Medical/Dental Global Brigade 2017

Saturday, March 5th:

One thing I do not like are planes & today I endured three United Airlines. The first plane was just to Chicago from Detroit which was an hour ride, a good start for the day. I was lucky enough to get aisle seats each plane ride which also made me the fifth group to get on each plane. This came in handy when they said there was too many carry-ons on the plane and not enough room, so everyone who didn’t board yet (the fifth group) got to get our bagged checked straight to Nicaragua (HECK YEA). The second plane was from Chicago to Houston, Texas which took a couple hours & the decent was so bad we all ended up feeling sick. Luckily, we had a five hour layover leaving us with five hours to eat our real first meal for the day, exploring the airport, playing card games, taking a nap (if applicable), and making last minute phone calls to loved ones. Once boarded from Texas to Nicaragua, we filled out the Travelers Declaration and landed in the ninety degree weather although the sun was down and it was nine at night! We saw these giant fake trees that light up at night and were told they were decorations put into place by their new “crazy” President which made us all say “same”.

Sunday, March 6th:

After enjoying a breakfast of rice and beans, eggs, and plantains, we packed the two big vans and headed out for our 3 hour drive to our compoundthat we will stay at for the remainder of the trip. While listening to Regae music, I noticed the crazy traffic. People not following the speed limit, scooters zooming in between cars, people handing out newspapers by standing in the middle of the street, cars passing other cars while they in the oncoming traffics side but the oncoming traffic is literally right infront of them, and the hundreds of buses carrying too many people. I also noticed how much I remember Spanish words and can recognize what signs were saying from all my high school and one college Spanish class. I saw many roaming horses and cows all of which were a hundred times skinnier than ours in America. My favorite was seeing how colorful the cities were and even how cementaries had colorful crosses instead of cement ones like ours, and seeing all the kids out playing soccer or baseball.

We began organizing and creating pharmacy packs by splitting up the boxes of each medicine, putting the correct amount into a ziplock bag, and labeling each pack. After this 3-4 hour task, we made the dental packs by creating a big assembly line and making sure each of the 900 packs had one toothbrush, one toothpaste, one floss, one shampoo and conditioner, etc. By the time we finished all of that, we had a meeting about Global Brigades and met the doctors we will be working with (which by the way were all woman and nothing is more satisfying then seeing all women in power and position).

Monday, March 7:

After traveling down a mountain and taking sharp curves for an hour, we arrived to the place. There was multiple stray dogs and chickens hanging out with us the whole day and a line around the corner of the Nicaraguan citizens waiting for our help. I worked with Triage for the first half of the day by taking their medical history, blood pressure, pulse, temperature and weight for kids, and any symptoms they are having. This was extremely stressful as our language barrier became a problem with only two interpreters (and sometimes only one as they moved from place to place) for the eight of us. For the second half of the day, I worked in Charla (Chat in Spanish) with the kids. Because this was the second part of the day and basically the same kids, we didn’t want to make them go through how to keep up with their hygiene again. So we just played games and watched them teach us songs and games for three hours. I really enjoyed this because I felt close to many different kids and they even helped me with my Spanish through conversations. After the 200-300 adults and kids we helped with through Triage, GYNO, pharmacy, and physician consult; I am sure we will have that many more tomorrow. One interesting thing we learned was that babies wear this bracelet with 2 wood oval gems that keep the bad energy from other people to their baby, a religious belief.

Tuesday, March 8th:

There’s nothing better than learning and seeing things you would never get to see any other time in your life. Today I started off with working in Pharmacy where we grab which medicine we packaged earlier this week to give to them for free. Most of them needed vitamins and high blood pressure or acetaminophen. Others ranged from allergies and asthma to dermatology and creams of other sorts. After that, I was able to observe a gynecologist for the second half of the day. This is where some people got to tell the woman she was pregnant or hear a heart beat from others who knew they were pregnant; where we did hundreds of pap smears and hear what medicine they were receiving from what we saw; and there were sad moments when I got to see what HPV looked like or see how sad a 22 year old woman was when she was told it is almost impossible for her to become pregnant due to her flipped uterus and cyst on her ovaries. We just had two people holding the woman’s legs as they didn’t have the resource to the proper bed, one person holding the light and the last person holding the retractor. Overall though, it was nice seeing people return specifically with some of the kids I grew close with. I truly am thankful and love this place so much already and we have only started.

Wednesday, March 9th:

This day started off really great when I got to be in physician consult. I observed a little kid who half her fingers just never developed because the mom didn’t have enough folic acid when pregnant and a little bit of a genetic defect. I saw many stomach problems which stems from not getting enough of daily nutrients and parasites in general. I saw an older woman with lung issues from working with a fire stove and wood making smoke inhalation which is fairly common. The most common I saw was dehydration which stems from workers on a farm and bakeries as for the workers on the farm, the sun and overworking causes such and for bakeries, the overworking and fire wood burning stoves causing the dehydration. The worst case was a 70 year old woman who was carried in because she has had diarrhea the past 3 days, didn’t eat or drink today, her BP 80/50 (extremely low), and the heat affecting her. They tried to give her an IV for about an hour but she was so dehydrated that they couldn’t. They luckily got her to an hospital as soon as they injected an IV. I luckily got to see the dental station for a couple minutes which was right next to the physician consult, and I saw a tooth extraction where she broke off fragments from his tooth.

