Monday, July 28, 2014

Will Yokeley Summer 2014

I can’t help but feeling like the past month is an experience that will impact me for the rest of my life. Seriously, I’m incredibly thankful for the opportunity to live in and get to know Roatán. It´s like a friend that you become really close with in a short period of time and you can´t help but to just be thankful that they were a part of your life. That´s how I feel about Roatán. From my islander friends (like Kenfor shown below) to the awesome American and Canadian volunteers who work at Clínica Esperanza, I met a ton of people who were so much fun to be around. Most of the volunteers were med school, nursing or pre-med students (and some doctors and nurses too), and being around them made me even more excited to get on the path towards a career in medicine because they were all so down to earth, caring and passionate about helping others. Couldn´t have asked for a cooler group of people to work with!
My bro Kenfor
My bro Kenfor
Since I´ve gotten home, a lot of people have asked me how my experience was working in the hospital and what kind of things I was able to do there. Obviously I wasn´t giving treatments to people or diagnosing them since I´m not a doctor, but I got to be a part of every other aspect of a patient´s doctor visit. My co-intern and I were always the first people in the clinic to see patients each day, and after their long waits each morning (anywhere from 2-4 hours sometimes), we were always eager to get them into the clinic for triage just so they knew we´re doing our best to see everybody ASAP! But the attending pediatricians, Dr. Chantry from UC-Davis and Dra. Cerritos from Honduras, worked hard to see anywhere from 10-15ish patients every morning. There´s Dr. Chantry and her daughter and niece with me in the picture below.
Dr. Chantry, Zoey and Sabrina
Dr. Chantry, Zoey and Sabrina
Definitely my favorite part about volunteering at Global Healing was working with the kids everyday. Not only did I learn to tune out a crying baby, but I also got to know some pretty awesome Honduran niños! A lot of times parents would bring all of their kids to the clinic in addition to the one who was sick, and most of the time those healthy kids wanted to do something…anything. They were probably so bored of sitting around at the hospital! So Zoey, Sabrina and I would give them some paper to draw on, we would read with them sometimes and Sabrina even made a poster and taught kids about the importance of brushing their teeth (which deserves emphasis because many kids came into clinic with cavities). I especially loved having older kids come into clinic because it’s fun to talk to them and see how they’re feeling instead of immediately asking the parent. Some of the kids would be shy and just look at their parent for answers, but some of them would be pretty chatty, like Keylin who’s in these pictures.
Keylin      Keylin 2
Global Healing is really doing some great things in Roatán! There were 10-15 patients everyday who would not have gotten medical care if it weren´t for the clinic. In addition to that, sustainability is always a big question with these medical mission projects, but that is taken care of at the clinic since we have Dra. Cerritos working there throughout the year. And all the families loooveee Dra. Cerritos by the way.
I learned so much about healthcare during the month I was there, and especially healthcare in an under-served área. It really is so much different than healthcare here in the states. There is a lot of need in Roatán, as there is in much of Central and South America. Healthcare is just one aspect of the need, but healthcare is also something that effects the total well-being of an individual in ways that no other service to someone can do. Volunteering in Roatán helped me to see that first hand.
By the way, I also ended up getting a little bit of a bonus added to my trip when I found out they have little league baseball on the island! They had games every Saturday and the kids are pretty good ballplayers. I got to hang out with them a few times and they even let me pitch to them at a game, which was a lot of fun!
At the little league field
Pitching at the little league field
Being in Roatán was one of the best experiences that I´ve had. And just to wrap all this up, I´m very thankful that I had the opportunity to volunteer and learn there. Roatán definitely gave me much more than I was able to give to the island, and it will always be a special place to me. Thanks for reading my post, and if you´re interested in learning more about Global Healing then check out the link below!

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Emily Carey Summer 2014

My experience on Roatan was unforgettable, but in a way I could never have imagined before I got there.  As a pre med student with a love for learning the Spanish language, I knew this trip would be an amazing experience.  When I arrived, I’ll be honest I was a little bit scared – I had no idea what to expect! Ms. Peggy picked me up from the airport and brought me to the beach house where I would be spending the next month. That night, some volunteers came over to our house to cook baleadas, a staple in the Honduran diet. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming; my fears were immediately assuaged and I knew that this would be an extraordinary month.

