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

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Pediatric Surgery in Ecuador

by: Deborah Skovron
Within the clearly apparent physical outcomes of a pediatric reconstructive surgical mission lies an outcome that may not present itself quite as immediately to the volunteer nurse.  While this less physical outcome does not reveal itself in as dramatic a way that surgical intervention does, it is as significant, as permanent, and as enduring as any physical reconstructive outcome.  I was fortunate to realize this outcome while on a surgical mission to Ecuador last week.  I hope that by sharing this story, other volunteer nurses will realize the impact their contribution has in the lives of their patients well after they part ways.   
This mission was not my first surgical mission to this tiny South American country; I've been fortunate to return often as a volunteer PACU nurse in various Ecuadorian hospitals.
In 2012 I volunteered in a small public hospital's PACU in Salinas, Ecuador.  I returned this February to the same city but to a different hospital.  
On "triage" day I was responsible for patient intake information, weights, heights, etc. for prospective patients.
The day was moving along at a quick pace; families with kids were filling the hallways and spilling over to the outside.  
I had triaged around 90 kids, had had lunch, and was digging in for more patients when the exam-room door opened, a family entered and in an instant there was a young boy wrapping his arms around my waist with all of his might. A huge, happy surprise for each of us!!!!!  I was elated to see this young boy, this smiling face; to see him well, to see he had remembered me. The hug endured. Happy greetings were all around; young boy, parents, and nurse!
(I had recovered this young boy last year following the repair of a congenital anomaly. He had a great deal of discomfort, had difficulty ambulating, his parents were distraught, he had numerous surgical drains, incisions, and dressings. I spent hours with him, managing his pain, helping him to cough and deep breath, encouraging him to ambulate, reassuring his parents that all would be well. And indeed, all did go well; he was soon discharged.)  He had returned now, unexpectedly, for the second of four surgical interventions.

With that show of affection I realized, in an instant, that I had played a very significant role in this young boy's life last year; more than I had imagined. I had been placed in his mind as a GOOD memory, a thing with which he had a connection.  Along with a positive surgical outcome there had been an incredible consequential outcome; the creation of vital human bond between a young boy and an older woman, an Ecuadorian and an American, a patient and a nurse, a disadvantaged citizen and a citizen of means (relative term.). This was such a stark, impressive realization; quite significant for me. Now, at home, I feel even more a part of this global community; what a gain!! And not a "pat on the back" kind of a gain but a quiet, internal, satisfied gain.  

He did have his second reconstructive surgery last week; I was able to care for him again post operatively. He recovered quickly, he's speaking some English, he's a whiz at jig-saw puzzles, and he's a fan of chocolate Ensure.

I was once again able to practice the art of nursing; human to human caring.  I was not restricted, nor was my care defined by the rush, scripted, often routine approach to patient care in a large institutional care center that I often find associated with my job in the states.

While nursing theory, medical science, and evidence-based practice has advanced the profession of nursing, to be one with another in a time of need is the hallmark of nursing......and there in lies the charm and the appeal of humanitarian nursing.