Marquette family, and the mother of Meg’s family were both bawling. We finally got into the car and were pulling out when we saw all the families standing on the corner waving and yelling “Chao” “Bye”. I had finally gained my composure when I lost it again. As many times as I told the people that it wasn’t “Chao” it was “Hasta luego”, I knew it was mostly goodbye for forever.
As hard as it was to say goodbye to the people of Piura, it was equally as hard to say goodbye to the missionaries who have I have become so close with. Even though we weren’t out building houses and doing other activities with them, we spent a lot of our downtime and meals together. It is a unique bond that is built when you live with people in a foreign place. As different as our walks of life may be, we all came here for one reason, to help those in need. We were able to discover more about ourselves through each other and were able to bond with that. Many of these people saw me at some of the highest and lowest points in my life and none of them asked questions, they just listened and understood. You know who you are and if you are reading this I want you to know that you have touched my heart and I will never forget the time we spent together. Thank you for helping me through one of the most challenging moments in my life by being there and making me laugh. I don’t think you will ever understand how much I needed that. You have become family and know that no matter the distance I plan on staying in touch and hope to see you sometime soon. Road trip reunion? J
Dr. Belknap was another key player in this experience. From day one she told us to be open and vulnerable to our feelings. She was always compassionate and even though challenging us, was cheering on the sidelines as our biggest fan. She fostered our learning and was a vital person in making this experience so great.
The last shout out has to be made to Marianne, Meg, Maria and Chelsea. I don’t know what I would have done without you girls. These five weeks have brought us closer than any of us imagined. As crazy as it was I can’t imagine being on this rollercoaster with anyone else. We had our ups and downs, laughs and tears, but in the end we have a special bond that not many people have. I love you girls and know that you will all go on to do great things. Your passion, caring hearts and intelligent minds have pushed me to be the best person I can be and I thank you for that.
It is hard to put into words the feelings and emotions that have gone through my mind and heart in the last 48 hours. There is a part of me that is so anxious to get home and back to my loved ones. There is another part of me that wants to stay here and keep on working. Then there is a part of me that is scared of what to do next. I can’t just go back to the U.S and forget about everything I have done here. I also can’t go back and live a simplistic life like the one I have been immersed in the past month. I have to find a balance and I believe that is going to be the hardest challenge. How am I supposed to lay in my bed at night knowing that many of the people I have grown to love are sleeping on dirt floors and wear the same 3 shirts over and over again? How can I justify buying that cute shirt or Starbucks coffee, when the people of Piura are walking miles to get water because they don’t have running water? As much as I want to give away all of my belongings to the poor and live a life like those in Peru, I know it is not practical. The American lifestyle just isn’t built to work like that. The biggest thing I can do is to just be aware. Aware that I don’t always need name brand clothes. Aware that time spent with loved ones is better than time spent in front of a T.V. Aware that people come from different walks of life but all have one thing in common, they just want to be loved and cared for. The best thing I can do for all of those in Piura, is to pray and think about them every day. Following my heart and putting love and faith in everything I do, day by day is the way I can live out my life here in the U.S. This quote by Mother Teresa is how I am going to approach life from now on and I urge you to do the same. “Since we cannot see Christ, we cannot express our love to Him. But we do see our neighbor, and we can do for him what we would do for Christ if He were visible.”
Yesterday was pretty much the same as Monday. I just did the intake assessments of the patients (pediatric again) but I also helped with discharge teaching/going over the medications. It was such a humbling experience because the parents and kids are just so grateful. Almost every mother gave me a huge hug after I handed them their medicine. Even if it was something as simple as vitamins! The other really cool thing is that along with the medicine the kids get a toothbrush, toothpaste and then a little stuffed animal. It usually is like a little beanie baby, sometimes they are really weird creatures but the children’s eyes just light up when they see them. I remember there was this little white puffball with a tail and eyes that was in the goodie bag, and when I pulled it out to give to the little girl, her eyes lit up. I don’t think I have ever seen someone’s eyes get so big before. She smiled real big and then gave it a huge hug! I honestly thought it was one of the scariest looking creatures I have seen, yet this girl just adored it. Even after a month of being here and living with the people, I am still so shocked at how happy they can be with the little they have.
Today I worked here at the clinic at the parish with the surgical team and the dentist. I started off working in surgery doing pre-op on the patients and attempting to do IVs. I tried twice and failed both times. L Other than that we just waited for the patients to be taken into the surgery room. They are performing hernia surgeries and the patients wait in the post-op room until they are able to walk and feel better after the operation. I watched the second surgery, which was a relatively quick surgery and pretty simple. After bringing her out and bringing the next patient in, I got called to go help translate for the dentist because the girl who was helping him wasn’t feeling well. So I then spent a chunk of my day sitting in the dental room watched the dentist extract teeth. He really didn’t need me to translate because he does pretty well for himself so I sat, watched and got the next group of instruments and such ready for the next patient. I saw close to about 20 teeth get pulled, and most were done in like 20 minutes or less!
