Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Passport Health Nurse goes to Ecuador with Ecuadent

February 2012 marked Ecuadent’s 21st year of providing medical and dental care to the most underprivileged children of Ecuador.  This year the medical team set up three operating rooms and a recovery room at a small community hospital in Salinas.  Salinas is somewhat of a resort town with wide, white beaches and marinas catering to Ecuador’s wealthier citizens.  However, if one walks just a few blocks from the Malecon (boardwalk) the living conditions are anything but luxurious.   The barrios and fishing villages, where residents eke out a meager hand-to-mouth existence, are where the Ecuadent Foundation sought out children who would otherwise have no access to medical care.

Although the foundation focuses primarily on cleft palate and cleft lip repair, the surgical needs are many and can be quite varied.  This year multiple syndactyly and frenulectomy procedures were performed.  One little boy had his right ear reconstructed---the foundation for the new ear was his own rib cartilage.  In total, 35 cases were completed.

My time was spent in the PACU where the monitors could relay only heart rate and, when functioning, oxygen saturations.  Since technology was minimal, the PACU nurses relied on assessment skills, nursing interventions, and their own intuition. The nursing experience was unlike anything at a hospital in the United States.  It focused on patient care.  This may sound strange since nursing should always be about patient care.  However, in US hospitals there is also a focus on data, documentation, and even administrative duties.  Documentation was, of course, a component but the long days at Hospital de Salinas were spent caring for, and interacting with, patients and their families.  For me this was incredibly rewarding.  It felt like a gift to be a part of someone else’s pivotal experience.  This goes without saying;  the kids were amazing—stoic, strong, and happy to be there.  And despite the lack of technology, and with only the most basic nursing protocols in place, every patient outcome was a positive one.

By:  Kate Skovron, Travel Health Specialist - Passport Health Baltimore


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