Today’s blog is written by my daughter, Laura, a nursing student at U of M. She spent her February break volunteering at a maternity clinic in Honduras and the following are her reflections on her experience:
Saturday morning I stood outside on the dirt road looking at the turquoise house I called home for the past eight days and I honestly wished the day hadn’t come so soon. I’ve done a lot of traveling, and although coming home to a warm shower and clean sheets is always comforting, traveling to another country and being completely immersed in a new culture and a beautiful welcoming family is exciting and wonderful. My experience in Honduras was a positive one–It was a much-needed escape from the world as I know it in Ann Arbor, and I felt genuinely happy for the entire week. As a woman, a nursing student, and with a career goal of nurse midwifery, I enjoyed being with a group who was supportive and encouraging, and in many cases inspiring.
Visiting the hospital in Morazan was an intense and thought provoking experience for me. Putting on the surgical scrubs and going into the birthing center was so interesting, especially seeing the two women who had just given birth. They use no analgesia or medication. The hospital was fully functioning, but by American standards, with its crumbling ceilings and patients in the hallways, it was in shambles. The hospital was amazing though, seeing thousands of patients and working with what it had. This was one of the experiences on the trip that led me to set a personal and professional goal for myself. No matter the circumstances, I want to always be dedicated to providing the best care to my patients. It shouldn’t matter if I’m working at the U of M hospital, with its endless supply of sterile supplies and advanced technology or if I were working in a clinic with less than adequate resources. I was able to provide care to many patients at the health center, and used what I have learned and all available resources around me to make sure the patients received the best care the could- from giving an injection, to cleaning a wound, to client teaching about a variety of topics.
My experiences on Tuesday were the most eye opening of all in Honduras. After doing preclinicaat the Morazan health center, I found out that two of the health promoters were going to a community about ten minutes away; There had been a case of Denge fever and they needed to check out the other households. So instead of giving injections in the clinic all day again, I went out with the two health promoters. After a brief consultation with the promoters to get a better understanding about Denge fever, its causes and symptoms, we were on our way. I guess by living with the middle class families in Morazan I had an incomplete and distorted image of the actual poverty in this area. The health, education, social, and housing disparities I saw, for lack of a better word, were nauseating. We walked house to house for four hours. The houses themselves ranged from small homes made from clay blocks to four wooden posts with plastic and fabric composing the walls. We would go in and ask to look at their water supply. We looked at square cement pilas, tall tin bins, and halves of tires-all places used to collect water. Anywhere water collects and sits out, mosquitoes can lay their eggs in the water and may carry denge fever. If people were home, we would explain our purpose and be directed to the water supplies in the home and in the yards. If people weren’t there we walked into their backwards anyway, yelled to make sure there were no dogs, and then took samples of the water. It was really interesting work and I enjoyed being with the two young health promoters all morning. But then the poverty level got worse and worse-a house with 2 kids and no parents in sight (suddenly I was not so hungry for lunch and gave my Luna bar to them to split) and then another women, who showed me her leg while we were checking out the water and she had two giant wounds that she said she’s had for 5 years and couldn’t get to a doctor. That was really hard for me to hear, I suddenly was overcome with emotion and had to step away for a minute. I talked to the health promoters, explaining in Spanish that it made me sad to see so much poverty. I love being in Honduras and helping out, but it sometimes made me really sad that there is not more that I can do, or that we do.
As for my spring break experience in Honduras living with a wonderful family, life was for the most part is
rhythmic and beautiful in its simplicity. One thing I realized was that being in a developing country can be exhausting; to be stripped of daily conveniences makes every step of ones day that much more of a challenge. Some things that seem like a necessity to me at home, like a washer and dryer, dishwasher, internet, cable, and warm water, were no where to be found in Honduras. There are so many material privileges that we take for granted every single day. I think it is important for people to travel and have experiences like this because it helps bring you back to reality and realize what is important to you. One of the most enjoyable experiences for me was the hikes we took up the mountains. It was fun to start as a group of five Americans and by the time we got down the road to have an additional fifteen Honduran children screaming and laughing and running along with us. Some of the best conversations I had also took place on these hikes. The views were beautiful and I felt so refreshed and renewed at the top of the hikes.
On this trip, I learned so much from the personal experiences and advice of other group members, from the discussions we had about huge issues in global health, power and gender relationships, and social class, and from the hands-on experiences I had. Many of the complex issues I’ve studied in class were confronted head on in a new environment.
I have wonderful memories of the week, and have met individuals, learned lessons, and seen things that have affected my personal and professional life in a profound way.
-Laura Langberg March, 2009
I am really proud of Laura and her commitment to nursing and social action!
Until next time,
Mark W Langberg, DDS