About 4pm I went back into the pre/post op surgery to switch it up and help out with anything that needed to be done. This is when I met a wonderful woman named Blanca Rosa. She was the last patient to get surgery and had just been sitting in the waiting/pre-op room, so I sat down next to her and started talking. I don’t know how we did it but we spent the next hour talking about her family, my family, and everything in between. Blanca then went into a ten minute talk about how I was her angel and that she saw Christ in me. She said she was so thankful for all of the doctors and nurses who come here and work because we are all angels of God and it makes her so happy to see us. I have never had anyone say something like that to me. I was kind of shocked and replied with a very shy “muchas gracias”. I told her she was an angel too, and she shook her head and said “no”. But in reality I think she is more of an angel than me. Raising three kids, cooking, cleaning and making sure everything is in order is a hard job, especially in a place such as Piura. I mean the woman had a painful hernia for 3 years! She had to deal with that pain on a daily basis, on top of all the jobs she has a mother. Shortly after, she went into surgery. While getting pulled out of the OR room I came to help pull the bed, she was starting to wake up, so I smiled at her, and she gave me the biggest smile back. I then sat with her for the next hour and a half taking her vitals and just sitting by her side. We didn’t say much this time considering her exhaustion but it is amazing how eye contact and a touch of a hand can translate across languages. It was during this time that I realized we had a special bond and even if I never see her again, I will always remember her and what I felt at that moment. After getting her out of bed and sitting her in a chair her husband came in and talked with us. It was during this time that we were talking again about her children when they said they wanted to baptize their youngest child and they wanted me to be the “madrina” or godmother. Here it is a very special honor to be a “madrina” so after I heard that my jaw literally dropped to the floor. I told them that I would love to be the godmother but due to me leaving so soon I couldn’t be the official godmother. They smile and nodded and said that I would be the honorary godmother. I had only really spent about a total of 3 hours with this woman, we spoke different languages, and yet she felt close enough to me to ask me to be the godmother of her child. I still am in awe about what happened and can’t quite wrap my head around it but I made myself promise that no matter what I will pray for my “godchild”, Blanca and the rest of her family for the rest of my life. I will probably never get to meet him, but he will be loved and prayed for everyday. I don’t even care that I worked from 7:30am-9:15pm, what is important is that I made a real connection with someone even with a language barrier and limited time.
Thursday I was back in the pre/post op and finally got an IV! I did fail about three times in the morning but after having a learning/practicing session with Erin, one of the surgical tech nurses, I was able to get one all on my own! We only worked until/through lunch then us Marquette girls had the afternoon off to work on packing, self-evaluations and getting together things for the staff. Even with the afternoon off, there are just not enough hours in the day to get everything done! Our work is definitely cut out for us tomorrow!
Monday, July 18, 2011
Before starting our busy and final week in Peru, we went out to dinner for Meg and Chelsea’s birthdays! Both got to celebrate here in Piura, so us and some of our missionary friends went to this AMAZING restaurant named Cappuccino. It was so nice to get out for a little bit and enjoy food that was NOT chicken and rice! It was a great way to end our weekend and start a new week.
(Right: the other missionaries and two staff workers who came with us.)
(Below: Our end of the table! Yayy for being 21!)
Now that the medical team is here, we are working with them all this week. There are two different settings, there are hernia surgeries here in the clinic at the church and then two family practice doctors are heading out to the local villages and running free clinics. Marianne and I started out in the free clinics; little did we know that we had to be full out translators today. We did the intake assessments for the patients who then went to see one of the two doctors then got medicine from our makeshift pharmacy. Everything was in one room; the two patient rooms that consisted of curtains hung on strings, the pharmacy had a table off to the side of the room and then Marianne and I each had our own little table near the doors. The intake assessment forms consisted of name, age, address, allergies, current medications and chief complaint. So I was in charge of translating from Spanish to English and then writing it in English for the doctors. Let’s just say after 65+ patients in a matter of eight hours, I have expanded my medical vocabulary greatly. I did all the pediatric patients and I must say I really enjoyed my time working with the kids. Even though I can’t say much to the kids, I was able to get many of them to stop crying or focus for a little bit so I could assess them. Towards the end of the day I had three little girls who never left my side, even when I was doing other intakes. They were really cute and kept asking me questions, most of which I didn’t understand but they still thought I was the coolest person which boosted my self-esteem. Most of the children had cold, flu like symptoms but there were a couple interesting ones such as a rash or spinal problem. If I must say so, I do believe I have become a Spanish professional at assessing a child with cough, fever, vomiting and/or diarrhea. The downside to the day was that most of the new missionaries speak zero English. I understand not everyone will know or learn Spanish for a week, but the thing that bothers me is when they just talk really loud and really slow in English thinking that these Peruvian people, who have little or no education, are going to understand what they are saying. They then get frustrated and in the middle of me working with someone else they barge in and say they need help. I don’t mind TRYING to help but I really have to focus on what I am doing and can’t do multiple things at once. As frustrating as it was at times, I also felt pretty accomplished considering they really needed both Marianne and I to translate for them. As much as I learned, I am mentally exhausted. I never knew that eight hours of listening to Spanish then trying to write in English would be so difficult! I caught myself so many times writing the symptoms in Spanish and ended up having to scratch it all out. In some ways it is good because I catch myself answering in Spanish even though I am talking with English speakers. I even found myself thinking in Spanish today! I think this is on the path to becoming fluent. J I am sad to say, we have no more siestas. L We worked from 7:30am-6:30pm and we got about a 45 minute lunch. So I am going to be exhausted by the end of the week!
Above: Ceclia and I at our little intake table!
Below: My three little friends
Sunday, July 17, 2011
“I know God will not give me anything I can't handle. I just wish that He didn't trust me so much.” ~Mother Teresa
God definitely threw us a hardball yesterday. Saturday morning we all went to the hospice for my teaching project. While I did my project with Deisy, Coco and Renee (the ONLY 3 hospice nurses), the other girls were going to do wound care and whatever else needed to be done. I first off didn’t have a translator present so my professor and I had to work together to explain what I had planned. For those of you I didn’t talk to before I left, my teaching project was on death, grief and how to cope. As I was talking to the nurses I had noticed that Deisy, who is always smiling, just staring and I could see in her eyes that she was not all there. She had such a numb look on her face but I figured maybe she had a hard night at home or it was something else because she was answering all my questions and participating in everything. So I kind of just shrugged it off and kept going on with my presentation. I was about halfway through when someone knocked at the door. Coco got up and then walked with the man into the main part of the hospice. I had met him once before, he was the son of David, one of the patients. As I was making this connection, Renee had started talking and was tearing up and I knew at the moment what had happened. We had all knew it was coming but I never thought we would be here when it happened. I had seen Meg, Maria and Chelsea walk by the nurse’s station crying so Dr. Belknap and I ran out and followed them into David’s room. I wasn’t expecting all of the conflicting feelings that would be happening in the next couple of hours. I don’t think there is any way I can really describe how I was feeling.
