Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Mini Vacation

Hey All,

It's been a while, lo ciento! We got to have a little vacation this weekend and take a break from our clinical work. On Saturday morning we were lucky enough to get Peruvian massages from the natural medicine clinic. Soooo Peruvian massages are a little different than American massages... I'm pretty sure I was electrocuted a little bit and I got these suction cups all over my abdomen while getting slapped all over my body. Always interesting here in Piura. Then, Saturday night we had yet another procession for Corpus Christi.. Except this one was a 2 hour hike through the HOT streets of Piura... Another interesting experience haha.

Sunday we got to go to the beach which was about 40 minutes away from where we were staying. It was awesome to get away and relax for the day. I laid out in the sun, drank some pisco sours (the Peruvian national drink), and took a nap. The beach was pretty standard, except there were sting rays in the water so I didn't go in past my knees haha.

This week we have a team of eye surgeons at the parish clinic performing cataract and glaucoma surgeries. Here in Piura, almost everyone has cataracts once they are elderly because of all of the direct sun contact, so these surgeons are definitely needed here. On Monday I was fortunate enough to work with them! I worked the autoclave which is a sterilizing machine and ran around helping people get in and out of surgery. I was also able to observe a couple cataract surgeries which was really sweet. I didn't even feel like throwing up once when I saw them use a scalpel to cut the eyeball.

This morning I worked in the ER, which was pretty interesting because all Peruvian doctors are currently on strike because of the poor working conditions and small wages. We still had a couple doctors working in the ER for serious emergencies, but there were zero doctors working in the actual hospital. Government officials kept walking through the ER asking questions and looking serious with cameras and tape recorders. I wanted to take a picture of them, but I don't think they would've appreciated that.

I just want to rave about how much I appreciate the Parish workers and all that they do for us. They always make sure we are safe, and go above and beyond to make us feel as comfortable as possible. These people are seriously the most compassionate and genuine group of people I have ever met and I will miss them when I go back to the US... Luckily a few of them are visiting the US this fall, so I will definitely see them when they come to Milwaukee!

I have a huge 25 page paper and presentation due next week so I'm not sure how often I will be able to update this. See ya all soon!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Jun 13

Hi All,

It has been a pretty busy week here in Piura. Sunday night we had that crazy procession for Corpus Christi... Which was something I was not prepared for. Think of the Summerfest crowd at a free show x1000000 and that was how many people were squished in the road doing a special church service and procession. It was crazy, we were literally pressed up against Peruvians on all sides, it was hard to breathe and everyone was saying hail mary's over and over. And we have another one to go to this weekend.... haha.

I also was able to work in the ER for the first time, where I put in an IV, first try, no problemo. So that was pretty exciting. We went on a few more home visits where we got to do some wound cleaning on some pretty nasty ulcers. I also had my presentation on first aid which went pretty well.. I think. We'll see when I get my grades back.

This afternoon we had a really interesting presentation on natural medicine which I really enjoyed. The first lady taught us about energy in the body and centering it with the mind and spirit. It was a stress reliever. Then we had a man come in who was an expert on herbs used as medication. He taught us that a lot of the Peruvian's cannot afford to go to a medical doctor so they rely on herbs used for medication. He brought about 30 or 40 herbs and plants that come from the jungle that can be used for pretty much any ailment. He also said that they really do work, which I found very intriguing. It would be great if the US could utilize these sources more often, because they are much easier to produce and use than manufacturing a pharmaceutical medication. Pretty interesting.

Anyways, I found that I'm starting to think in spanish and answer questions in spanish without even noticing, which is pretty exciting. I'm actually learning spanish down here! haha, miss you all!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

End of the first week

Hey All,

Sorry I have been extremely busy working on my projects and homework for my class while I'm here, so I've kind of slacked off on my blog. Tomorrow I do my big 20 minute presentation/teaching project on first aid so after that hopefully I will be a little less stress... Probably not though.

So since Wednesday I have done a lot of interesting things.. I went on my first home visit and actually got to go inside some of the homes of the Piuran's. Just an overview, the homes are made out of bamboo and the gaps are filled with a dirt/manure mixture that hardens. The roofs are sometimes tin, but most of the time are branches/ leaves of some sort of plant. It never rains here in the desert so they don't have to worry about their homes leaking. Also, almost none of the homes have running water, and very few have electricity. If they do have electricity it is solar powered and is usually one light bulb. It was a very humbling experience seeing how these people lived and survived each day and how they act so grateful for the life they have been given rather than feeling like they do not have enough. Our society is very "material things" based, and their society is "relationship" based. They value family and friends and neighbors far above all the specific things that they have. I feel like I'm getting far more from the Piuran's than I am giving them.

