Be the change you want to see in the world. ~ Ghandi

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Most Innocent of All - The Babies!

“Learning about how difficult it is to get the most basic things in life such as food, a secure shelter, and basic healthcare was difficult and humbling to accept,” reflected Nneka Matlock, RN about her recent trip to Haiti.  Nneka traveled with the non profit group Hands Up for Haiti this past January.  Haiti is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.  According to Northwest Haiti Christian Mission, “Roughly half of all Haitians live in absolute poverty (earning less than $1 a day) and have no access to clean water”.  In the recent publication of the Global Health Observatory Data Repository by the World Health Organization, of every thousand children born in Haiti, 70 die before reaching the age of 1.  Nneka’s group was determined to make a difference in this statistic.
The January Hands Up for Haiti’s mission trip to Cap Haitien, Haiti was primarily a pediatric and neonatal focused mission trip. In total, they rendered health care services to 139 babies, children, and adults and an additional 26 orphans.  They taught “Helping Babies Breathe”, a course that emphasizes skilled attendance at birth, assessment of every baby, temperature support, stimulation to breathe, and assisted ventilation as needed, all within "The Golden Minute" after birth. Approximately twenty-seven traditional birth attendants, nurses, doctors, and community members attended the class.  The Hands Up for Haiti group was also able to provide a Newborn Assessment and S.T.A.B.L.E. lecture for six nurses who will be working in a newly developed neonatal unit.    The acronym stands for the things health care providers need to check to stabilize a neonate after birth: Sugar, Temperature, Airway, Blood pressure, Labs, and Emotional support to families.  On the trip, the team also set-up a mother and baby unit, labor and delivery unit, and neonatal care unit for an expanding Christian charity hospital that will be providing free and paid health care services to the community.

One of the most memorable moments for Nneka occured when the team had a little downtime before dinner. “There were mountains upon mountains just behind the compound where we stayed. Some of the volunteers and our Haitian translators would hike up those mountains in the evening time. One evening, a group of us walked up the mountains. We passed local houses with people cooking and doing their hair outside.  Little kids followed us as we walked pass and started up the mountains behind the houses. The higher we walked, looking down we could see other mountains around us, the clouds were so close to our heads. And we finally made it to the top. There someone had made a shelter of wooden frames and a tin roof only- no walls. Under this shelter, on top of the mountain was an exhilarating and memorable moment. On the top of this mountain, we all gathered in a circle holding hands, prayed together for our work in Haiti to benefit many people, and sang songs of praises. It was a moment in which all cultural differences were set aside and we all became one!”

Nneka Matlock, RN has a Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations and a Masters degree in Nursing from the University of Maryland at Baltimore 's Clinical Nurse Leader program. Her motivation for becoming a nurse stemmed from her experience as a health volunteer in the Peace Corps in Ghana , West Africa . While there, she worked with an organization that helped malnourished children, mothers, and lactating/pregnant women; a support group for people living with HIV/AIDS; and an orphanage. Her work included an array of health education, home health visits, and grant/proposal writing for income-generating projects. The Peace Corps experience has been an invaluable learning tool and motivation in her life.


Nneka is currently a NICU nurse at Holy Cross Hospital in Silver Spring , MD where she has the chance to help the tiniest, most precious gifts- the babies! When she's not working, she enjoys traveling, reading, foreign films, learning about other cultures, and the outdoors.