Malawi, from unsure to confident. by Liesel Ratliff

I had the privilege to go to Malawi this past summer.  Here were a few highlights to my trip.IMG_5998

One was feeling competent in my skills as a nurse. I was a little unsure of how helpful I would be as I tried to provide medical care in a completely different context than the state-of-the-art pediatric hospital I work at here in Chicago. But, my 6 years of experience as a nurse definitely prepared me well for what we saw in the 675 children we treated. Doing a head to toe assessment on an American child and a Malawian child are vastly similar. The young children are skeptical of a stethoscope and penlight. So, I would have them play with the equipment before I used it on them. The older children were timid to be assessed, but I would smile and joke with them and quickly eased their demeanor. I enjoyed the many, many head to toe assessments I did. I enjoyed finding problems that I knew we had the capacity to treat. I enjoyed seeing the kids we treated start to feel better within a couple days. Children are so resilient and strong and I love seeing them get better after being sick.

IMG_6024Another highlight was getting to care for a boy who had a massive, infected, painful wound on his leg. I got to clean, debride, dress, and change his dressing 4 times while we were there. It was amazing to get to have the opportunity to treat him and possible save his leg. We had the medical supplies and the know-how to treat his wound. If we had not been there, I am not sure if or when he would have sought out medical care and if he would have found the care he needed. I have attached a photo of the wound and of the boy and me. I formed a special bond with the boy because I got to see him more than any of my other patients because he had to come back multiple times for wound care. We would laugh together while we tried to communicate throughout the dressing changes. He seemed appreciative and I was in awe of his resilience and pain tolerance. We had no way to numb the wound while we did dressing changes, nor did we have anything stronger than Ibuprofen and Tylenol to treat the pain. He continued to come with a smile on his face and tolerated the dressing changes amazingly. I trained a Malawian in how to do the dressing changes so that even though I am gone, he is still getting dressing changes and care for his wound. I hope and pray his wound is continuing to heal well.

One Nurse At A Time requests that scholarship recipients purchase an item on their mission that we can auction off at our annual fundraiser. The IMG_4114item I chose to buy and send for the auction is a headband that was made my the ladies in the textile center at The Grace Center. The Grace Center is a compound that has a school, church, clinic (the one we worked at), an orphanage, a mill, and a textile center. Many of the children who grow out of the orphanage come back and find work at the Grace Center. The textile center is one place where some of the girls come back to work. The textile center provides a safe work environment and a means of income for single women in Malawi. I think supporting this small business is extremely important because it is supporting vulnerable women in Malawi who don’t have much, sometimes not even family. I hope whoever wins this headband is reminded to continue supporting vulnerable women every time it is worn!