Mission to Guatemala: Last days

Today, the nursing/pharmacy team had the privilege of traveling to a prominent coffee plantation and offering a hand. We focused on providing health screenings and education to the plantation workers and their families. We were also able to hand out dental hygiene kits to all the individuals we crossed paths with. One thing that we have really learned on this trip is the value of teamwork. The nursing students, pharmacy students, and a Guatemalan doctor all worked hand in hand to provide this community with access to healthcare. We also got the opportunity to see how this plantation prepares their coffee products. Now not to brag, but if this healthcare stuff does not work out, some of us may have a future in the coffee industry. The highlight of our day was definitely towards the end. As we were passing the horse stables, we saw one of the young boys we had seen on day 1 of this trip. When we first saw him, he was the picture of discomfort and pain. Today, when we asked him how he was feeling, he responded with the biggest smile and an endless amount of gratitude. This was a reminder that all our hard work here was making a difference.

The PT/OT team spent our last workday back at Keramion, the school for special needs children that we visited on Monday. The day began with a bit of dancing, followed by receiving gifts from the children. We were so amazed by the generosity that we were shown and will treasure the gifts as well as the hugs we were given. Afterwards, the OT team saw one more child with autism who had some behavior issues that the mother and teachers wanted to discuss. We were able to provide education on different calming strategies such as deep pressure, bouncing on a ball, and slow swinging. His mom was present and was really interested in learning, and some of the other OT team members also had the chance to interact with child’s younger sister. Following this, the PT and OT students set up a small obstacle course for the children. Due to rain, we had to move it inside, but it still worked! The staff was excited to learn about new ways to engage the children in purposeful play that would encourage practicing different skills such as crawling, jumping, and grasping various objects.

The children headed home after completing the obstacle course so that the afternoon could be used for a staff in-service. Griselda, the school’s founder, also shared more of her incredible testimony with us, and we were able to pray for her which was a very moving experience for everyone involved. The PT students on the team also worked with Griselda on different exercises and were able to give her advice on managing her back pain. It was amazing to see how much she had improved in only a few days! For lunch, Belmont team members treated the staff to spaghetti, and the rest of the day was spent training the staff on specific topics such as sensory integration, proper lifting techniques, and behavior management. All of the staff members were extremely grateful for our help this week. After spending so much time together, it was hard to say goodbye, but we know that the children are in good hands at Keramion and that God is definitely at work there. It was such a blessing to bear witness to this incredible ministry this week.

Written by: Anais, Emily, Alicia, and Hope

Mission to Guatemala: Mother’s Day

Today was Mother’s Day which is a major holiday in Guatemala as many of the mothers had the day off work. We wanted to help serve the community by helping them prepare for the special celebration.  We enjoyed helping the students decorate and pick flowers from the field for the mothers. The PT/OT team also supported the nursing and pharmacy students stepping in as needed to assist with orthopedic and musculoskeletal concerns.  We worked as a team to identify the proper professional needed for each case.  The PT/OT team also spent the afternoon preparing educational materials for the upcoming day tomorrow.

Today, the nursing team primarily focused on mothers and children, with cultural perspective seeming to be the theme of the day. Because there was such a high number of mothers and children seen there were several things that we realized that we never noticed before. One was the relative age of mothers. Today we had a mother who was 19 with two children. This provided a dose of perspective as several members on the team are around this age and could not even imagine being in her shoes. It was also shocking to realize how access to care differs from America. Back home, if we have a concern with a child we can just drive to a clinic; however, here in Guatemala mothers showed up from all around carrying babies on their backs knowing that we were the only resources they had access to. It was eye-opening and humbling to see how far these women came just for us to get the opportunity to care for them.

Written by: Kristin & Dylan from nursing and Lexi & Maggie from PT/OT

 

Mission to Guatemala: Teamwork

TEAMWORK was the word of the day. Today both the OT/PT and Nursing/Pharmacy teams went to a coffee plantation with a school attached. Nursing and Pharmacy set up a health screening station similar to yesterday where they checked blood pressure, blood glucose, and height/weight. We assessed their needs for any medications and the doctor was able to write prescriptions. For example, one coffee worker came in for a screening and stated there were no complaints. When the nursing team found out he was having knee pain, the physical therapists were brought in to show him exercises for strengthening and explain why those would be beneficial. He was very grateful because he could apply what he learned to his everyday work. In addition, while performing a health screening on a mom and her son, nursing noticed that the son was having difficulty with using his hands. Occupational therapy was brought in to do a short assessment with the son and he was given a bag of toys to take home with him to work on his fine motor skills and radial-ulnar dissociation. He was overjoyed and thankful for the toys that he could call his own.

