Texas State provides respiratory care in Guyana

Texas State University respiratory care students, Jennifer Cruz and Bobby Shane Rodgers, intubate an intensive care unit patient at Georgetown Public Hospital. Photo by Alana Zamora / Global News Team.
Respiratory care student, Bobby Shane Rodgers, carefully measures Ipratropium Bromide Solution to insert into a nebulizer for a patient’s treatment. Photo by Alana Zamora / Global News Team.
Georgetown Public Hospital patient receives a breathing treatment under the care of Texas State University respiratory care students. Photo by Alana Zamora / Global News Team.

To see the Texas State University respiratory care students in action at Georgetown Public Hospital, watch the video below:


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Texas State University students learn about respiratory illnesses in Guyana

By Skyler Jennings

LINDEN, GUYANA – Texas State University respiratory care students learned about respiratory illnesses and how the staff treats them in the pediatric ward Jan. 9 at Linden Hospital Complex .

Dr. Michella Ross, the general medical officer of Linden Hospital Complex, gave a presentation to the nursing staff of the pediatric ward, providing general information about respiratory illnesses . The Texas State University students, who were working at the hospital while on a study abroad program, sat in for the presentation.

Dr. Michella Ross, general medical officer of Linden Hospital Complex, giving her presentation to the pediatric nursing staff. Photo by Skyler Jennings/Global News Team.

Ross gave a UK-based statistic about pediatric patients: a preschool-aged child will have six to eight illnesses in one year. She also gave a statistic about Linden Hospital Complex: ninety percent of the children the hospital sees will have a viral infection.

“We put a lot of emphasis on [respiratory illness],” she said. “One of the main reasons is that it’s responsible for at least 50 percent of the consultations they have in pediatrics…or just in outpatient. Most of the kids, they always come with a cold, cough, something, always respiratory. So even if you have 10 kids in a day, you’ll find at least seven will be a respiratory related condition.”

Less than an hour before her presentation, a four-month-old child was discharged from the hospital after spending five days there with bronchiolitis. This lung infection is usually caused by the respiratory syncytial virus.

“As simple as bronchiolitis is, it’s one of the most life-threatening illnesses among infants,” said Ross. “[RSV] is the most common virus, and especially with bronchiolitis. Most of the kids that come with bronchiolitis, is caused by this RSV.”

Ross said the pediatric ward is usually filled in the winter, because that’s when viruses thrive in Linden.

Yarlemis Alicia Estevéz, a pediatrician consultant at Linden Hospital Complex, said the pediatric ward has sixteen or seventeen beds.

“For some periods, [there’s] plenty of patients,” said Estevéz. “For the last month, December and November, [there have been] plenty of patients.”

Yarlemis Alicia Estevéz Palomino (left), a pediatrician consultant at the Linden Hospital Complex, shows respiratory care student Stephanie Kelley (right) an X-ray of the lungs of the four-month-old patient with bronchiolitis. Photo by Skyler Jennings/Global News Team.

Xiomara Ojeda, one of the Texas State respiratory care students who attended the presentation, said she thinks this is comparable to the U.S.

“Before I went on the Guyana trip, I was doing my internship at Dell Children’s so I was dealing with all these kids,” said Ojeda. “I know that during the winter time, there’s a lot of kids…who have some sort of respiratory problem. They either have like the flu, or they have the RSV or they have stuff that does affect their breathing.”

After hearing Ross briefly discuss how the hospital staff treats patients with respiratory illnesses, Bobby Shane Rodgers, also a Texas State respiratory care student, asked about specific equipment used to treat patients with secretions in the lungs.

He said he learned that the hospital didn’t have some equipment that he would say is common in the U.S.

“I believe they used humidity, which we would use over here, and then they didn’t have any of the other equipment that we would use to help bring up the secretions,” said Rodgers. “Their emergency room was pretty poorly stocked with equipment, especially respiratory equipment.”