On Friday we got to tour a private hospital here in Piura. In Peru, they have a national health care system, which means every person is entitled to health care for 1 sole per month (About 30 US cents). However, you can buy for private health care which is about 100 soles per month, and you will generally receive better care. The private hospital was air conditioned (which was a treat), and had mostly up to date equipment. Things appeared clean, and there was usually only 1-2 patients per room. It was fairly similar to a hospital in the US. Then on Saturday we got to tour a public hospital, where most of the Piuran's attend because they cannot afford to buy into the private health care plan. This was much different from the first hospital, the lines were very long, there was visible dirt caked on the floor, and it was extremely hot. Patients were roomed together about 3-4 patients per room without any separating curtain and they all had different ailments. Therefore a person with an infective pneumonia could be roomed with someone with Leukemia... They did not take very many precautions to the spread of disease. Overall, it was interesting to compare and contrast the two different hospitals and see the medical care that most of the Piuran's receive.

Today is Corpus Christi in the Catholic faith so it is a huge celebration day for Piura. We started out our morning by having Mass outside in one of our "squatter" (meaning very very poor) neighborhoods which was nice. I know the people were grateful that we came to them because otherwise they are walking many miles in the morning to get to church. Afterwards we went to La Madre de Redentor, which is a girls home/orphanage for about 60-70 girls. I made a new BFF, Viviana, who is 10 and who hung on my hand the entire day. I wish I could take her back home to the US with me. She is extremely bright and funny, but does not have that bright of future because most of the girls from Madre end up becoming servants in homes after they turn 18. I hope the best for her. Later tonight we are going to be marching from one church back to our parish with thousands of other Piuran's in celebration of the day. Apparently it is an interesting experience.

So far I have learned so much from the Piuran's. I can't say I have learned a lot nursing skill wise, but I have learned a lot about what kind of person I would like to be based off of their attitudes. It has been hard adjusting to third-world living with all the dirt and germs and lack of peanut butter, but I have absolutely nothing to complain about because these people literally cannot afford soap and have to walk a mile to get the water for the day... So I think I can live without peanut butter for a month.

Miss you all, I will write when I get internet again! :)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

June 5th, June 6th

Hey All,

So my internet is really touchy here at Santisimo Sacramento so I'm sorry if I go a few days without posting!  I've had a pretty busy past two days here in Piura...

In the morning I actually got to do some missionary work with some of the missionaries here from Oklahoma. We went to one of the elementary schools and built some book shelves for the classrooms. Yes, I operated a drill and used a hammer with zero injuries! wooooo! I mean, I can't say I did a great job at operating the drill and doing manual labor because I kept getting distracted by the cute little Peruvian kids. They would come up to us giggling and would practice their English on us. However, the only thing they knew how to say was, "What is your name?" and "What nationality are you?" Then they would giggle and run away. From what I saw, the school was pretty similar to back home. Besides the dirt floor and lack of roof over a lot of it, the general concept of a school day was the same as back home. The kids would have class for a few hours then have recess and so on. But this school even had a dance class for the kids, which I watched for a little bit and it was awesome! The kids were obviously much better dancers than I could ever imagine to be and they were completely choreographed to the Peruvian music.. Pretty sweet if you ask me.. We never had a dance class at home.. Except for the unit of line dancing with Mr. Borden back in middle school... Lame. After we built like 10 book shelves we went back to the parish for lunch and a siesta before heading to the hospice center.
The hospice center that we are working at is part of the parish and was built by donations from some rich Wisconsin dude, (I think he was a football player? Or coach?) I don't remember, but he was friend's with Father Joe. Either way, the center was beautiful. It is about 15-20 rooms all built around a large garden and chapel in the middle. I got to work with Daisy, one of the three nurses that works there. (They switch off, and there is always at least one nurse there so all three of them work a lot!) She is so wonderful and helpful, and she let us do pretty much everything. It was nice to be trusted to do the skills we have learned in class and clinicals. I got to suction my first trach, and do some other skills that I haven't gotten much practice with back home. Usually we associate a hospice center with death and dying, however, this hospice was more of a palliative care clinic, where the patients were there because they needed around the clock nursing care, but were not necessarily in the "dying process." Most of these patients had nowhere else to go and would have suffered at home. This center offers them peace and serenity as well as care for the physical needs. It was a wonderful place to work at and I look forward to going there again.