In the second half of day in Triage, I did the same thing as the first day of the trip. But, I got to see a girl get a shot for her illness that the shot crystallizes quickly so it was interesting to see how he prevented that and administered so quickly. We then had a fiesta by playing their music and dancing with all the surrounding kids. Two of which, dressed up and danced for us which was really adorable. After that, we had to say our goodbyes which was extremely hard especially since I became so close to a little girl named Blanca as she was the first one I met the first day and continuously saw her everyday. From our 3 days there, we treated 819 patients which is insane to think about.

Thursday, March 10th:

Traveling for the public health day to a new community was an adventure in itself. Once we got to the community, we met 4 different families. We split up into groups of 11-12 and built a new water source and eco-latrine (save 50% of water that normally gets used per usage) for the next 4-5 hours. It was interesting to see how they make these buildings as well; we sifted dirt, dumped those rocks, put cement mix into that small dirt and added water into the middle of it which then we used shovels to mix all of it together. We then would lay a layer of that cement down on the base and would layer the bricks in a pattern. Adding small rocks and the ones from the sifted dirt into the holes of the bricks and then continuing that process throughout. We got to meet the specific family we were working with and they were very welcoming. They cleaned their house so we could eat with them in their house instead of on the bus and constantly helped us out. The family consisted of the parents and 4 kids. The house was made out of cement and blocks as well (which a different CMU Global Brigade that was there days before us built for them which is just cool to see how far their house is coming along to be more healthy and sustainable) and they lived on a farm. They had a pig which they plan on having for food and many chickens which they use half for eggs and half for meat. They also had a small business they were running out of their house consisting of hair cuts. They also had hundreds of vegetables, fruits, and other foods planted and growing in their yard. For instance, they had a coffee tree or they had beans, plantains, mangoes, etc. This family was chosen as one of the four families because they don’t have the economical needs to fund the project themselves. Their past situation consisted of one shower that was small and run down and no water source.

Friday, March 11th:

We returned and the roof and piping was all put into place. So we finished the sewer/water source by putting these cinder blocks on the top of it and then covered the top and filled the sides in to completely bury it in the ground. We dug a trench from the eco-latrines to the water source and put piping in and covered that up as well. We even saw the family setting up the house for their daughters wedding which was so cool because it was happening as soon as we were leaving. We said our goodbyes and visited another families home to see their progress since we were done first. I met this little 7 year old boy before climbing up the hill and he called me girlfriend and that he was going to marry me someday even had me meet his parents at the top of the hill. But sadly we had to leave that community and we know that our progress and relationships with the families will forever be cherished with every party involved.

Saturday, March 12th:

Once we arrived to the new community, we all grabbed a pick axe and a shovel and walked up this 600 meter hill to get to the open field. We dug a trench about 2 feet deep and 2 feet wide from one end of the fence to the other. Sounds like a small task until you add in the 90 degree sun, rocks and granite every hit you made with the pick axe, and all the deep roots from the surrounding trees. This trench was part of the 20 year project and hopes the community has had and will cherish for the surrounding 200 families that will be receiving this new water source instead of walking miles for clean water.

Overall, I find it interesting comparing the US to a third world country as the accessibility to healthcare (as most don’t have their basic nutrients or access to pain killers but with our help we provided enough meds to last them a whole year until we come back next year), water (as many have to walk miles to carry buckets of water back without parasites in them), food (as most went starving all day or only had a piece of bread), even things like wagons or cars to carry wood or beds (as we saw many walking on the side of the road carrying such on their back or on a bike). Also the way the houses look as most were literal slabs connected in a square formation. To see all the stray dogs, horses left alone, and cows crossing the street was very interesting as all were skin and bones too. I also want to point out how needy and ungrateful Americans are. The fact that the kids and everyone else makes a usage out of everything and we just throw away our access or buy it later. For instance, the kids made a bench, the tree, even the building into a game. They didn’t have phones and laptops to keep them company. Or when we were making the eco-latrines, we were using the rocks from the dirt instead of buying a whole bag of rocks. Or that the family had everything they needed in their yard like an apple tree (which she was super proud of and Americans wouldn’t blink an eye at), or her animals. Or how we all have floors and working water and we don’t even blink an eye at it. The other thing is how respected women in power are and how common it is. All the doctors were woman and the executive board of the community we did the public brigade in were all women. Instead of being so ungrateful or unappreciative to what we have, I know I will make a more conscious effort to watch what I “complain” about or what ease of access I have to things. I will make sure I use less water, recycle more, and be thankful for everything I have. I don’t need that next new best thing, I don’t need to be jealous of others, I need to be thankful of the life I live in.


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