We helped the nurses prepare him and put him in a royal purple robe. I was shocked that I was actually seeing my first dead patient but kind of happy that I wasn’t hysterically crying like I thought I would. I then looked around the room and what made me cry was seeing how upset everyone else was, especially Coco, Deisy and Renee. I hate seeing people that I care about cry, which is one thing that automatically triggers tears for me. The nurses had always been so happy and lively, even amongst all the work and stress in their lives. I have grown to respect and look up to these women, so to see them break down like this really made my heart hurt. I also couldn’t stand seeing the three other girls crying and trying as hard as they can to hold the floodgates from opening. Next thing I know a coffin is being carried into the room. The lid was taken off and Coco motioned to us to grab the sides of David’s blanket. We then lifted him up and placed him in the casket, this is when reality hit. This wasn’t a dream, I wasn’t acting this out, this was really happening. I was placing my first dead patient into their casket. I knew this day would happen but I expected it after a couple years of working. I never thought I would be twenty when I experienced this, let alone in a third world country, thousands of miles from my family and support system. We then watched David’s son and another man carry the casket out, place it in their car and then drive away. It then all of a sudden hit me that this was the whole reason why Desiy looked so numb and preoccupied during my presentation. An immense feeling of guilt came over me because I had made them all sit there and listen to me babble on while all of this was still registering in their heads. This was my breaking point, and I just started to cry. I knew in my head that talking about death and confronting it is the best way to cope with it, I mean that is what I was teaching them about but for some reason it killed me knowing that I put them through that.
We all got together and held each other for a little bit. Coco then started saying that even though David was like a father to them and they are really upset, she has to go into the other patients’ rooms with a smile and pretend it never happened. As true as her statement was, my heart dropped knowing that because it is only the three of them, none of them will really get time to grieve because they always have to work. As sad and traumatic it may have been for us, we didn’t know David like them AND we get to go home and have time to grieve with each other. Let alone in a week we get to go back to our cushy lifestyles in the U.S and they still will be here living in the pueblos and working at the hospice. On top of feeling like this they felt bad that we had to stop my presentation and wanted me to continue. Since I was close to finishing anyways I just decided I would give them all hand and back massages since hand massages were a part of the project anyways. I liked to think it helped a little bit but I knew they were all preoccupied. Renee had worked the night shift and had to work again at 6pm and just wanted to go home. Deisy most likely just wanted to get away and Coco was currently still working and running around worried about the other patients.
As difficult as a morning it may have been, I believed it all happened for a reason. Out of the 10 Marquette girls coming down here to teach, one (which is me) decided on teaching about coping with death to the hospice nurses. Out of the five of us here that had to do our teaching projects mine was on the morning that David had passed. It may have seemed like I was bothering and troubling Coco, Renee and Deisy to talk about it, but I was actually helping them to cope with such a tragic loss. As hard and difficult it may have been to be a part of it, this is what my career involves, especially if I want to do hospice or palliative care. And in the end, David is in a happy, much better and peaceful place with God. This memory will stick with me forever, not because I am traumatized by what happened, but because I grew more in my spiritual and emotional self than I think I have done in my twenty years of living.
A positive from yesterday was because I was surrounded by so much sadness in the morning I really branched out to the other missionaries who were here and made some great friendships. They were amazing and knowing I had a hard day, didn’t ask questions and made sure I continued to smile and laugh. I honestly don’t think I would have been able to get through the day without them. Last night we went out for ice cream and then after just sat and talked to the early hours of the morning. I honestly think I had one of the best ab workouts ever! Sad to say, they left this morning to head back to Delaware. Although it was sad to see them leave, I am so happy and blessed to have gotten to know them and spend so much time with them.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
I started off Wednesday morning at the Nursing Home with Meg, Chelsea and Dr. Belknap. I was not looking forward to this trip just because I was not a fan of being there the last time, but it turned out better than I expected. We started off giving hand massages to the women and because there were four of us present, we were done in about fifteen minutes. After that we just kind of sat around until Dr. Belknap suggested we do some exercises with the women because they were all just sitting and watching the TV. This is when my knowledge of all those annoying Girl Scout and Camp songs became very useful for once! We sang “head, shoulders, knees and toes”, “skinamarink”, “this little light of mine” and a couple others. One of the women got up and turned off the TV then motioned for us to do it in front of the entire group! So we did many more and even did just some plain songs such as Amazing Grace and songs from Godspell that we could remember. (Dr. Belknap really likes Godspell!) The women who were more with it really enjoyed it and it kind of reminded me of all the times when I would go caroling at the Nursing Homes at Christmas time. I guess when I was younger I didn’t quite understand why we were there cause most of the people don’t pay attention but after seeing that these people have little to zero physical, emotional and spiritual contact on a daily basis it makes sense. These women just loved someone paying them a little attention even if it was only for a couple hours. They will most likely forget us but they will remember how they felt.
In the afternoon, Maria did her teaching project on menstruation to the women of Vaso de Leche. She made period tracker bracelets with the women, so that they can keep track of when they are ovulating, are fertile and when their period is coming next. The women really enjoyed it and asked her lots of questions and she did a great job!
After dinner, we had a fiesta for all the July birthdays! It was my first real fiesta here! Three of the missionaries who have been here for two weeks set up the whole party with balloons, cake, desserts, music and even confetti! After singing happy birthday and the birthday people received their gifts, we pretty much just danced for the next hour and a half! I got to pull out some of my salsa moves and had a great time learning some more from the staff workers.
