Wednesday, February 4, 2015

If I have not love...

"If I speak in tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing." -1 Cor. 13:1-3

I have now been home for a little over a week, and again am left with the "what now?" feeling that follows these trips. Part of it is a combination of enjoying my bed and a shower and clean drinking water and feeling guilty that I have a comfy bed and running water. It's the feeling of spending so much of my time and energy towards serving others then leaving and coming home... so what now?

After some prayer and a (little) discontentment I realized... excuse me you make your living taking care of other people's sick babies what are you thinking? If I can't find ways to love and serve others at my regular life job as a NICU nurse, I am the problem.
The verses above really reminded me- no matter WHAT I am doing or WHERE I am doing it, if the love of God isn't motivating my actions, they lack meaning and strength. I want my conversations with others, times of prayer and worship, and nights at work to be filled with love. There's a reason Paul identified LOVE as "the greatest of these." This means attitude adjustment. I don't love floating to other units, nor do I love cleaning an incubator from the inside out after a poop explosion (first week back events). But I can prepare my heart to be filled with His love so that these regular life things are done in service to those in my life.

We always talk about how the Peruvian people give so much more to us than we do to them. This is exactly the reason- we can bring our doctors, nurses, missionaries, etc. and spend all day every day working to try to better their lives, but if we have no love behind our actions, we would be nothing. The general daily attitude of so many locals of Piura starts with joy and love. Life moves a little slower, schedules are a little looser, but they genuinely love each other and share that love with us. Can you imagine a stranger stopping you on the street in Milwaukee to kiss you on the cheek and pray with you/talk to you? Probably not.

Many of us are not called to international missions, but that doesn't mean we lack calling. It means we are called to share God's grace and love locally, in our "regular life" jobs. It is so easy for me to become complacent in the routine of punch in-work-punch out-sleep-repeat now that I'm home. My prayer and hope for you and me is that our faith, actions, relationships, and work lives be filled with love. It starts with our hearts, even in the mundane tasks of daily life (because sometimes #meconiumhappens).

Until my next adventure,

Friday, January 23, 2015

The greatest of these is love.

I can hardly believe that tonight is my LAST night in Piura! The week went by so fast. The vast majority of the group left today, so I'm just relaxing here enjoying the newly easily accessible Wi-Fi ;) I have already stolen my roommates' pillows.
Here's a little update and some fotos for your enjoyment:
Tuesday was a pretty long day in the OR suite (post-op again for me). We met so many sweet people as they wake up, some in lots of pain and some who wake up smiling loving their Fentanyl. After 14-15 hours in the surgery suite, there were only 2 patients left. One was a puker x2867, the other was the happiest man I have ever met. He was an absolute gem and couldn't stop smiling and making jokes despite his pain. La problema? Patients aren't allowed to leave until they pee. This poor man could not void to save his life despite receiving 4L of IV fluids. (Side note: Additionally, I couldn't leave and get to bed until he peed). My ICU brain was going in circles... but probably he was just incredibly dehydrated going into the OR. I literally walked him to the toilet 5 times, losing hope each time. When I FINALLY heard the glorious sound of pee hitting the toilet without the help of a straight cath, I actually did a happy olinar dance for him. Probably the physicians are sitting on their flight making of my pee dance at this moment. Hey, I work at a children's hospital.

MU nurses with our medical team coordinator Michele and Cheryl (who is from the Oklahoma team)

Wednesday was another hospice day in the morning. In the afternoon I got to see my family! (Sidebar: The parish has a "Family to Family" program that sets up U.S. families to sponsor a Peruvian family financially. If you are interested in sponsoring a family, email me!) When I was here in 2012 they had 3 y.o. twins, Flavia & Fernanda, who were adorable but VERY shy. The father is a teacher at the public school and actively involved in raising his kids. The mom writes me letters every so often (which take me about an hour to read since my espanol is awful) and sends pictures the kids make. I wasn't sure if I would see them, as there isn't a great way to get in touch. I got back from the hospice and the family was sitting in the narthex! Flavia y Fernanda gave me big hugs.... AND they now have a little baby who is now 2 months old. The twin girl who had surgery for congenital hip dysplacia in 2012 now runs and walks! :) There was a picnic for all the families followed by a trip to the local ice cream shop.


