Making a Difference!
Amy Edson and Jessica Grenham, Quinsigamond Community College
Respiratory Care, Class of 2014
Senior Respiratory Care students at Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester, MA, are required to complete a 30 hour community service senior project prior to graduation. Since the two of us had become best friends during our time in the program, we wanted to collaborate on this assignment. It was important for us to find the best possible experience, while fulfilling an academic requirement. We wanted a project where we could make a difference. We decided to volunteer for a medical, humanitarian mission to Haiti!
Before leaving for our trip we had multiple team meetings that prepared us for our adventure! We learned about health protocols, what to pack, how to emotionally and physically prepare for the trip as well as what we could expect to be doing upon arrival. Our team consisted of medical professionals including paramedics, nurses, and occupational therapists as well as non-medical missionaries. We were the sole Respiratory Therapists!
Upon arrival in Port Au Prince, we very quickly realized how different life was in Haiti! We maneuvered the chaotic airport, saw women carrying baskets on their heads, and noticed the mounds of trash discarded on village streets. We traveled 2 ½ hours by bus to the Mission of Hope International in Grand Goâve. The clinic, church and school for the local villages, were located in Thozin, just down the road from the mission. The clinic and pharmacy consisted of a small room with two beds, one desk and a variety of medications that were stored on make-shift shelves.
Each day, our team split up into smaller provider groups in order to maximize the number of individuals we could treat. We saw patients with a wide range of health issues including ear infections, breathing difficulties, heartburn, and malnutrition. It was an eye-opening experience to say the least. Perhaps the hardest part of the day was when a child’s “chief complaint,” was hunger. These were truly the most heart-wrenching moments of our trip.
One of our clinical days was spent on a mountainside in a mobile clinic. The goal was to provide treatment to isolated individuals who do not have regular access to medical care. Many of these Haitians traveled hours to be seen by our team. In a short period of time, we treated seventy-five patients. Since Haitians do not have access to over-the-counter medications to treat “minor ailments,” many came to our clinic for headaches, heartburn, and minor aches and pains. We followed the World Health Organization protocols for developing country clinics, and dispensed medications as needed. These protocols are guidelines that helped us diagnose and treat common, third world diseases such as malaria, worms, scabies, and malnutrition.
Along with treating patients, we also worked with the resident nurse to ensure proper documentation and charting using SOAP notes. We were happy to put our documentation skills to good use! We recorded medical history, height and weight, blood pressures, heart rate, and lung sounds for each patient in the village. These medical records would be kept by the clinic for future reference.
One highlight of our trip was distributing rice and beans to an entire village. Knowing that we played a role in easing the burden of hunger was incredibly rewarding.
During this amazing week, our medical knowledge increased exponentially! More importantly however, was what we learned about the human condition and the struggles and challenges of those who are less fortunate. This trip was indeed, a life-altering experience that has changed our lives forever. We are planning a return trip next year to continue the worthy work done by the Mission of Hope International. Additional information for this humanitarian group can be found at: www.mohintl.org
Although traveling to Haiti was never something that I planned on doing, it has become a life changing experience that I’ve had the privilege of taking part in for several years now. While I may have initially gone with the idea of service to those in need at the forefront of my intentions, I find that I always return having received so far more than I could possibly ever give or offer. I would encourage you to step past your fears, past your well-known edges, to serve and to grow. The outcomes are incredible!