Honestly, today was not that great of a day. I know I am going to have days where I love this experience and others where I am counting down the days until I go home. Today was one of those days. It started off ok, because we got to hang out with some of the elderly people of the parish and do blood pressure and blood sugar screenings. Can I just say that I LOVE THE OLD PEOPLE OF PERU. They are way more happy and content and nice than the elderly patients I had back home. Now, I'm not entirely sure if this is just because I can only understand about 20% of what they are saying so I'm not really sure if they are complaining or not.. But either way they are way more enjoyable than most of the elderly patients I have had back home. They smile and laugh and are so appreciative of every little thing we do for them. For example, one of my patients today had a small cut on her heel that she asked me about. I told her to make sure she cleans it with soap and water every day and make sure it stays clean and dry. She then got a little teary and told me she did not have any soap at home. Luckily, though, we were giving them all a care package that had soap, shampoo, toothpaste, a toothbrush and towel for all of them. When I went and got hers for her and showed her how to wash it out with the soap she got teary eyed and was so thankful. It made me feel like I was actually helping someone for once, and made me remember why I wanted to go into nursing in the first place. (I did this all in Spanish, too!) We then did the chicken dance/macarena with all of the old people which they also loved. Most of them just clapped along and laughed at us wiggling our butts, but ohhhh well!

Now, the afternoon= Not so great. Marquette nurses have adopted a family here in Piura, who we donate money and goods to monthly so that they can live and survive. Today we had a nice lunch with them and had planned to take them to the market so we could buy them a kitchen table and some other things they needed. Now, the market in Piura is not very safe and since we are a large group of American girls we attract attention. Basically, we could not walk 10 seconds without being whistled at, people were yelling rude things to us, and EVERYONE was staring. When we had to stop so that Erica (our family's mother) could look at things to buy, men would stop and take our pictures without our permission. It was not flattering or enjoyable because their intentions were not good. When we finally left I just felt entirely degraded and exhausted overall. I really hope I don't have to go back there, I just did not like the way I felt while I was there.

However, church tonight was actually VERY interesting. Now, I'm not entirely sure what's going on most of the time because everything is in Spanish, but I could gather that tonight was special. The church was packed and there was standing room only. There was a special ceremony with candles and most of the mass consisted of singing and clapping. It was interesting to see the culture and ritual of it all, because I saw many people moved to tears during multiple points in the mass. If only I could understand what was going on..... haha! Like I said earlier, this culture is engrained with Catholicism, so I'm trying to understand and appreciate their religion so that I can approach their care more holistically. So far, it is actually interesting. :)

Tomorrow I am going on home visits in the morning and then working the pro-life/ OB clinic in the afternoon! Now that the initial excitement of living in a new country is waring off, I'm starting to miss home a little more. Sooo if you guys want to email/facebook message me I probably wouldn't mind :) Miss you all!

Two little girls at the school where we built bookshelves. I know the girl on the left is named Sabrina :) 

 The first bookshelf we built! 
 Louis, he lives at the Hospice Center. He gave me a very helpful Spanish lesson!  
 Felix, also at the hospice center. He is very very funny and loves to joke around. 
 Two woman who we did blood pressure and glucose checks on today. 
 One part of the market this afternoon. Now this thing goes on for blocks and blocks, completely packed with people and things. 
Two of my roommates, Kelly (Middle), Katie (Right), while we were at lunch today with our family. 

Monday, June 4, 2012

Lessons From Pedro

Hola from Piura!

So sorry I haven't kept up with this thing the past few days. As you may imagine things have been pretty hectic with acclimating to a new country and culture and whatnot. So I left Chicago at 0930 on June 2nd and finally made it to Piura, Peru at about 0730 on June 3rd. I made a couple very interesting new amigos during my travels, including a 71 year old Peruvian named Pedro. Pedro sat next to me on my flight from Ft. Lauderdale to Lima, Peru, which was about 5 hours long. At first I tried really hard not to make eye contact and talk to him because I was tired and crabby (surprise, I know), but as I have come to learn, Pedro is like most Peruvians and he will strike up a conversation no matter what. I'm very glad he did though because he was extremely entertaining for the entire flight. He taught me some interesting life lessons like to never get close to a llama because they spit, to drink only 2 pisco sours at a time unless you want to crawl home (a peruvian alcoholic beverage), and to give everything you can because when it is all said and done you can't take anything to your grave. He is so wise. Pedro even practiced Spanish with me and was extremely patient with all of my questions. He definitely eased a lot of my anxiety about the Peruvian culture and traveling to Peru.