Naturally, I was nervous for my first day of work. When I cabbed to the hospital with Genevieve, the nurse practitioner I would work with for the month, and other volunteer doctors, my nerves were again alleviated as I quickly realized just how amazing these women were.  Genevieve showed me around the hospital and the doctors taught me about some interesting diagnoses as we worked through the patients for the morning. I headed to Clinica Esperanza in the afternoon.  There, I was translating for some of the nurses who did not speak any Spanish. My Spanish was definitely put to the test, but I loved every minute of it. Explaining instructions for birth control pills, or picking out the right glasses for a patient is not the Spanish I was used to speaking in my university classes. But I worked my way through it and I returned home excited for what the next day would bring.

            As the first week went by, I explored the island a little more and began to get used to triaging patients. I made friends with a little girl named Neli, whose brother, Junior, was at the clinic for neurological problems. I drew pictures and played with the two of them as the doctors spoke with their mom. The next time they came in they were so excited to see me, and their mom told me they wanted to learn English after meeting me. This was really moving. I loved making connections like this with the patients, and this was only the first of many.

Neli and I at the hospital

A patient and her mom sporting their new butterfly tattoos

Finally a patient that didn’t scream on the scale!

Clinica Esperanza Triage

            The kids at the clinic absolutely loved the donations that I had brought. Most were just small balls, or stickers that we would give to the patients after seeing the doctor. The little boys loved the toy cars and their faces lit up when they realized they could bring it home with them. Many times, they would offer to give it back, but when I explained it was a present, they were delighted. One day I sat and put temporary tattoos on with a patient waiting to see the doctor. We ended up putting one on her mom, her grandmother and some other patients sitting in the hallway waiting. Putting that smile on the patients’ and parent’s faces was a truly special feeling, but realizing that sometimes this might be their first and only toy was heartbreaking. So many children in the US have piles of toys, but these boys and girls barely have crayons. We take these things for granted as kids and as adults, but such a small thing can make such a big difference. These children simply learn to play with what they do have, and sharing is never questioned. I learned to truly be thankful for everything I am blessed with at home in the United States.

Using my Spanish every day was a fun experience for me. I’m by no means fluent, and I’ve always been a little behind in my speaking skills because I was so afraid to make a mistake. Listening always came easy to me, and writing I could simply look up what I wasn’t sure of. But this trip finally made me realize that making a mistake while you’re speaking to a native is okay. They will always understand what you mean and appreciate that you are trying. Leaving Roatan I feel more confident in my Spanish skills. I loved learning Spanish from patients. If I couldn’t understand a word he or she was using, I would ask for an explanation. This way, we both worked out the meaning of the word, occasionally through a few laughs, and I could add a new vocabulary word to my list. I also loved it when patients would ask me about English words. It was fun to teach and it was great to see the patients’ desire to learn.

Although of course more upsetting, young patients who came in with rare, severe cases were the most interesting. Working with young children and babies allowed me to see various medical problems that are so easily preventable in the United States. Sometimes we’d see little things, like a little girl with a marble up her nose, or a fever and a cold. However, the babies born septic, the boy with a rare genetic disease, or the child with spina bifida, are the patients I’ll always remember. Many of these cases could have been prevented in the US, simply due to more sterile conditions or availability of resources and proper care. Sometimes I was also saddened to see parents’ serious lack of education. This lack of basic medical knowledge meant many children were missing out on proper care because their parents did not understand when it was necessary to see a doctor. This is definitely something that can be prevented with a more intense education program put into place for expecting mothers.

            Roatan is an interesting place. Because of the diving tourism, there are parts of the island that are well established, with resorts and shops. The rest of the island lives in poverty, however, and it creates an interesting dynamic. Volunteers are well respected on the island and the locals really appreciate the “gringos” helping out. It is quite surprising though how isolated and unaware the tourists are of the poverty plaguing the island. It seems if more of the diving tourists understood the conditions of the hospital perhaps they could help in some way. Of course, the tourism itself is helping the island, but it is terribly unfair how severely separated the island is. Perhaps if tourists were more aware of the conditions in the communities and the lacking healthcare system, word of mouth would allow more Americans and Canadians to travel and volunteer their in some way.  Roatan is a beautiful, vibrant place but I’m not sure visitors truly understand the hardship and impoverishment that exists throughout the island.

I feel very blessed to have had such an amazing opportunity to meet and work with such truly amazing people. The Hondurans living and working on Roatan are some of the kindest, most genuine people I’ve ever met. The nurses and doctors are incredibly talented and passionate, and I am not sure they get enough credit for it. My last day of work, some of the nurses and doctors were sad to see me go. I’d made a connection with these people and I’ll never forget them. In fact, I hope to return to Roatan as soon as I can, maybe next time with an M.D. next to my name.