During the mission to Guatemala, we were able to perform 30 surgeries, including appendectomies, cholecystectomies, hernia repairs, and mass removals. Most of the patients had needed these surgeries for years, so it was heartwarming to know that we provided them an opportunity to finally get the care they needed. We made time in the OR schedule for a young woman who came in with an emergent appendix and when we got in there, the appendix was ruptured and the abdomen was contaminated with pus. I feel that if we had not been there, this young girl would have died of sepsis. Our team was small but mighty, consisting of three nurses, one surgeon and one anesthesia provider, one pediatric nurse practitioner, one gynecology PA, and one clinic doctor. I was able to rotate through all of the nursing positions and help out in Pre-Op, OR, and PACU. I really enjoyed being able to talk with the patients and learn about their lives and the situation in Guatemala. It made me so happy to be able to educate them on basics that will help them live healthier lives. I did not love the lack of air conditioning or being away from my kids, but those are small things in the face of the good we were providing to the villagers. At the end of the mission our pharmacy had handed out over 20,000 pills! When I think of the impact the vitamins and albendazole alone will have, I am blown away.
One of the cultural differences I noticed in the way covid was being handled was that the idea of social distancing was very hard for the Guatemalans. Normally, many family members would come in and meet the needs of the patient after surgery, assisting them with food, dressing, getting up to the restroom, and talking with them. We were not able to allow so many people back into the recovery area due to covid, and it was a hard concept for the people to grasp. We had large groups of family members waiting right outside the doors, and every time I would go out to give someone an update, or just to run to the pharmacy, I heard questions coming from all directions about being able to see their loved one. We would let one person in for 15 minutes to visit, and it seemed hard on the patient and the family both. Social distancing also seemed hard outside the hospital setting. In the markets and streets, people were crowded in, and one of the interpreters told me that it is just such an alien concept that people were not likely to comply.
My nursing practice in the hospital has been impacted by this mission by making me acutely aware of all the waste and excess we have in the US. We were washing and reusing equipment in Guatemala, and we only had 5 pairs of nonskid socks. I was also impacted by the young men and women who were serving as our interpretation team, by the good they are trying to do in their own communities, and the needs that those communities have. I am now saving used socks and will be collecting school supplies and vitamins to send on the next trip down. I plan to work to educate other nurses I know and enlist them in the effort, to hold vitamin drives in my neighborhood, and enlist my family members all over the country to hold fundraising events and supply drives as well. I may not be able to physically go on many mission trips, but I can use my own privilege and the new connections I have made to send help to those who can distribute it where it is needed most. I am so grateful to One Nurse at a Time for making this trip possible for me, it was a life changing experience and I now have new goals for myself. Thank you!