Wednesday night: Fiesta! Exactly the same as I remember them- we drive to a nearby village, are hosted by a Vegas lounge singer type man in a silk shirt, and dance with the kiddos. Such a blast!

Thursday we got to go on home visits to check on some of our patients who were a few days postop. For the most part, everyone looked really great. The men do get predictably "extremely well-cared for" by their wives/mothers/sisters and most patients likely weren't doing enough walking (therefore not enough pooping after an abdominal surgery). A couple patients did go to hospice so the nurses could keep a closer eye on them after a more complicated surgery or recovery.

The happy go lucky no peeing man with his fam. He remembered my baila.

Friday was just a cleanup/rest day, as I said most of the group left tonight. This was an amazing week, and I'm sure I will write a mushy I miss Peru blog post within the first few days of being back in the States (after I brush my teeth with actual tap water, shower without flip flops on, and sleep in an adult sized bed). This week went by quickly, but was filled with so much love and happiness. We all know I'll be back here again, it's just a matter of when :) 

Con amor,

Monday, January 19, 2015

Hola de Piura!

We’re here! We arrived in Piura around 11:30 AM on Friday morning after mostly uneventful flights. I was called to active duty on the longest flight (Miami to Lima) when a passenger fainted on the plane. Around 3 AM I heard an overhead page asking if any “medicos o enfermeras” were aboard. Luckily there was nothing seriously wrong, and I happened to have my stethoscope and blood pressure cuff in my carry-on. While I seriously doubt I was the only medical person on this huge plane I was the only one to show up (nurse problems). The flight attendants gave me two bottles of free wine for my trouble.

We unloaded, ate lunch, and got to work pretty quickly after arriving. The group from St. John’s church includes 3 anesthesiologists, 3 OR nurses, a general surgeon, derm and ortho physicians, and lots of non-medical people. Lots of groups went out to do construction, food delivery, etc. A couple of us nurses helped with the OR set up and med preparation. We plan on doing surgeries Monday-Friday. After mass/dinner we went to bed very early after being awake for 2 straight days.

Saturday was our first full work day. Some of our physicians screened hernia patients in preparation for the week’s surgeries. I got to go to the hospice and help out. I’ve written about some of the patients we cared for in past blogs- unfortunately many have passed away since my last trip (this “hospice” is really a mix of long-term care patients and end of life care). The nurses who work there are amazing but their workload can be massive (often only one nurse is working at a time). There were a few men who I remembered- it was great to see them doing fairly well. One of my favorite amigos gave me some huge smiles J Roby is a young man (about 25 years old) who was born to and abandoned by a woman who was addicted to drugs. He has since had (untreated) hydrocephalus and is nonverbal/total cares.  While his story is sad, it is a huge blessing that he can be cared for by the loving parish staff. After doing all the daily cares we had some extra time to paint one sweet lady’s nails.

Saturday afternoon I went along to help with a vacation Bible school for some village kids.  This consists of everything you would picture in the US (songs, games, etc.) except in Spanish and outside in the desert. Sunday we took a rest day and watched the Packer game (sadness).

Today (Monday) we began our surgery patients! 7 hernia surgeries took place. Another MU nurse and I held down the post-op care. We got a pretty good, efficient system down after the first couple patients came through. It’s amazing how quickly these patients recover enough to walk out of the recovery room! My little NICU nuggets come back from hernia surgeries much sicker. In the US, these surgeries would likely be followed by days of rest and narcotics, here we send them home with enough Ibuprofen for a few days. I was only vomited on one time, so I would say today was a success! My Spanish remains very poor, but I know just enough to ask about pain, nausea, and going to the bano.

MU alumni RNs!

Tomorrow brings another day of surgeries, which start at 0730, so bedtime is in my near future. My body has officially accepted the day shift schedule J Thank you all for your prayers, thoughts, and emails!

