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

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Jo's Nurses in El Remate, Guatemala

I initially applied for Jo´s Nurses because I wanted an experience that would change my life forever, cement my desire to get involved in humanitarian nursing, and to make a difference. I knew that this trip would make me appreciate life in so many more ways and so far, it certainly has. As nurses we are inherently compassionate people, but experiencing poverty in another country really forces you to open your heart, your mind, and your soul in a way you never thought was possible.
I was extremely excited prior to leaving for Guatemala. I don´t claim to be a seasoned traveler by any means, but I have traveled internationally in the past so I wasn´t too worried
about what I was going to be faced with. When I arrived in El Remate however, I had such complete culture shock. I wasn’t nearly as mentally prepared as I thought I was. I think as people we tend to shelter ourselves unknowingly, constantly gravitating towards familiarity and comfort. But the beauty of being human is that we have the ability to learn from all of our interactions with every single person that comes into our lives, even if it´s through a passing moment. Being a nurse is so incredibly rewarding because as much as we touch the lives of our patients, they touch ours as well. Everyone has a story. And the people of Guatemala certainly have their own to share.
Working at Ix-Canaan has been an unbelievable experience. It has been challenging, because there are no physicians here. What this means is that JP and I have been solely running the clinic, diagnosing, prescribing medication, and managing care for the people we have been seeing. We´ve seen everything, from a woman who had a systolic blood pressure in the 200s, to a woman who came in with a UTI. I think the most exciting experiences I have had so far was listening for a fetal heart rate using a Doppler and helping JP suture a full thickness laceration on a young man who had gotten into a bar fight the night before. These are things that I haven´t had the chance to do back at home. The most difficult part about this has been trying to think outside the box. Supplies are really limited here. It´s amazing how much we take for granted sometimes - things such as normal saline or syringes are so hard to come by. And so we have to be creative. We have to be resourceful. I have to think
in ways that I wouldn´t normally have to back at home. When a 15 year old pregnant teenager walked into the clinic, and I was told that this was very normal in Guatemala, I was forced to reevaluate my own expectations, judgments, and values.  I have, without a doubt, not only grown as a nurse here, but as a person as well.
I don´t think I was quite prepared for the level of poverty that I am seeing here in Guatemala. You hear about it and you read about it, but until you´re actually standing there, the reality of it just hits you like a brick wall. What I find incredible though, is that those that have nothing, in my opinion, have everything. They have so much happiness, love, and warmth. They are so full of life. The Guatemalan people have been such amazing hosts to us. They enjoy life´s simple pleasures and the beauty of every moment. It has been a true blessing to have this opportunity, and it´s something that I will never forget. The best part about all of this though, is that without a doubt in my mind, I will be back.