Once I got to Lima I went through customs no problemo and then sat around for 8 hours until my flight to Piura. Piura, Peru is unlike any place I have ever been to. It's difficult to describe, so I've uploaded some pictures of the area where I'm staying. All I can say is I am very lucky for the life I have back in the US and all of the wonderful opportunities I have been given. However, the people of Piura are so compassionate and loving, I have never felt so welcomed into a new community. They love that I try to speak spanish with them even though my spanish is terrible.

On my first day in Piura we went to church at San Jacinto and were welcomed by children of the parish. They were so adorable, they had a sign welcoming us and wanted to kiss and hug all of us. I had to turn my head because most of them aimed right for the lips when they kissed us, haha! There were also cute little fat babies everywhere, I loved it. We had a delicious lunch afterwards with Father Joe, but I couldn't exactly tell you what it was. It was either pork or chicken and maybe a rice/corn dish? I was feeling pretty fearless and I tried it and actually liked it. Uncle Bob would be proud. (No green beans though...) After lunch we went to Catacoas which was a long street with a bunch of stores and venders selling Peruvian artisan things. There were beautiful hand made vases and plates and purses and pretty much anything you could think of. It was interesting, but you have to be careful for pick-pocketers in places like that... We weren't allowed to wear watches on our wrists, sunglasses, or anything that could be possibly lifted off of us. After Catacoas I felt like I was going to die of exhaustion/ this terrible cold I am fighting so I went to take a nap while everyone else went to a girls group home and played soccer with them.

Day two was just as jam packed as day one. We got up, ate breakfast and then had a long meeting with Father Joe, who is the main dude at the parish. He taught us about how the Peruvian culture is engrained with Catholicism and how important it is for us to heal spiritually as well as physically. I found it very interesting how important religion is to this culture, and how their daily lives and routines revolve around their faith. I learned that basically in order to take a holistic nursing approach to these patients I will have to integrate their Catholic faith into my nursing plan as well, which is something we do not really focus on in the United States. After his speech we got to tour the different clinics we are going to be working at, including a surgical area in the parish, a nursing clinic in the parish, a natural family planning/OB clinic, and a hospital about 2-3 blocks away. We did not get a chance to go to the nursing home, hospice clinic, women's shelter, drug/alcohol rehab center that we will also be working at. I'm pretty excited to work in the ER here so that I can compare it with my experience back at home at St. Lukes. From what I saw though, the ER in Piura was extremely primal and is about 30-40 years behind anything we have at home. I feel like I'm going to want to tell my patients at home to stop complaining when they have to wait 3 hours to be seen at the ER when these patients walk miles in the 90 degree heat and wait all day long for the chance to be seen.

Overall, so far so good. The food is great, the Piuran's are wonderful, and the grad students I am here with are extremely nice as well. I start my first clinical at the hospice center tomorrow so hopefully that goes well! :)

These are the typical homes in the area 

At a street intersection 

San Jacinto 

Sacramento Santisimo, the parish I am staying at.

Friday, June 1, 2012


So I decided to start this blog for a couple reasons. First, Marquette asked the nurses going on this trip to blog about their experience so other people can hear about how awesome the Marquette Nursing program is. (Truth, it is awesome.) Second, I know my Mom is secretly freaking out that I'm going to a foreign country for a month, so hopefully this will help ease her anxiety because she'll be able to keep tabs on me a million miles away. Third, when I'm old and stressed as a real nurse, this will help me reminisce on my youthful days when I was back in nursing school and living the life.

That being said, I leave for Peru TOMORROW! I've been waiting for this trip since I was accepted into the Marquette Nursing program way back in the day and hoped I would be one of the lucky ones that got to go to Peru. It's finally here... and I'm not exactly sure how I feel about it. I am extremely excited and grateful that I am getting this experience, yet I am apprehensive about EVERYTHING. I'm not entirely sure what to expect when I get there, considering I've never been out of the country... Let alone going to a developing country. So this will be interesting and humbling and overwhelming and entertaining and fascinating and hopefully one of the most important experiences of my life thus far.

I guess I should get to packing... Since so far all I have packed is a very large bottle of hand sanitizer and my scrubs. I guess that's all I really need anyways... :)