Thursday morning started off at the hospice. At lot had changed since the last time I was at the hospice. One of the patients was able to leave and now only comes back for a treatment to help release fluid in his abdomen. Another patient, the little old woman we first did wound care on, was better and able to go home to stay with her family! With two leaving, one patient was admitted. She is a woman in her early 30s who has leg cancer. We were told that she had been to Lima for treatment but that it hadn’t worked, hence why she was now here. We don’t know what they did in Lima but all I know is that it looks like they tried to take out the cancer and then just decided to leave the wound open. So we of course now had to add this intense wound care to our list of daily tasks. The worse part and biggest difference between this new patient and Oswaldo’s wounds is that she can feel immense pain all the time. She pretends to sleep, thinking that it will stop us from having to change and clean her wounds. She reluctantly rolls over and lets us do our job, but she watches the ENTIRE time. I can stomach looking at the wound from a nurse perspective but I don’t think I could watch someone clean something that gruesome on my own leg. Another difficult part about this wound is that it bleeds a lot and we have to try to stop the bleeding as much as we can before we apply new dressings. She also has two tumors in her groin area that are still intact and we are trying to keep them that way. I can handle the blood, smell and look of the wound but the thing that gets me is that they won’t tell her that she is dying. Being someone who is interested in palliative and hospice care I am an advocate for talking with the patient and family about what is possibly going to happen so they can be prepared when it happens. Another challenge with this new patient is that I wanted to talk to her to get to know her and it is not possible with the language barrier. I really take pride in the therapeutic relationships I build with my patients in the U.S and strive every time I am with a patient to make sure they feel that someone cares about them and is taking care of them. I can’t do that for her and it has really affected me. I realized that this is one of my biggest challenges here and there isn’t much I can do besides just being there for the patient and doing what I can to comfort them in my little Spanish.
We also had two girls, about to be seniors in high school, from the new group of missionaries come with us to the hospice. They had both said they were either interested in nursing or medical school so we figured we would bring them along and show them a little of what we had done here. We had warned the girls that this was some heavy stuff they were about to see and that it was ok if they needed to step out of the room or could not handle it. Little did I know that I was about to test my nursing instincts. After we had taken off Oswaldo’s old dressings, I caught out of the corner of my eye that the girls stepped outside. Two minutes later one of the girls poked her head in and said the other one had fainted. I left the room but was thinking to myself, “What the heck do I do? I have never had someone faint on me before!”. Obviously the little nurse inside me took over because I wasn’t able to contemplate what I needed to do, I just did it. It was such a strange and weird feeling but for some reason I wasn’t panicked or anxious. The girl ended up being fine, she didn’t hit her head and she informed me that this happens a lot when she is overwhelmed.
Friday morning I was at the hospice again and did the same routine except it was just me and Maria. The one girl who did not faint, Miriam, asked us at breakfast if she could follow us again. I was happy to have her come along because she actually came back after the fainting episode and helped hand us supplies for the rest of the dressing change. She was a huge help because Maria and I had our work cut out for us and we were going on only a couple hours of sleep. She was our little assistant and helped us with handing us our tools and supplies which was such a great help. We did teach her a lot about what she was seeing and what we were doing; she was amazing and handled everything so well. I can’t imagine my 17 year old self being able to handle everything that she saw in those three hours.
We went and had lunch with a group of elderly that meet together once a month. I wasn’t all that excited to go because I had a rough morning, was nervous about our presentation, sleep deprived and it was really hot out. After everyone ate, they told us to grab a partner and come out to the dance floor cause we were going to do the chicken dance and Macarena. I grabbed my soon to be buddy, Luis, who was one of the sweetest and funniest people I have met here and could definitely bust a move at his elderly age J. The afternoon turned out being a lot of fun and we were back in enough time to have an hour and a half to practice our presentation.
After mass we went out to San Jacinto to have dinner with some kids from the village. After cleaning up the mess all the kids left we played a soccer game: Americans vs. Peruvian staff. Sadly we lost 2-1 (even though I think one of my goal should have counted) but I had so much fun getting to run around and play soccer again. Of course we were only playing the men on the staff and they know how to play soccer so I definitely had to pull out some of my skills and hip checks. ;) It was the perfect way to end a long yet stressful day!
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Yesterday was what some may call an easier day. We weren’t assigned to clinical sites in the morning, but we had a meeting with Dr. Belknap and then had the rest of the morning to work on our aggregate project. It was nice to be able to have a couple solid hours to work on it because up until now it has just been a lot of half an hour here and there. We have a really good start on it, and after clarifying things with Dr. Belknap we are all very excited about the project, besides all our free time that it is taking. ;) But hey, that is what we are here to do so I am willing to sacrifice.
Right after lunch we took our Marquette family to the supermercado (grocery store) to get some food and such that they may need. We also got Kiara and Christian a juegete (toy) along with some helado (ice cream). I was expecting them to kind of pick up everything they saw because they don’t get to go shopping at a place like this. It was quite the opposite; Erika would always pick the smallest and cheapest, even if the bigger size was a better deal! The people here have so little yet they hate to ask for things. I know Meg has told us stories of the family that her family supports and they always have to pry it out of them what they really need. It was a lot of work, mostly because Jessica fell asleep in my arms so I had to CARRY her the entire time we were there, but Erika and the kids were so grateful that it made up for the fatigue we felt.
Before mass, Chelsea did her teaching project to the women of Vaso de Leche on Nutrition and High Blood Pressure. We then all helped take blood pressures of the women. I think it is kind of funny when we ask “Tomar la presion” and everyone comes running wanting to check their blood pressure. I don’t know if it is because they are worried due to many people having high blood pressure in the community or they just like to have it done, but I don’t think I have ever seen people get so excited about getting their blood pressure taken.
This morning I had my last round of home visits. L I really enjoy these and wish I could do more but next week we start working with some medical and surgical teams that are coming from Oklahoma so this is our last week of clinicals. We started off with my favorite patient of the day Maximina, who was this short little woman who had nine kids and lived with one of her sons. She is 84 years old and is walking around, cooking and in GREAT shape! She loved us cleaning, cutting and filing her finger and toenails. She kept giving us hugs and kisses which of course we (Marianne and I) loved. We then visited some other people, mostly just taking blood pressures and even a couple people were not home. So we ventured to another little village but we had to cross this river! Haha not to scare anyone or make it sound like a ventured through raging rapids but I did walk across a channel of water only walking on logs!