Con amor,

Monday, January 5, 2015

Back at it! (pre-trip thoughts 2015)

In just 10 short days I will be returning to Santisimo Sacramento parish in Piura, Peru for a medical mission trip! I never thought I'd be able to return to these people I love so soon, and I am so thankful for this opportunity. Several months back, I heard of a group going that was happy to include some of the Marquette girls. I knew I wanted to go, but took forever to make up my mind (as usual). God totally orchestrated this opportunity. I heard about the trip just a few weeks before it was time to request vacation time for 2015 for work, so that was not an obstacle. And thanks to high census at the hospital I work at and mandatory overtime throughout the fall, I was not held back by the cost of the flight.

Naturally, I have been going over all the old pictures and blog posts from my 2012 trip and cannot wait to be back at it! As family and friends have been hearing about my planned trip, I was asked by many if this blog will be active again. So... I couldn't help myself. This will be a much shorter trip (10 days vs. 5ish weeks), so my goal is to get at least a couple updates published from Piura while there. I am in such a different place going into this as a NICU RN than I was as a nursing student. For one, I have not had anything to do with adult nursing care outside of helping new moms breastfeed since I graduated in 2013. Time to dig out the big people stethoscope! What's a normal adult blood pressure again? ;) Also any adults out there who loves needles want to let me practice IVs on them so I am actually useful to help out in pre-op (I am 110% serious though)? I have had 2.5 years to be in prayer for the the community, and now that the day I return is close I think about these amazing people frequently!

I would love to have your support in prayer while I'm there, here are some ways you can be praying for me and the rest of our team:
  • It's easy to be overwhelmed by the need for medical care and basic environmental cleanup. Pray for guidance as to how we can be most effective.
  • Health for our team: specifically, I have POTS (google if interested) and don't have the greatest success rate in hotter temps (I faint on occasion but am well medicated). This is Peru's SUMMER and looking at the forecast, it is mostly in the 90s in January during the day. Also just generally traveling to a foreign country does have a host of minor health risks for all typical adults (ex. the little baby parasite I got last time).
  • For how to offer care that meets not only physical but spiritual needs, especially with the language barrier (Spanish). I believe there are a handful of fluent Spanish speakers going, I am not one of them. I would say I'm more of a casual conversationalist, medical Spanish is definitely not one of my gifts. Part of what I love about nursing is to have the opportunity to care for the whole person/family, and I'd love to bring this to our trip. There is far less separation between church and state in Peru, and it is culturally appropriate to pray with patients and talk about Jesus.
  • Sleep/rest- I work 12 hour nocs. It will be a full 12-hour flip to my typical schedule. 
  • For when we return- it is so hard to leave and go back to "normal" life. I'm very blessed to have so many people and a job I love to return to, but there will always be a part of me in Peru.
  • The family MU supports recently went through a loss, it is much appreciated if you would keep them in your prayers.

Thanks to all for the support and encouragement as we get close to heading over again! Here's a little photo throwback from Peru 2012 :) 

Because these niƱos are the sweetest!

My good friends Manual & Felix :)

All of the MU nursing students. Molly & Kat will also be returning this year!

Con amor,

 "Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the waters, wherever You would call me."

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Party in the USA

I've been throwing my hands up like Miley in the USA since Saturday night. I figure I should write a final post about my experience in Peru. I may have put off doing this because I feel like that means it is actually over. I have mixed feelings about being back. I was very excited to see everyone and enjoy the comforts of home, but now I feel kind of odd. It's that "post-mission trip feeling" that so many of you have probably experienced as well. First of all, I feel lazy that I'm not doing something beneficial to the world with my time. Second of all, the culture is so different and more friendly in Peru. For example, I stopped by the mall for a short time and found myself thinking "why does nobody want to say hello to me?!" this week. The whole thing just makes me feel like I don't belong in the U.S. a little. Before I left, I prayed for an open heart to show love to all who I would encounter. The thing is, these people of Peru now have a place in my heart that I don't know how to explain/share with everyone here. So here I sit typing this post while listening to Mueve La Pompa (a fiesta favorite)...
Let's rewind, here's what's gone down since my last post-
My final eval went just fine if anyone was curious. Also, we got a good grade on that 25 page paper! That evening, we went to fiesta #87685 (but probably more like 6). Everyone was so tired, but hey what's one more night of Peru "partying"? We started saying our goodbyes, which was sooo sad!
Here we are with Theresa, one of the nurses from the Oklahoma medical mission we worked with in the OR

