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

Monday, April 22, 2013

Jo in Ecuador


 I  am Josephine Sullivan, an Operating Room nurse from Louisville,KY. This was my third surgical mission
with Healing the Children to Ecuador. The mission was made possible because of a scholarship from One Nurse At a Time and Barcos Nightingales.  You need to know that Ecuador is important to me because ,when I was seven,we had an exchange student,Pauline,from Quito live with us.I remember telling her that ”Someday I’ll go to your country. “It was good to be back in Ecuador and I have started  planning  my return. I now have friends there that are glad to see me, what fun.

   Our team consisted of four surgeons, four Anesthesiologists, two pediatricians, one nurse anesthestist, two nurse practitioner, two ENT Residents,two OR nurses, one nurse administrator, one OR tech. one first assistant and three other young people,who performed a variety of duties.Most of the team was from Louisville,a very agreeable and competent  group.
   We worked at two hospitals in four operating rooms. Manta had plastics and  ENT. Portoviejo had pediatric general surgery and orthopedics. My work was done in Portoviejo that included 6 orthopedic cases and 40 general surgeries that included mostly  hernia repairs and undecended testicles. The most rewarding was to return to a facility that I had worked in the previous trip to find I was remembered and welcomed by the staff and translators.  The young pediatric surgeon told me I looked like an angel and invited me to visit his office and meet his partners.He also took his young son and me to the park where iguanas live in trees.The hardest thing to endure was the mode of sterilization used in the facility.
The first unexpected event happened on the day of patient evaluations. They actually listened to me when I shared what had finally worked for us before. We seemed  organized and professional.It was heart warming.
The next unexpected event occurred after the second day of surgery.My Brigade leader,who I had never worked with before said “You really know your job.”I responded “I told you that.” To which she responded “But you’re really good.”I was speachless.She is not always generous with compliments. Having done the same job for 30 years,I am confident,but it sure is nice to hear.
   The Ecuadorian people are a very gracious and giving people. The major religion in the area is Catholic and being raised Catholic this was familiar and comfortable. Parental relationships are similar as the main focus of parents is on the well being of their children.Children are the same all over the world, curious and trusting or leery,depending on the day.I am fortunate,children don’t usually see me as a threat.
   What I have learned about myself is that ,I am no longer fast,but I am steady  for as long  as you 
need me to be steady.
   I was fortunate enough to have a week in Ecuador after our work was done.I stayed with a friend and was graciously welcomed by her family.We visited her cousin in San Lorenzo.a small village on the coast.We sat on the porch and greeted everyone that passed,we walked in the forest and we walked on the beach.I love beaches.When her nephew learned I was a nurse,he thought I should visit a child in the next village with a rare skin condition.Did I mention my friend is related to everybody.
   The condition is Ictiosis,genetic and uncurable. Medicines and creams for him are expensive.His father is a fisherman and he has a brother and a sister.His eyes are also in need of surgical attention.The next day I visited the Eye Institute in Portoviejo where they agreed to do his surgery and provide eye drops at no cost.He is six. Hopefully by the time he starts school he will be able to see out of both eyes at the same time.
   The creams and ointments for treatment are much less expensive in Kentucky,even  to ship. My family has agreed to help provide those for him.So if we can make a difference ONAAT, then we  start one child at a time.
   We also visited another hospital for a potential future surgical mission.It was a very new two OR department and a very gracious medical dirrector.I am very hopeful about the possibilities.