THUMBS UP FOR CROSSING THE LOGS!
This afternoon we went into another one of the village’s and taught hand washing followed by a health Q&A session and taking Blood Pressures. It was a smaller group of women this time but there were many kids who got in on all the fun. I was expecting them just wanting to do it because it looked cool but they actually had paid attention to the steps and they were telling each other what to do and how to do it! It was one of the coolest things I have seen. There was a little boy, about 4 yrs old, who wanted to wash his hands but didn’t really know how to complete all the steps. So the older kids were helping by showing him how to rub the soap all over his hands and in between his fingers, etc. Two of the little girls even came up and were asking questions about the handout we gave them with the steps of how to wash your hands. The last step on the sheet explains to turn off the faucet with a towel, yet many people here don’t have running water so they don’t have faucets. The mothers must have overlooked that step because it was the little girls who ran up to us and asked us to explain it to them! I really think these kids will do this regularly and will teach others how to wash their hands. That is great for a community like this because so many diseases and illnesses that they contract can be reduced TREMENDOUSLY by washing their hands.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Since we get our Sundays off, today we ventured an hour to the beach! :) We started off by stopping in a little fisherman village and boarded what only seemed like a couple planks of wood and a motor. We were floating around hundreds of fishing boats when we turned the car and saw a bank full of sea loins! They were the fattest things I have ever seen! They all just kind of laid there as we drove our little boat by multiple times. There also were a couple skinnier ones that were swimming in the water catching fish! They were so cute!!
Here is a picture of them all hanging out on the bank:
We then drove about another 30 minutes and arrived at this lovely resort right on the beach. Of course I headed right to the beach and jumped right in. About 10 minutes of jumping in some waves and swimming around, one of the church workers informed us that they have quite a lot of stingrays in these parts of the water so I got out pretty quick and the rest of the day enjoyed the ocean from my towel. :) We had lunch at the resort and then I spent the rest of the day just laying on the beach. We have been working so hard these past two weeks that it was so nice to just lay around all day. I totally even forgot that we have our huge aggregate project due on Friday!
Here is a view of the resort from the beach.
Marianne and I at lunch!
All of us ladies by the pool!
On Sundays, the chefs have the afternoon and evening off so the church gets take out for us! The past two Sundays we have had what is equivalent to like KFC, which is ok, but because we always eat chicken and potatoes it kind of got old. Well this evening we got CHINESE!! It was some of the best Chinese food I have ever had! I never thought Peru would make Chinese food so well! After that a couple of the other missionaries invited us to go get ice cream, so obviously I went. Let's just say I am super stuffed and had to change into sweatpants as soon as I got back.
Even though I had such a lovely day, I have to come back to reality and start to crack down on this aggregate assignment. And I believe my teaching project is on Friday. So that means I will have the aggregate presentation AND my teaching project in the SAME DAY! Blogs may be few this week so I apologize in advance! Sending love and happy thoughts to you all!
Saturday, July 9, 2011
So I have to say, even though the lady who talked about urine therapy to us on Thursday was really weird, I have to thank her for the probably the best 45 minutes of my life. She invited us to her natural health center this morning to get massages. I got my first ever full body massage and I was in heaven. A little weird at first because I had no idea what people were saying to me, but I learned quickly if I just closed my eyes, they would wake me up only if they really needed me. ;) I have to say I would be willing to listen to more talks about urine therapy and the seven energy zones to get a free massage.
The one of the missionaries from St. Patrick’s invited us to lunch at a hotel resort here in Piura. This place was really fancy and I am so glad I was finally able to eat something besides chicken and rice! I had a delicious steak and cheese sandwich!
We then went to a chapel in one the local villages to teach women about hand washing. We just took Meg’s teaching project and shortened it. There were about 24 women and they all practiced washing their hands and then we answered any other health questions they had along with taking all of their blood pressures. To get back to the church I got to take my first Mototaxi ride! Usually there is always a can or truck from Sacramento that takes us places and picks us up but the St. Patrick Missionaries and some of the missionaries left from the Eye surgical team were all leaving so they needed the vans and trucks to transport all of them to the airport! For those of you who don’t know what a Mototaxi is, they are essentially a motorcycle with a kind of caboose that people sit in. It is the main form of transportation around here because the majority of people are too poor to afford their own cars. It was a little scary considering the people drive a little recklessly here, but we made it back safe and now I can check it off my bucket list.
I can’t believe I have already been gone three weeks! The time here has really flown by but at the same time I am becoming so familiar with this place that it is becoming a home to me. (Not to scare you Mom, I DO plan on coming home!) . I never thought I would get this comfortable with being here, sometimes I forget I am a thousands of miles away from home and my life in the U.S. I just know the streets and the people so well now that I don’t ever go somewhere without remembering a face or someone remembering me. The sincerity and gratitude that the people have shown me is really one of the main reasons why the transition has been so easy. (Besides having four AWESOME friends and a great teacher here) The people have so little and live in what one could really only call a “shack” and yet they are the happiest people I have ever met. They don’t crave having the newest iTouch, iPad, coach purse or name brand clothing. They are happy with their dirt floors and wearing the same exact clothes multiple days in a row. We pray to God for success in our job, more money, gifts, etc and they just pray to stay alive and are so grateful every morning they wake up. I don’t think I have ever lived this simply before and yet been so happy.
It was a nice relaxing day but we have MUCH work ahead of us. Our aggregate project is due Friday and I believe I am doing my personal teaching project on Thursday! With lots of work ahead of me extra prayers and thoughts are very welcome.
