Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday and saying goodbye

This Good Friday is going to stay in my memory for a long time to come.  My grandma is dying in a hospital thousands of miles away.  She is 91 and has been on a decline for a long time.  For the past several years every phone call, every visit, every trip has ended with the intuitive knowledge that "this could be the last time I see her."  So because of this I've literally said goodbye to her hundreds of times.

Today it doesn't seem to be enough.  Because I think I will always want to say goodbye one more time.  When I started this year of mission, I knew that the likelihood of her still being there when I returned was small.  But I hoped.

Death always makes life seem trivial.  Not because it is, but because for the moment that we are truly focused on death: we realize that not one of us is going to live on this earth forever.  Thankfully for most of us it isn't an every day occurrence that we are faced with dying: either our own or the death of a loved one.  Somehow it is different when we hear of the death of a friend's loved one, people on television or even the friend of a friend and the reality of it doesn't overwhelm us.

I'm working my 24 hour shift in a quiet and almost empty clinic (Semana Santa being a holiday) for which I am extremely grateful.  I have so many memories swarming through my mind...everything from being a little girl going to feed the ducks in the river in Naperville to reading books while sitting on grandma's lap to running to hug her in the airport when she came for her two week annual visit (my mom is from the west coast and we never lived closer than Chicago).

Fast forward to my teens and grandma is the one who gave me a place to live when I turned into a rebellious teenager for a year.  I'll never forget the evening she came to me while I was loading the dishwasher in her kitchen, listening to music on the stereos she had built herself.  She gave me a huge hug, telling me how glad she was to have me come live with her.  I remember being shocked, because in my stupid teenage brain I felt completely unloveable and her going out of her way to say she wanted me...well I will never forget it.  We spent so much time together that year and I always say that year was the year I grew up.

In her latter years, my grandma moved out to live with my parents and I was able to see her much more often.  I want to write a tribute...and say more!  But that will have to wait...because she hasn't died...she is just walking near that line!

I guess Good Friday is a great day to face death.  Don't we all want to be the good thief anyway?  What an honor to die with our Lord! "Jesus, remember me when you enter into your Kingdom."  Easter is just around the corner.  Praying that everyone reading this is that much closer to the Resurrection in their lives.  Love to all!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Megapaca, locked doors and basketball

Somehow I don't speak Spanish and I don't play basketball but I ended up on a women's Guatemalan (spanish-speaking) basketball team.  We practice twice a week and play on weekends in a near-by town.  I have now officially played basketball five times.  Three practices and two games.  My first game they didn't keep score because we were that bad.  The second game we lost....59-6.  

But I am having so much fun!  I love that I get to play with local women from the nearby town, that I'm learning a new sport, and that I'm learning a whole new spanish vocabulary: de basket.  Our coach is awesome and over-all: I enjoy it.  Except that whole, "aaack he might put me in" feeling during the game.  I don't love that.

Chima, where we have our games, is actually a pretty neat town.  It is one of those dangerous places we should never go.  But they have a mall and a really neat second hand store (run by Goodwill) called Megapaca.  A fellow volunteer and I braved the dangerous roads in a microbus and chicken bus in order to: SHOP!  Who knew it was so americanized??

Since we didn't die, I was able to work my second 24 hour shift on Saturday.  This was fine except I managed to lock the clinic keys inside the wound room (we douse it with bleach and use it to change dressings on serious wounds).  I then called ON THE PHONE the director IN SPANISH and told him what I had done.  Please note: this was a telephone SPANISH...just wanted to make sure that came across clearly.

Anyway, he couldn't do anything that night so I stopped by my house after pm meds were distributed and grabbed a blanket.  I then slept on the exam table in the doctor's office because the room with the nurse's bed was LOCKED.  The next morning someone came and climbed on the roof, through a window in said roof and into the locked room with the keys.  And that's how we got the keys back.  It was so ridiculous I wasn't even that upset.  It was more of a "REALLY?" moment when I locked them inside than anything else.  The nurse on the next shift told me she did the same thing last better I felt.  

Yesterday was the day of visitors and today was our total campus work day but more on that la-tah!

Missing everyone.  Lots!

Friday, March 18, 2016

Braids and breaks and graces for today

First off: the guy from the emergency is fine! Saw him a couple days ago and all is well.

Secondly, there are some seriously talented people here who can braid! This is just a small collection of my recent do's courtesy of one tia in my section. 

Thirdly: I completed twenty four hours on my own, by myself, in the clinic... And I didn't die and none of the kids died and well that's about the size of it! I woke up at 3:30am, 4:30am and then finally at 5:30 am which is when I am supposed to wake up. Managed to give all the kids their meds (I think) and that includes the sixteen kids who randomly came down with colds and were started on cough medicine and Tylenol.... Meaning that many more kids to medicate! 

And fourthly: I'm on a two day break... Well kind of... Two days away from the clinic. Still have everything else and then some... But God is good and he's giving me the energy and graces to meet each day!  Sincerely hope that continues this coming week.  Semana Santa is when all the tios and tias take a break and we all work for them...while I continue my 24 hour rotating shift in the clinic.  They also added a day of work for the entire campus and we have our bi-yearly family and visitors day (obilgatorio).  Today I'm grumbling.  Sorry!  The idea of all this work is say the least!  Okay, not going to worry about tomorrow with the graces of today.  Adios! 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Night shift and emergencies

View from clinic window as sun sets.

Worked my first night shift last night...just me and the two boys who are wheelchair bound and live in the clinic.  I arrived around 6:30 as the sun was setting.  The previous nurse went over a bunch of things with me "just in case" and handed over the keys and clinic phone.

