Monday, March 20, 2017

2000 kids reached

These are all empty bottles.  What does that translate to?  In the 1 year I've been here, 2,000 children have received anti-parasite medication, and over 500 children 5 years old and under have received life-changing Vitamin A.  
Vitamin A distribution
Why Vitamin A?  I receive Vitamin A from the an organization called Vitamin Angels.  And from their web site they state, "Our bodies use vitamin A for many purposes. If this essential nutrient is lacking while children are still developing, they can get sick, go blind and even die. While the symptoms are not always visible, vitamin A deficiency puts the health and survival of children at risk every day."

Vitamin A's top sources are from Beef liver, carrots, sweet potatoes, kale, spinach, apricots, broccoli, butter, eggs, and winter squash.  All but eggs and butter (although most people here eat margarine as butter is much more expensive) are not available here.  So, everyone in the country is chronically deficient in Vitamin A.  

Waiting for their parasite meds

Why are parasites a problem?  Contamination comes from contaminated food, water, contamination from someone else infected, and in the soil -  and can be completely asymptomatic until there are serious problems.  The results of parasites in someone include anemia, weight loss, malnutrition, and tiredness.  In an extreme case, the parasites can clump in the bowels and cause a bowel obstruction, and surgery becomes the only option.  As less than 50% of the country has access to potable water - parasite infestations are an assumption in almost everyone.

My goal is to go to as many schools as I am allowed to and distribute medication to every child I can get my hands on - these simple medications can change a child's life.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Doing what I love

Health Education – “charlas”

My love for being a nurse is for many reasons, and one of the primary reasons is the ability to give health education to my patients.  I feel this is so important, and allows a patient to have personal investment in their own health.  It gives patients power over their own illnesses (for some illnesses), and puts the ball back in their court – they are the ones that can make a difference in their own lives.
I’ve learned this first hand.  I’ve had to put to my own personal use many of the health education classes I’ve been teaching over the last 10 years of my missionary/nurse career.

To start my clinic today, I thought I would start it a little differently, for many reasons.  I wanted to start it with a health education (or charla) to all my waiting patients.  The first reason is for wanting to speed things up, but not diminish my health education to my patients.  Instead of giving the same health education to each of my patients with high blood pressure, I can give a one-time class to everyone – so not only those who have high blood pressure, but those who have family members living with them that I may not know about all receive the same information.  This will help significantly decrease my individual education time with each patient and therefore gives me more time overall to see more patients.  In 6 hours I will see 25 patients – it allows me about 15 minutes per patient (no break time), and typically I’m “done” by the end of that 6 hours. 

Once a patient came to see me, and I saw that they had high blood pressure, I asked them what they learned in the health education class.  Basically, I want a return demonstration of precautions and ways of changing their lifestyle and diet that they learned in the class, to ensure they had good understanding.  Without exception, all my patients who came to see me were able to repeat what I had told them – one man even brought his wife into the room (who prepares the food in the house) to ensure she didn’t have any questions.
I realize that this seems like such a SMALL thing – but in my little world, where health education is all but non-existent, it’s a huge milestone and personally encouraging to me.

So – this is just the beginning.  I’m going to be training the nursing staff that work with me (I have anywhere from 2-4 Guinean nurse volunteers) to continue with the teaching so in the future I’ll have Guineans teaching Guineans, and I’ll be doing more classes.  So those who are there and waiting – they are a captive audience J  The next one will be on HIV/AIDS – I have the seminary class I teach, so all the research and writing in Spanish has been done – I just now need to consolidate just the health education portion to a 30-minute health education class.

Potable water, typhoid prevention (or at least a reduction in cases), and breastfeeding are just a few of the other health education classes I want to offer to my waiting patients.  I’m excited for this process and look forward to see what will come of it.