Friday, July 8, 2011
Yesterday morning I started off at the Pro-Life clinic that they have here in the basement of the church. It is run by a nurse midwife named Cecilia and they take all patients concerning women’s health. We saw five patients, three whom were pregnant and we got to feel for the baby, measure the fundal height, and use a Doppler to find the baby’s heartbeat. Cecilia is great with her patients, one woman came in because she hadn’t felt movement from her baby in the past week and she was having a lot of pain. We found a strong heartbeat and the woman felt much better, but Cecilia wanted to stress the fact that she needs to take it easy and rest. Many of these women, if lucky, have what is equivalent to about an 8th grade or freshmen education, so they don’t understand a lot of the medical jargon that pregnancy could involve. So rather than talking about stress and the mechanics of her pain she just said, “When you feel pain that’s the baby saying ‘Mami, you need to rest! I want you to rest!’”. The women giggled a little bit but she understood how serious the situation was.
In the afternoon the church brought in some natural medicine healers to give us a little presentation. It was to say the least, interesting, but we did a lot of transferring of our energy and deep breathing. I didn’t really buy into it but it is pretty popular in the culture here. Many people are scared of the healthcare system because they really don’t care about the patient. There is a national healthcare here but it doesn’t really cover anything so most people have to pay anyways. So they try (if they can) to go to a private hospital but it costs so much more. So they use these healers because I don’t believe they cost too much. Even though it was a little weird, I am glad I got to experience it.
This morning I got to do my very first set of home visits! The other girls have gone and I have only heard great things about their mornings spent doing home visits. We had five patients (all women) that we visited with today. What we do all depends on the person’s ability to do things on their own and how they look at that moment. Mostly it consisted of blood pressures, filing and cutting nails, hand massages and washing feet. The first lady came to the door and looked great besides the fact she kind of limped when she walked. After she sat down she showed us her legs and she had really bad scars, all up and down both legs. She had been in a car accident and was in the hospital for 2 months! She looks great now, but I can’t imagine what she looked like while she was in rehabilitation. Her daughter and two granddaughters were there and showed us their backyard when we were done. I wasn’t expecting much besides some animals because there is really only sand everywhere, but was I wrong. We stepped out back and I honestly felt like I walked into a jungle! Then they started showing us all of their beautiful flowers that they sell. I really wish there was a way to bring them back to the U.S cause I would have bought some in a heartbeat. The second lady was really healthy and we just checked her blood sugar. The third lady was a little older and we just did her BP and hands. We wanted to wash her hands and feet because they seemed a little more dirty but she wasn’t very personable and didn’t seem to enjoy our company too much. The fourth lady was losing it a little bit but was very sweet and sang the whole time. I washed her feet while Maria did her hands. The last lady was 92 and hadn’t walked in 7 years. She was laying in a bed so we did everything plus gave her a bed bath.
I really enjoyed these home visits. It really is a humbling experience to be accepted into someone’s home and then do things such as cutting their nails and washing their feet. These people have so little and yet every home we walked into, within a minute of walking into the room they were getting chairs and insisting that we sit down and rest. It is such a great experience and I can’t wait to do more in the coming weeks.
We got the afternoon off so we went to Catacaos, which is a market that sells really great Peruvian made things at really cheap prices. We enjoyed roaming the streets and looking at all the vendors. We finished our last interview today, so we plan on starting the data portion of the project tonight and will be working on it all weekend!
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Things have been really busy here. Marianne and I have been working on our joint teaching project non-stop since Monday. Also we started our big aggregate and now we are waiting to conduct interviews before the next stage in the process.
I went to the hospice again yesterday morning, but this time I went with Meg and Chelsea who have never been before. So I got to teach them how to do the dressing changes. It was very challenging because I had gotten into a system with Marianne and Maria that we just did it without even really thinking. They had never done this before, even in the U.S, so I had to teach them EVERYTHING! It was a little difficult at first because I would keep forgetting to say stuff or that a certain thing had to be used. We started off with Eusebia who just has the small ones on each leg, I showed them what to do on one of the legs and they did the other, with my guidance. We then had to tackle our biggest hurdle, Oswaldo, who has the very large wounds on his bottom. Even though it was a challenge, I really enjoyed teaching them what I knew. It is such a great feeling to be able to share your knowledge with someone, especially an eager audience. I helped them to accomplish something today that they have never seen or done before and it was so great to see it all come together. This is why I became a nurse; I get to teach my patients EVERYDAY about their illness, medications and how to stay healthy. My love of teaching has also led me to set my goals high and eventually go to grad school so I can teach future nurses.
My confidence in Spanish is growing every day. The missionary group from St. Patrick’s church in Chicago, only has a few people who can speak/understand Spanish so they have been relying on us a lot to translate and ask people questions. So yesterday, Father Pat (from St. Patrick’s) and two other women were giving Eucharist to the hospice patients. None of them could speak Spanish and Deisy doesn’t speak English so Deisy pulled me aside a couple times to translate for them. I was really nervous because I was thinking, “I can’t translate. This is going to be a disaster!”. I don’t know if it was adrenaline or something else but my brain kicked it into high gear and I was able to translate for them! My Spanish is not perfect by any means but I am able to speak enough that Deisy can understand the main points. After three hours of trying to speak and translate Spanish, I find myself getting flustered with English speaking! I never thought that would happen!
The afternoon was spent in the hospital. It was slower and the staff didn’t seem to care too much that we were there. So for the first little bit we just stood around and watched. After about an hour, a surgical tech came and got us and brought us into the Trauma room. Here we then watched someone get stitches and someone get a subclavian catheter put in. The catheter was very neat because I have never seen that done before and it is a very dangerous procedure because you are essentially putting an IV into the heart.