The kids at the school were preparing for Mother’s Day tomorrow, which is a huge holiday here and the kids were excited to make crafts for their “madre”. The kids split into groups and made necklaces bracelets with beads and a card with flowers and a special message to their mom. After this activity, the kids were excited to play outside with jump ropes, soccer and parachutes. The team noticed how much joy and happiness the kids had on their faces and in turn how much joy and happiness they brought to each one of us.

Even though there was a language barrier, the interpreters were very helpful and greatly appreciated. While there was difficulty finding interpreters who were willing to take off work from their daily jobs to help, there were a few who were gracious enough to fill the need. Along with an interpreter, a few people on the team taught CPR for adults and infants as well as the Heimlich maneuver to the adults and high school students. The parents were grateful for this education and were able to practice on the mannequin.

As we performed screenings, played outside with the kids, and did arts and crafts, every one of us on the team was amazed by the joy and love we received from them. Our work is truly appreciated and we can’t wait to go back again tomorrow to help celebrate Mother’s Day!!!

Adios for today from Guatemala!

Maria (PT), Hope (OT) and Allison (Nursing)

Mission to Guatemala: Our first day

Buenas Noches!! We successfully completed our first day of clinics here in Antigua, and wow was it humbling. The nursing/pharmacy students had the privilege of caring for around 50 students at a local school on a coffee plantation here in town. We set up a pop-up clinic that assisted a Guatemalan doctor providing physicals and basic health screenings for children and their mothers. Although today might not have gone according to our “perfect” schedule, we used today as a learning experience to remind ourselves that God’s perfect plan does not always align with our ideal plan. As a team, we learned that even though our treatment plans may have felt insufficient to the need we were trying to fulfill at the time, our love was sufficient and the Lord’s presence was there. A team member, while providing care, saw this first hand. She was observing a student who was young and just appeared sad and scared. She noticed that the student had been looking at her stethoscope with curiosity so she went and asked if the student would like to listen to her heart. The second the student began to listen her whole demeanor began to change. Her face lit up and she said “Corizone boom boom”. She continued to listen to other body sounds smiling the entire way. Through this encounter, it became apparent that healing is not only physical, it is more so emotional and spiritual, and although we do not have the resources to heal every single medical issue, we do have the capacity to show love and heal spiritually and that is in some cases even more valuable than fixing a physical issue.

At the same time, the physical therapy and occupational therapy team was over at the school for disabled children called Keramion. We started off getting to learn a lot about the school and the teachers that are devoting their lives to help these children. This staff was incredible and so welcoming of the team. Everyone was greeted with a big hug and a such a genuine smile! Griselda, the founder of the school, was so open in telling us her testimony and all she’s gone through to make Keramion an awesome environment for these kids to learn and grow. After meeting the kids, the team split up according to their specific needs and evaluated each child to assess where they are in their development. The staff members were very grateful for ideas that the mission team had given them on past trips and we’re hoping to give them more suggestions to continue the progress they are already making! While a lot of our day consisted of evaluating and utilizing what we have learned in school, a great portion of the day involved playing, interacting, and loving on the kids. A definite highlight of the day was coming back from lunch to everyone singing, dancing, and praising Jesus. We had so much fun brainstorming games for the kids to play that will also help their therapy progress!  After all the thanks we received, we couldn’t help but feel equally blessed by the staff and kids of Keramion and we are so excited to go back on Thursday!

Adios from Guatemala!

Kendall & Macey from PT (in the picture below), Kristin (not pictured) & Brooke ( back row right in the picture above) from nursing

Health Sciences Students Provide Health Care in Guatemala

Student taking blood pressure of Guatemalan childDuring Belmont’s spring break last March, students and faculty from the nursing, pharmacy, physical therapy and social work programs traveled to Guatemala to provide health screenings, patient teaching programs and medications and vitamins to citizens in Antigua. The trip was made possible through the university’s partnership with a Guatemalan coffee company, Kafes Guatemala, through its CoffeeMed Program. The students and faculty served over 350 people.

