Local Nurses Return from Mission Trip Changed and Inspired
Posted: May 3, 2018
Local Nurses Return from Mission Trip Changed and Inspired
Many people would probably consider a profession in the healthcare industry, a mission field. Providing care for strangers, bringing them through their worst tragedies and helping heal them in moments of pain. This month, three nurses from Greensboro left their hospitals and followed their medical mission more than 2,000 miles, to Guatemala.
Becky Cummings, a registered nurse at Moses Cone, belongs to Christ United Methodist Church in Greensboro. It was through her church that she connected with Raleigh-based nonprofit, Curamericas Global. She began traveling to Guatemala to help support the organization’s mission. The global nonprofit’s founder and his family also attended Christ UMC. For more than 25 years, the church has supported Curamericas Global’s mission in providing mothers and children around the world with vital health services and education. “I have a real passion for this,” Cummings said. “The fact that we’re able to go and share our experience, teach people so they can share those skills with others and become self-sufficient, that’s what’s great about Curamericas.”
When Cummings’ church announced it would partner with Curamericas Global for a new trip to its project site in Guatemala, she decided to recruit her friends. Cummings tapped Amy Korslien, a fellow nurse at Moses Cone, and Michelle Evangelista, a nurse at Novant Medical Center.
Evangelista had been on medical missions before, and shares a love for global health nursing, but this trip would be different. “Prenatal care and postnatal care are out of my comfort zone,” she said.
For Korslien, it would be her first time going on a medical mission trip. She said she always wanted to know and experience something like it. “When Becky invited me to join along, I knew I had to go. I’ve always wanted to be a part of a medical mission trip and this was the perfect opportunity.”
The Trip and a surprise
It’s not an easy trip. Curamericas Global Guatemala project site is located in one of the most isolated and impoverished areas of the country’s northwestern mountain region. “It’s a town that wasn’t on the map until just recently,” said Korslien. These areas are very rural and some of the surrounding communities cannot even be reached by a vehicle. After flying into Guatemala City, the women, along with the church group, spent the next 12 hours on a bus through the mountains, twisting and turning up the country’s notorious narrow roads.
Once they arrived at the project site, the women’s work started right away. They found out a soon-to-be mother was in labor at the Casa Materna. These Curamericas Global-founded clinics are staffed around the clock by local birth attendants and provide women with a safe, centrally-located and culturally-appropriate facility. A place for mothers to give birth and receive other services.
After only a few hours of sleep, the women were up and ready to assist the other nurses. “The culture surrounding childbirth is so unique, so different, it’s calmer,” remembered Cummings, “all these women were surrounding her, they made it feel like a home and even allowed her to choose what position she wanted to be in.”
There’s no medicine for pain. Instead, the nurses massaged the mother throughout the childbirth process. A part of the Mayan culture is to not show pain, they believe it helps bring a healthy baby into the world.
A few hours later, baby Maria was brought into this world at just 5lbs 8oz. Korslien watched the birth unfold on her own birthday, April 2. “Being able to see a baby born, to be able to experience new life coming into the world was an incredible experience.”
It was a different experience for all three women, because labor and delivery is not their specialty. They all focus on adult patients, usually working with them in the intensive care unit.
The next days of the trip were spent at the clinic working with the local nurses and nursing students. They learned from each other, sharing knowledge and skills. The women learned how to use the clinic’s ultrasound, while they taught the local workers the Heimlich Maneuver, CPR, and how to get a bean out of someone’s nose.
They also performed home visits, meeting families throughout the community. During these visits, Curamericas Global health workers teach mothers basic health care services that will help them keep their children healthy. These include essential health services that people in the US often take for granted, like the importance of washing hands.
Just days after witnessing her birth, the women were also able to visit with baby Maria and her mother. “We were able to assess the mother to make sure she was healthy and well,” Evangelista said. Korslien added, “It was pretty neat, because we got to see every part – from prenatal, the labor and postpartum.”
The trip wasn’t just a learning experience for each woman, it also gave them inspiration and motivation. “They are so self-sufficient there,” Evangelista remarked, “they do everything, and then they pass the skills they learn to other people. It taught me to have confidence in my skills and abilities.”
Before they left Guatemala, they talked with the Curamericas Global staff about the needs of the area and what they could do to continue their mission. “They need people,” Korslien explained, “when people know that healthcare volunteers, and nurses will be there, they’ll travel from their communities to the clinic because they know they’re going to get help.”
Now back at home, the women are carrying the mission over into their own lives. “I cried my first day back to work,” Evangelista remembered, “I wanted to be back in Guatemala, it has really become a passion of mine.”
Amazed by the culture, Evangelista is putting what she learned into practice. “I love what they did with natural remedies. We can’t always do that in the hospital, but I’ve been trying to adopt some of what they do in my own home.”
For Korslien, it made her appreciative of the people who she worked with, as well as interested in exploring other fields. “Now I want to specialize in labor and delivery.” Cummings is already planning to go back to Guatemala next year and take her husband.
In fact, when they were all asked if they’re ready to go back, their response was, “when are we leaving?”
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ABOUT CURAMERICAS GLOBAL
Curamericas Global, a nonprofit organization based in Raleigh, seeks to partner with underserved communities around the world to make measurable and sustainable improvements in their health and wellbeing. Through data-driven methods and community-centered solutions, Curamericas aims to see a world free of suffering from treatable and preventable causes. For more information, visit curamericas.org.
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