This morning I started off at the hospital again but this time was placed in the nebulizing and injection room. I don’t believe they really have anything like this in the U.S. It is a room with about 8 lawn chairs and one bed. Patients come in and hand the medicine to the nurse, the nurse gets it ready and then injects it into the patient either through a shot or an IV. At this hospital, after they get a diagnosis from the doctor, the hospital doesn’t give them the medicine that they need to take. The people actually have to go outside the hospital to the Pharmacy, pick up the medication and then bring it back to the ER so a nurse can give it to them. How crazy is that?! The nurse and tech that I worked with today were super nice. At first she spoke really fast but she must have figured out that I had no idea what she was saying because she started to speak slower to me and using words that I could understand. She let me do a lot of IM injections, which is something I have never done in the U.S before. About halfway through my time there, I pulled out a handy little pocketbook of some key medical terms (Thanks, Jessica!). The nurse spotted it and her eyes grew big. I handed it to her and then we spent pretty much the rest of the time looking at the book. She would say the word in Spanish and then ask me to pronounce it in English if she couldn’t. It was a different position for me to be in because I am so used to being taught what the Spanish word is for something. This was actually one of the only people I have worked with that have been that interested in learning the English words.
This afternoon, Marianne and I presented our First Aid presentation to the women of Vaso de Leche. It was really rough at first, because Marianne and I had made a powerpoint in Spanish, and we had a rough time pronouncing a lot of the words. About half way through we asked if anyone had questions and the women were raising their hands left and right. This boosted our confidence and I really feel like we reached a lot of the women. Even though I was so stressed trying to put this entire thing together in two days, I felt so accomplished when it was all done. The women really enjoyed it and definitely took away some crucial tips like not to tip your head back when you have a nosebleed and to not wrap your child in lots of clothes and blankets if they have a fever. It was all very simple stuff, but will make a huge difference in these villages. Here are some pictures from the presentation!
Me talking and Marianne demonstrating
Demonstrating how to stop a nose bleed.
Marianne talking and me demonstrating the nosebleed again. (They really wanted to know about nosebleeds!)
So tonight was a special kind of mass. We kept hearing that it was a “healing” mass and that the church was going to be packed wall to wall with people. The only other thing I knew was that mass was going to be about two and a half hours, which didn’t make me too happy because I was so tired from the pass couple of days. Of course, there was standing room only when mass started and the congregation was going crazy clapping and yelling “Viva Cristo” and “Alleluia!”. I honestly felt like I was on one of those church T.V shows. After the homily, the lights went out and Padre Jose told everyone to close their eyes and that the missionaries and the nurses could get up and pray over those who they felt needed prayers and healing. At first I thought, “what the heck am I supposed to do? I can’t heal people”. I don’t know what it was, possibly God, but I got up and started walking to people. I just started placing my hands on people’s shoulders and saying a silent prayer. As I was placing my hands on these shoulders I looked around the congregation. An overwhelming feeling came over me and I could feel everyone’s worry, stress and pain. I started to tear up with every thought of a single mother, sick grandparent, loss child, workaholic, or homeless person. In a matter of seconds I had tears streaming down my face. At first I thought that my crying was not allowed because I was supposed to be “healing” these people. I then realized that I am no different from them. I am human, I have stress, I have worry and I have pain. It doesn’t matter what culture you are a part of, everyone is human, we all experience these things and we all need healing.
Monday, July 4, 2011
This morning, I started off back at the hospice with Marianne. To our surprise we were told that we weren’t doing dressing changes that day, but taking vitals of all the patients. We had only spent time with the three patients last week so we were both excited and nervous to be meeting and working with everyone at the hospice! They were all so cheerful and very cooperative when it came to taking their BPs, temperatures, pulses, etc. Most of them who are more coherent knew the routine and exactly what to do without any prompting from us! One of my favorite patients would have to be Felix, who is in a wheelchair and can barely talk, but every time we walk by his room, he gives us the biggest smile I have ever seen on a person without many teeth. He was so fascinated the entire time Marianne and I were taking his vitals. He even looked at the meter when I was taking his BP, just smiling and laughing the entire time. He joked with us and flirted with us by asking us our ages and saying things like we were the prettiest girls he had seen. He even asked if we would take a photo of him but wanted us to be in the picture. Here it is:
Rather than having lunch back at the parish, we went out to San Jacinto and had lunch with our Marquette Family. For those of you who I haven’t told, Sacramento Santisimo has a Family to Family program here. Families from the U.S (usually from the 4 major churches affiliated with the parish) financially support a family here in Piura. For $25 a month, the family gets a large food package. It then is up to the individual U.S families to decide how much more they want to support the family through helping to buy things for their house(shack), helping to pay for school, dental work, etc. Even though the nursing students that come to Piura, change each year Marquette still wanted to sponsor a family. So we have a wonderful family of five, Alex (Father), Erika (Mother), Christian (8 yr old boy), Kiara (4 yr old girl) and Jessica who is 5 months old. (Jessica was named after a nurse Jessica who came down last year! Many of the families here, name their children after their family members in the U.S, HOW COOL!) We had a great lunch made by the parish and then we were able to just hang out. I played ball/tag with Christian and some of the kids in Meg’s family (Her family has been sponsoring them for many years). It was so much fun getting to run around and the kids absolutely loved it. Even though I can’t communicate all that well with them, I still feel a strong bond growing and I can’t wait to see where our relationship with them will be at the end of our time here.
Baby Jessica: What a chubby baby!!
This is Kiara (she didn't want to be in the group photo!)
Group Photo of the family and the Marquette nurses!
This afternoon Meg did her teaching project to the women of Vaso de Leche. She taught them how to properly wash their hands and why it is SO important! She did a great job and the women really loved it! Marianne and I are teaching First Aid on Wednesday (which we found out this afternoon!), so we are frantically trying to put together something simple for the women. It actually isn’t that hard because there are these two books called, “Where there is no Doctor and Where Women have no Doctor” which are GREAT books that basically that teach about health for people who either are not in the medical field and/or do not have many resources available! I think every household in the U.S should have one because they have such great information. (Mom and Dad, if you ever need a gift idea for me *wink wink* J ) So we have gotten all of our information from here which has actually made it easy and now we just have to put it all together! My REAL teaching project is still in the works, and I should be doing that sometime next week!
Decorations put up by the workers in our dining room area!