After staying up too late (as usual), we got up before dawn to head to the Piura airport. Some of the parish staff and nurses we grew close to came along to see us off. After lots of hugs and some tears, we were off. We landed in Lima around 1000 a little unsure of what our next move would be, as our flight was not for 11 hours. We did end up having a tour scheduled (communication with Marquette had been scattered) that took up most of the day. We saw a little of this, some of that. In fact, I was personally invited to an ocean-side fiesta with some Peruvian hippies (yes, they do exist). Unfortunately, 'merica was calling my name.

In front of the governor's mansion

Pacific Ocean- our tour guide called this our "romantic" stop

After the tour, our group split. 8 of the girls were going on to Cuzco and a 4-day hike on the Inca trail to Machu Picchu. I skipped this part of the trip since I am probably still not quite there health-wise to make that and for my "big" plans this summer (more later). Kat & I headed back to the airport after the tour (on a wild and nauseating van ride, thankfully the last). I enjoyed Subway for dinner, which was great. Our flight was a little delayed, but we ended up taking off around 0030 (Saturday). We slept a lot of the way, as well as you can on a Spirit airplane. Spirit Air is advertised as low-fare air, which is true. Getting cheap means sacrificing on the comfort aspect though- not much space, non-reclining seats, no food (not even water on a 7 hour flight). Totally worth it for college students though! We arrived and were through customs in Fort Lauderdale, FL by 0830. I was dazzled by toilet seat covers, Dunkin' Donuts, air conditioning, and use of the English language. I sat in this airport until 4:30 PM, passing the time talking to everyone that would listen on the phone. On the flight to Chicago, I got to sit by a puppy! I was definitely ready to get off the plane and see my family by the time we landed. I finally got to Green Bay, WI at 11:30 PM Saturday night. My first meal home was pizza- exactly what I wanted. 

Since returning, I've just been unpacking/doing laundry, catching up with friends and family, and resting (I am way behind on sleep!). My mother insists I am "so skinny", but really I gained 5 lbs on my trip (too much cake). I have been so blessed by my month in Peru, and I sincerely hope to return. I wish I could say that it will be next summer, but by then I'll be looking for a big girl job and trying to pass the NCLEX (boards/exams to get an RN license), so who knows where I'll be. Anyone looking for a great mission trip (whether medical or otherwise) should really consider going through Sacramento Santisimo! It is a Catholic parish, but I am not Catholic and really enjoyed my time there.
The rest of my summer includes a long weekend at the cottage with my extended family and a gum graft (snatching some skin off my hard palate and sewing it on where my gums should be). I have serious dental anxiety and have already had nightmares... August 3rd is the day. My only hope of postponing is if I brought some of Peru home with me/the parasite is still inhabiting my intestines (I'll find out early next week).

Thanks to all who have read my blog and emailed, I truly had no idea the response I would get! I would love to hear from anyone who has more questions about my trip, I am in the Green Bay area until mid-end of August. Some have asked if I'm going to keep blogging now that the trip is over, and I am fairly certain the answer is no. Simply, my life is not that interesting. There was a time in my life that was pretty eventful, but I'm pleased to say that time has mostly passed.

Con amor,

"Give me Your eyes for just one second
Give me Your eyes so I can see
Everything that I keep missing
Give me Your love for humanity
Give me Your arms for the broken hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach
Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten
Give me Your eyes so I can see"