Belmont’s College of Health Sciences and Nursing has been involved with the CoffeeMed Program for the last three years, serving more than 800 patients. The program aims to provide basic needs to workers on Guatemalan coffee plantations who don’t always work under ideal conditions. In addition, the program takes students on a hands-on tour of plantations, hoping they will realize the importance of their involvement. Students who participate in the program are expected to fund the trip themselves by selling coffee from Kafes Guatemala in their communities.

In addition to current students and faculty, 2015 nursing graduate Claire Zetak served as a team leader on the trip. Zetak noted the importance of student engagement in an interview conducted recently with Roast Magazine. “In the health care profession, interdisciplinary works are always taking place,” said Zetak. “Nurses are working with doctors or physical therapists or pharmacists, so this is an example of what they’ll be doing in their future careers.”

Founder and President of Kafes Guatemala Pablo Castaneda realizes the value of the help Belmont students bring to Guatemala and expressed his gratitude for their work. “Thank you, Belmont students, for your love for others,” Castaneda said. “Never forget you can change lives for good. Your love for others is impacting so many lives, and it goes beyond medical attention to proving you are serving a living God.”

College of Pharmacy sends group to Honduras for medical mission

A group of faculty and students from Belmont University College of Pharmacy recently traveled to Honduras as part of the Baptist Medical Dental Mission Trip. Drs. Adam Pace and Leela Kodali and Noah Vasilakes and Brittany Hayes, two 4th year pharmacy students, joined a team of 20 medical professionals for the trip.

The team set up a medical clinic, dentistry clinic and pharmacy in a schoolhouse in Naguaterique, a rural mountain community on the El Salvadorian border and saw more than 1500 patients. About 5800 prescriptions were dispensed through the pharmacy, 223 teeth were pulled by the dentist for 117 dental patients and 325 pairs of eyeglasses were distributed. Additionally, 64 individuals professed a new found faith in Jesus or expressed a renewal of their Christian commitment during the church services and through personal evangelism at the medical stations.

Pace oversaw the setup and operation of the dispensing pharmacy while Kodali provided clinical pharmacy services in the medical clinic by answering providers’ questions about medications and making recommendations on drug therapy.

As part of their advanced pharmacy practice experience, Vasilakes and Hayes split their time between the pharmacy and the clinic. This experience was designed for them to compare and contrast the provision of pharmacy services during a mission trip in Honduras to that of a Nashville patient population.

Vasilakes said, “The Honduras medical mission trip was a wonderful opportunity to use my pharmacy skills and knowledge outside of my comfort zone. It amazed me what our team was able to do in only a few days when teaming with the Hondurans who were incredibly friendly, helpful and welcoming. It was a blessing to be able to provide care to people who otherwise likely would not receive it, and I am so thankful for being provided with this chance to share the love of God through healthcare.”

Hayes added, “Traveling to Honduras gave me the opportunity to not only learn more about myself and the type of practitioner I want to be, but also allowed me to learn about an entirely different culture. The Honduran people were warm, welcoming and grateful for any and all assistance we provided. Although a language barrier existed, a smile and kind eyes created a patient-provider bond that ended the consultations with hugs and trust. I will never forget one particular patient who spoke about the renewed love of God she found that day through the generosity of the mission. As our eyes teared up, she thanked me and blessed me for everything she had been given that day. What she didn’t know was that she and the other patients gave me a renewed love of God as well. Healing begins with the soul and I find myself blessed to have been able to contribute to the physical and spiritual healing in Naguaterique.”

Mission to Guatemala: Energy, Laughter and Happiness

by Kristina Mertz, Meghan Chen, and Allison Lane
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This week has flown by faster than any of us had expected considering our rocky start. It is crazy to think that today was our last day of clinics here in Guatemala. Thursday's Blog PictureToday we were blessed enough to serve at Escuela Esperanza surrounding ourselves with kids full of energy, laughter, and happiness. The mission of this school was to break the cycle of poverty through education and empowerment, which motivated us to continue on through the heat of the day.