After mass, Sacramento Santisimo made us an American dinner of burgers, hot dogs, baked beans and potato chips. They even had dinner entertainment! Two groups from the school the parish has built came and performed some traditional Peruvian dances. They were absolutely amazing and to finish up the night they even shot off fireworks for us! They made our Fourth of July feel as if we were right in our backyards in the U.S. It was such a great way to end the day. Especially after the fiesta tonight, I started thinking about how the Peruvians here were so excited about America’s Independence Day. Most of the have never been to the U.S and they still wore red, white, blue and waved little American flags. It was so awesome to experience but I couldn’t help but to feel the irony in it all. I don’t ever recall celebrating another country’s Independence Day in the U.S. We get so caught up in our “American” culture that most of us don’t even realize that our ancestors came from those foreign countries, and that is what makes us American. Being here and seeing things from another point of view has really made me aware of such cultural differences. I really am going to work on being more aware and accepting of cultural differences when I get back to the U.S. If I don’t, I would feel as if my experience here and the knowledge about this culture I have learned and grown to love would go to waste.
Sunday, July 3, 2011
Today started off by going to mass at San Jacinto and having lunch after at their retreat center. There was a very large group of us because about 25 people from St. Patrick’s church in Chicago came down for the week. So right now there are a lot of people staying here at the parish!
In the afternoon we went to Madre del Redentor, which is an orphanage for girls. Most of the girls come from abusive families or dangerous parts of Piura and the surrounding jungle. This is kind of like a safe house for them and the only opportunity for them to get an education and possibly even stay alive. We pulled into the orphanage and immediately the girls were running up to the trucks and starting to grab our hands. Two little girls, Marvel and Esmeralda, grabbed my hands immediately and didn’t leave my side for the afternoon. They are both twelve and the sweetest girls I have ever met. They asked me what my favorite color was, what I liked to do, how many siblings I had, my favorite sport, etc. These girls are starving to love and be loved, and I was very happy to fill that void, even if for only a couple hours.The girls took us to their little “shop” and we were able to buy things that they have made. At the orphanage the girls learn how to sew and make bracelets, necklaces, rosaries, etc. Besides donations, this is how most of the money for the orphanage is made. They then took us to a patio area where they then performed a dance a couple of the girls made up and a couple traditional jungle dances. They even got us up to dance to the Macarena and Shakira’s Hips Don’t Lie. While we were waiting for the trucks, Marvel and Esmeralda took me to their dormitories and showed me their beds and their class schedule. They taught me some Spanish words and I taught them some English. One of the sisters who runs the orphanage, knows English very well and they have English class once a week! It was so sad when we had to leave, the girls had wrapped their arms around me and didn’t want to let go. After we had gotten into the trucks, the girls walked along side holding our hands until we reached the gate. It was such a great afternoon and I hope we can go back, but I don’t think our schedule will allow us. L
Esmeralda, myself and Marvel.
Here is a video of one of the jungle dances that the girls performed for us!
Saturday, July 2, 2011
Yesterday morning I was at the hospice and we started off by doing wound care on the two patients we had changed dressings for on Wednesday. This time we knew what we were doing so we were able to work faster and more efficiently. After we were done with the dressings, I got to do something that I have only ever done in the lab at Marquette; I got to place a Nasogastric feeding tube! It was for a man who has pneumonia and is nearing the end of life. He wasn’t in a coma but he couldn’t really open his eyes and he didn’t move besides his chest with each breath. Even though he couldn’t do much with resisting me, his body definitely did. I was so used to placing these tubes through the nose of the mannequins in the lab and just sliding all the way down. I had gotten about an inch in when he started coughing and gagging. I had to maneuver the tube so it would curve around the back of his throat, which was something I usually never had to worry about on the mannequins. It was a painful couple minutes, not only for the patient, but for myself because I felt so bad putting him through so much pain. I know that is something I will have to face every day in my career, but it is never easy the first time you do it.
We also sat down with Coco one of the other hospice nurses and talked with her for a long time. She mentioned to us about how sad she was when her first patient died on her and how she felt guilty. This really made me excited about my teaching project because I was planning on teaching the hospice nurses about how to cope with grief and death. I am going to have to work hard this next week to make sure that my project is SUPER great for these wonderful women who work such long hours at the hospice and have to deal daily with grief and death.
In the afternoon we went to Vida Nueva, the men’s drug and alcohol rehab center, for Marianne’s teaching project. She talked to them about having a low self-esteem and how to overcome it. They were really intrigued and really listened to what she said! She definitely set the standards really high for the rest of us!
This morning we started off by touring the public hospital here in Piura. It is a lot bigger and nicer than the one where we have our clinical. There were lots of mothers giving birth, so we got to see lots of babies, some even only hours old! None of the women have private rooms, no cribs for the babies (all babies sleep in the bed with the mom), and the longest women stay after they give birth is 24 hrs! In the U.S, most women even with perfectly normal pregnancies are in the hospital for at least two days! I am learning so much about this culture and even though it is very different from the U.S, it works for them.
Here I am with one of the babies, only a couple hours old!
This evening, Sacramento Santisimo had their own parish procession of the Blessed Sacrament for Corpus Christi. It was the same deal as what happened this past Sunday, but with less people, and this time, we had to walk the ENTIRE WAY. Another thing the parish did special was that they made these beautiful colored sawdust pictures on the road. The walk took us about three and a half hours! And after about the first 45 minutes, I either was holding the hands of four or five kids, or physically carrying one in my arms. So I am very tired to say the least and am ready for a great night sleep.
Here are two of the sawdust images. I wanted to take a picture of all of them as we passed, but I guess once the Blessed Sacrament walked over them, then everyone else could as well!
This upcoming week is most likely going to get very busy due to the fact we have to start working on our big aggregate project and finish our teaching projects. So I apologize in advance if I am not able to update my blog as frequently. Send me e-mails, Facebook messages, etc and I will try to respond to those first! Sending my love and blessings to the States