Thursday, July 19, 2012

This will likely be my LAST post from Peru! It is crazy how fast the last month has gone, although at the same time we have done a lot and I'm ready for some rest.
Yesterday, I was with the Oklahoma medical mission in the OR from 8 AM-8 PM. A surgeon and anesthesiologist came down with the team to do hernia sugeries (a hernia is an abnormal sac that protrudes through the abdominal wall that may contain intestines, tissues, etc.). They have been doing 7 or 8 surgeries every day (which is a lot for the same team to do at once). It was a very interesting day but also a very long day. In the U.S., a patient will have different nurses for preop, surgery, recovery, and postop. Here we stick with once patient all the way through their time at the clinic, then take on another when he/she is discharged.
Here's a little summary of what we do where-
Preop: Check the patient in, take vitals, start IV's (I started my first "real" one here, but have practiced on several willing amigas before this), give meds (ex. Zofran for nausea), and get all paperwork in order.
Surgery: Mostly watching, some assisting but nothing huge. The surgeon and anesthesiologist were explaining things as they happened. My first patient had a laryngospasm when coming off the breathing tube- closure of the throat so that no air can pass through. He did eventually wake up with no problems
Recovery/Postop- Anesthesia slows everything down in the body, so it is important to maintain good vitals. Immediately, the patient receives oxygen via mask and is on continuous pulse oximetry. We take vitals every 15 minutes for an hour. Slowly we get the patient to sit up, drink some water, and have some crackers. Pain management is also very important (mostly just with Ibuprofen here). Some patients throw up, others are dizzy. Eventually the patient sits in a chair, at which time we bring in the family to talk about how to care for the patient once he/she leaves us.
Last night we went to a "fancy" place for dessert and cappuccino and stayed up too late doing homework.

This morning I was with social services, which today meant building a house. We were with a group of missionaries from California. The houses are made mostly of bamboo. It was a fun way to end my time here!

The three Marquette nurses who joined in on construction today

The team with the family we were building the house for- this was our progress when we left at noon. The CA group will go back to finish it this afternoon.

All I have left now is our final evaluation with the clinical instructor (in literally 5 minutes)... wish me luck!
Our flight departs from Piura tomorrow morning at 0800. I will be back in the U.S. at 6 AM Saturday morning, and in Chicago at 6:30 PM Saturday. I am excited to see some of you when I get back, especially my little dog ;) I recently received some pretty cute pictures of him via email from my family & realized that I miss him a lot!
¡Hasta luego!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Our Last Week Begins

I have an unexpected amount of time tonight, I decided to stay home from the fiesta that is happening tonight to catch up on some rest... plus our paper and presentation are completed!

Today some of us left at 0730 to help with a village clinic set up by a traveling medical mission from Oklahoma. I spent most of the morning playing pharmacist- handing out pills, constituting liquid meds, & teaching the patients how to take their new meds. It was fairly busy with just 1 doctor seeing patients. Lots of parasites (more on that later), respiratory infections, some pneumonia and asthma, and lots of runny noses.  In the afternoon, more doctors came to work and we were VERY busy. I switched to intake (where we do vitals & short health histories) and took more blood pressures in 4 hours than I can count. We saw over 100 patients today! One that stood out in particular was a 30 year old woman with severe lordosis & scholiosis. In the U.S. this would have been surgically corrected during childhood, but we are in Peru. It was very sad to see, her growth was majorly stunted and she was having significant pain.
After a 10.5 hour day, we headed back to the parish with plans to return to this village tomorrow.

So about those parasites... I have them/it. I am like 98% certain- I've had suspicions for about the last week due to some minor symptoms, but today I have white spots on my face and arm. Apparently parasites can affect the pigments in your skin (temporarily... I think). It really isn't surprising since sooo many people have them and we get so many kisses. I really feel fine so family who are getting worried please don't! I snagged 400mg Albendazole (a 1x treatment) this afternoon at the clinic so I expect to be rid of the problem soon.
Other health concerns include the possible closure of my nosering :( I am sure my family will be so sad to hear this news. I took it out for a night because it was starting to look infected and made the situation worse. I must be running out of interesting things to talk about if I'm mentioning this, lo siento si no le importa.
Thirdly, my blood pressure is in rebellion, which is why I'm resting tonight.

They are super cute- a married couple and twin 2 year old girls (but they want more kids). The little girls were very shy but I got to talk with the parents for awhile. The father is very involved in the kids' lives (which is rare) and was very kind.

 Meet my family! 
Missing from this picture are their 5 dogs

I have no idea what the rest of the week will bring with the medical team here. We only have 3 more days in Piura, which is so crazy. This time next week I will be eating pizza instead of chicken & rice...