At the end of the day, we had our usual debriefing meeting where we reflected upon 1 Corinthians 1: 12-19. In this passage, it discusses how “God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” This scripture made us realize how God has given each individual on this team special abilities and talents that has allowed us to work together as a team. Similar to the Body of Christ, health care is made up of many different parts and roles. Our team is made up of students from pharmacy, physical therapy, social work, and nursing. Over the past week, we have realized the importance of integrating interdisciplinary roles in order to serve the people of Antigua. We all have our own individual strengths but we also know it is okay to ask for help when we need it.

Thursday's Blog Picture 2It is so rewarding to know that we were able to provide health care for so many people over this short amount of time. None of this would be possible without each of us coming together to form a team, for the sum of our efforts are greater than the parts we each play. Each of us will walk away with a stronger understanding of how we can serve others as the Body of Christ.

As Jesus says in Matthew 25:40, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

Mission to Guatemala: God came through. . .

by Shelley Robert, Adjunct Professor and
Nurse Practitioner, Vanderbilt Trauma Center

“Your word, Lord, is eternal;
it stands firm in the heavens.
Your faithfulness continues through all generations; you established the earth, and it endures.” -Psalm 119:89-90

Leading the students on this trip has reinforced and renewed my faith in several ways. As a newcomer to Guatemala, as a rookie leader of a student trip, and as a nurse practitioner who practices in a highly organized healthcare system with ample resources, this trip presented many challenges and fears. I was not able to solve these challenges by my own volition or control, therefore I asked God to give me the strength and wisdom of the Holy Spirit. I breathed this prayer under my breath many times throughout the week, as I walked up to obviously sick women and children. And He responded. Our student team saw many very sick patients who literally had no other option outside of us. We are practicing in a rural area where many families live in great poverty, and they do not have the resources to provide healthcare for their families. Many of our Guatemalan friends, when I questioned their medical history, had never been seen by a doctor. We saw a variety of illnesses, ranging from children with chronic respiratory illness to a woman with dengue fever and impending hypovolemic shock. I prayed so many times during these examinations, for God to help me remember my training and to give me direction for how to best care for these very sick people. Cellular networks were unreliable, and we had no use for all the fancy & informative apps on our phones. But God came through for us. He answered my prayers, in all His goodness and grace. He helped me to recall the knowledge and skills that go unused in my day-to-day profession, which is highly specialized and not at all similar to the primary care/international medicine practice that we needed with these patients. He also gave me a brilliant multidisciplinary team of health science students and other leaders who were passionate and excited to lend their fresh expertise in a new perspective. God is faithful. Our prayers are a reminder of our reliance on God, as we humbly and desperately invite Him to fill us with faith and strength.

Mission to Guatemala: The Journey to Antigua

by Jon Ashton, Pharmacy Student

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From left to right: Shelby Hood (Pharmacy – 4th year), Meghan Chen (Nursing – 2nd year), Jonathan Ashton (Pharmacy – 1st year) in Antigua, Guatemala

Each of us has our own journey, our own path to walk. Some paths are easy, some are hard. Some smooth, some rocky. Some are flat, and some never seem to stop going uphill. Each of us has parts of our journey that are wonderful and some which are not, and some parts that help us find meaning in that journey.

For one week, a group of 22 students and faculty at Belmont University has come together to walk a part of our journey together. We have decided to journey together to Antigua, Guatemala in order to spend that time in service of others.

Our journey got off to a hectic start. We were scheduled to arrive at 4AM Sunday morning at Nashville International Airport in order to be prepared to board our pre-dawn flight to Houston and then on to Guatemala City. We checked in, shuttled through security, and boarded the plane, only to have the captain announce over the intercom that we would be delayed for fog in Houston. We stood up sleepily, trudged off the plane and waited, where but ten minutes later, we were invited back onto the plane after the captain had verified that in fact their equipment was sufficient to land in fog. This time, it was time to go! We taxied out onto the runway and waited for the word that we were cleared to take off. No_go_for_Houston_030616Some 45 minutes later, another passenger not in our party passed out and required medical attention, so we taxied back to the gate, only to find that there was no gate available. By then, the passenger had recovered, more embarrassed than anything else, but by this time, we’d lost enough time that it was impossible for us to make it to Houston in time to catch our connecting flight to Guatemala City. We were asked to deplane again. Strike two. Our faculty leadership sprang into action and spent 20 minutes with the gate attendant trying to find an option to reroute our flight and get us to Guatemala that day. Unfortunately, it was not to be. The next available flight was the following day. Strike three. We were out. Our only option was to return the following morning, once again at 4AM. A rocky start indeed.