I easily kept busy: entering lab results in the computer, working on vaccine schedules, switching over laundry, and treating a kid or two who rang the bell.  At 7:30 I headed out the door to deliver night meds.  Here I met my first snag: when I did a trial run last week giving night meds, all the kids were in their houses.  This night, being Friday, they were all outside the commodore around a big bonfire.  Have you ever looked through 200 kids for the four who need night meds in firelight?  Didn't think so...thankful for Tias and Tios (caregivers!) who can tell kids apart in the dark!

Can you see the kids?

I then headed back and realized how quiet and empty the clinic was.

Hall to back of clinic where my room is. Scary.

I debated opening or shutting the curtains.  On the one hand if I was being murdered, it would be nice to think someone could see it happening.  On the other hand, it is kind of creepy thinking someone could be watching you while you work, all alone, from outside the window.  I settled on a compromise.

Clinic windows after dark from my desk.

As the sun rose, so did I, getting almost 7 hours sleep which I think rocks.  I had a pressure ulcer wound dressing that I changed around 7am and then I cleaned the clinic before sitting down to chart and await the oncoming shift at 7:50am.

Clinic keys...and yes they all go to something.

At 7:55 the doorbell starts going crazy.  I sleepily make my way to front door to find five visitors (from another country) standing around an older, white-haired gentleman with blood running down his face.  Thankfully they speak English and tell me that the guy has been running a fever, has a headache going down his neck and that he passed out and was unconscious as they were waiting to board their bus to the airport.

Suffice it to say, nothing I wrote above is a good thing.  I brought the guy into the clinic and started cleaning up his face while I asked a bunch of questions.  The oncoming nurse thankfully came in at about that time and we were able to arrange transport to a nearby hospital.  

No one told me when I signed up for this job (kids, primary care clinic) that there would be adults with emergencies!  And on my first night...really hope this doesn't set a precedent!  Yikes!!


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Semana Santa

As some of you may know, Holy Week in latino countries is not just the week before Easter...processions and celebrations begin the day after Ash Wednesday and continue until the resurrection.  In Antigua, a rather touristy city, they have a procession with floats, costumes, bands, incense and carpets made of flowers lining the streets every Sunday for the six weeks prior.  Each week things become more elaborate and did I mention long?  These processions last all day!  With hundreds watching and even more actually processing.

I was able to attend last weekend's procession because it was my weekend off.  This coming week I start 24 hours shifts and then I am on a working stretch from Holy Thursday through Monday of Easter week.  So unfortunately this is the only procession I am going to see this year (that I know of at this exact moment in time...things are ALWAYS changing!). are some pictures to give you a general idea.  Can't tell you how neat it was to watch something that has been going on for centuries (I think it must have come over with the least I have been to Holy Week processions in Spain that were similar, albeit not as spectacular)...and happening on cobblestone streets in the same place people have processed for centuries.  Very neat.

My first night shift is Friday.  Not really ready but much closer to ready than I was two months ago!  Baby steps!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Lago Atitlan

I wasn't sure what to post first: visiting Lake Atitlan or seeing the Semana Santa procession in Antigua.  Both are beautiful!  And both deserve time in the spotlight!  As you can tell, it was a rather busy non-working weekend!

 Lake Atitlan is about two and half hours away from where I live...on a very windy, very hilly road!  I went with a group of medicos from the Medical Conference we had last week.  Many of my fellow volunteers lived and attended Spanish classes at the lake for the month before we started working at NPH but for me: it was my first time.

When finally you arrive at the first town on the lake, you are greeted with an amazing vista.  There is a slow descent to the edge of the water where we parked our microbus and caught a boat.  There are several small towns located around the lake, but we were only there for the day so we headed to one of the larger places called San Pedro.  Here we walked, shopped, ate, visited the church and walked to the highest point we could find to look over the town.  

The day was beautiful, even after the sky opened and a torrential downpour began.  We hurriedly returned to the boat, enduring a rapid and somewhat jumpy race across the lake back to our original port.  We arrived just in time for the rain to stop and spent what little time we had left browsing in the markets.

Mostly writing this blog to show the pictures.  It is a beautiful, beautiful place!

Friday, March 4, 2016

Medical Conference AKA Taller Medico

This past week was the annual NPH medical conference.  I guess I lucked out because it was held in Guatemala this year so I was able to attend.  There were doctors and nurses from 7 different central and south American countries and several administrators (all from Europe).  Everyone works for NPH and in a variety of different settings.  Some countries have small clinics where there is just one doctor and one nurse while others have a huge clinic with a large staff (they also care for the community, not just NPH kids).  The homes are also varied...some countries house severely disabled kids while others are simply caring for healthy ones.  

During the conference we had classes on childhood development, both physical and mental; classes on adult and pediatric cardiopulmonary resuscitation; classes on the psychological, cognitive and sexual development of a child; moral decision making in instances of abuse; classes on the electronic medical record and case presentations from each country.  Very interesting (well, except for the EMR parts) and I am so glad I was included!

I'm also exhausted.  Everything was in Spanish and the constant interaction with people I don't know combined with accents I am not familiar with was pretty draining.  I love meeting new people (and these guys are pretty awesome!) but it is hard to continually put yourself forward and be friendly when you can't speak or understand the language very well.  Glad to be here though and I know it is a pretty unique life experience for me.  I doubt something like this will come my way again!

Next week I need to get all my own personal work assignments done in the clinic because starting March 16th I will be taking my place in the nursing rotation and working 24 hour shifts for three weeks.  I'm a little freaking out.  Just a little.  :o)  

Going to visit Lago Atitlan tomorrow with some of the medicos...and it is also the last day with my friend who leaves for Honduras on Sunday.  I think I'll put off thinking about everything else until Monday!