Guatemala_City_from_the_air_030616Monday morning came, and by 4AM, each of us had returned to the airport ready to go, a little wearier from lack of sleep and a little warier of bad luck. This time, however, our luck was good. The skies were clear enough to fly on schedule, and we had an uneventful pair of flights to Guatemala City. The city itself is nestled in among verdant mountains with colorful buildings dotting the landscape as we approached. It was clear that the city was a modern city, but with a soul that was unique and different from that which we know in Nashville. The colors were vibrant, the people energetic, and there seemed to be a well-organized chaos directing traffic. It took an hour and a half by van to reach Antigua along a highway which might be described as an unhurried rush. No horns sounded angrily. Motorcycles weaved through traffic. People went about their day.

Calles_de_Antigua_030616As we reached Antigua, the feel changed. The town was smaller, the architecture took on a less modern and more colonial Spanish aspect. The roads were cobblestone. Amidst the historic charm of the city, there was a rougher edge to be seen. There were bars on windows, heavy steel grates, prominent locks, and walls with broken glass embedded in the tops to prevent burglars from jumping over. It was clear there are parts of the town that are less safe than we are used to. It was also clear that there was a very real need for people like us to come and offer what training, knowledge, and skills that we have.

Having been delayed a full day, our contact, a businessman named Pablo, informed us that a doctor was seeing patients and that many were waiting for us to arrive to help screen her patients. Once again, our leadership sprang into action, directing a few of us to drop off our bags at the residence, and setting up the various stations of the clinic. There were stations for vital signs, for blood glucose screening, an eye exam, and a limited pharmacy set up with the medications we brought from Tennessee. We saw over eighty patients, mostly elderly women, but included a few children and teenagers as well.

One patient in particular, an elderly woman of over eighty years, came to the clinic with leg pain. She told her story of chronic, severely debilitating leg pain that kept her housebound, confined to a wheelchair, unable to walk or work. She felt a burden to her adult daughter who cared for her. When we asked what we could do, she asked if we would pray with her. Sydney didn’t hesitate. She asked for a translator to join her and the patient’s daughter for a prayer. The bowed their heads. Sydney prayed. The translator translated. As the prayer was offered, those around the room took notice. Many bowed their heads and joined the prayer. Many others in the crowded, busy room heard the words and their eyes glistened as they asked God for strength, for guidance, and for love. When she was done, she said ‘Amen’ and offered a hug to the woman, who returned it with tears in her eyes.

There are times along our journey when our path intersects the path of another. On this day, the relatively smooth path of 22 young travelers crossed many paths: a young, inquisitive boy in for a check-up, a young girl with a persistent cough, a young mother with a sick infant, an elderly grandmother with leg pain, and countless others. Each day, we have the chance to make a difference, to reach out and offer comfort in a time of need, to help make the journey of a fellow traveler a little easier.

Mission to Guatemala: Tuesday

DSC_0320by Carolina Cerrato, Nursing Student

DSC_0240Today was a day both challenging and gratifying as my team and I tackled our second day serving those in Antigua, Guatemala. We had the opportunity to visit a clinic for the elderly, as well as a women’s clinic, and continued running general health screenings there. With today being our second day there were definitely more expectations in terms of what we were capable of, however, there was not a single challenge that one of my team members did not rise to meet. I am continually blown away by the energy, passion, and focus that each one of these individuals has for providing healthcare, and even more astounded by the love they have for a people they’ve only just met. As I walked from room to room within the clinic there were several instances when entire groups of people would have their hands over someone in prayer, which was incredible to me, because not only did it serve as a reminder of why we are here (for Jesus!), but it showed just how much of a team we have already become – united under Christ.

As we continue throughout this week I am excited and anxious to see how we grow together and as individuals. With only a few days left to provide care, we are eager to see how the Lord can continue to use us to love and care for His people. Bendiciones,
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