Ojeda said she saw a difference in the way the Linden Hospital Complex pediatric ward was laid out compared to Dell Children’s Hospital in Austin, Texas.

“They had four kids in one room, which is something that we would never see [in the US] because of HIPPA violations,” said Ojeda. “[In the US], all the kids have their own room and have their privacy. [Linden] felt more like a dorm-type situation, as opposed to a hospital. Some of them were [in] bunkbeds.”

Rodgers said it was eye opening to learn that some countries have less to work with, but he knows they are still trying to achieve the same end goal: healthy patients.

“I learned that they treat patients with a fraction of the equipment that we have, but they still generally have a good outcome,” said Rodgers. “Patients seem to get well and go home from the hospital and they do it with a lot less. [I learned that] you can improvise and [treat patients] with less equipment, but still help others.”

My surrogate mother(s) in Guyana

By Skyler Jennings

When I first found out I was accepted onto the Texas State Global News Team and was going to Guyana my first thoughts revolved around shear happiness and excitement.

My second thoughts?

I’m leaving the country for twelve days without my mom?!

I put on my big girl pants and pretended I could handle this, that people have gone farther and longer without being by their mom 24/7, because I wanted so much to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

It soon became clear that I hadn’t so much left a mom behind as I had gained two surrogate moms (whether they intended it or not).

My first surrogate mom was my instructor Holly Lynn Wise.

Holly Lynn Wise on Fort Island in Guyana. Photo by Skyler Jennings/Global News Team.

I first took her class in spring 2017, and that’s when she changed me as a journalist. She taught me about the confidence needed to be a journalist. She’s 100 percent the reason I put my big girl pants on and pretended I could handle this – because she believed in me.

In Guyana, she took on a role of more than just a mentor.

She was the one who asked me every.single.day how I was feeling because she knew I had caught a bug. She’s the one who carried around Advil for me, who ran upstairs at the last minute before the van rolled out for the day to grab medicine for me.

When my imaginary big girl pants had fallen down and I was feeling unsure of myself as a journalist, she approached me every few minutes and coaxed me until I pulled them right back up.

When the days were long and our stomaches were rumbling, she would pull out a bag of trail mix to hold us over. When we needed an ‘American night’ in, she grabbed spaghetti and garlic bread ingredients to help our homesickness.

She was there for me, with me, when I faced my fear of heights and conquered the clocktower in Stabroek Market.

She was so important to the stability I needed while I was miles away from my biological mom.

My other surrogate mom, Sharon Armstead, I didn’t meet until the pre-departure meetings got into full swing in fall 2017. I fully experienced the Armstead love on one of our recreation days in Guyana.

Sharon Armstead in the speedboat on the Demerara River. Photo by Skyler Jennings/Global News Team.

We were on a small speedboat, filled to capacity with roughly 20 people. I’d never been afraid of boat rides, in fact I’d always enjoyed them, and I did for the ride out to Baganara Island Resort.

The speedboat we took. Photo by Skyler Jennings/Global News Team.

On the ride back, however, the tide in the Demerara River had changed and the boat ride became one of horror for me. I was sat in the second row, meaning the ride for me was bumpier than it was for most. I was silently trying to conceal my panic attack, embarrassed beyond belief.

Nothing could get by Sharon, who was sat in the first row and caught sight of my silent tears.

Without hesitation, she immediately turned in her seat and grabbed my hand. She leaned in to keep our moment private, and whispered reassuring words in my ear.

She hugged me. She held my hand. She whispered to me. She shared her own experience on this river a year prior that was similar to mine.

For twenty minutes she did this, until we had to stop the boat at an island to get gas and I assured her I was calmed down.

That day, without her love, would have been one I looked back on with pain.

Now, I look back on it with so much happiness in my heart because I know she was there to make sure I was ok, not only because my biological mom couldn’t, but because she truly cared.

Sharon and Holly, my forever surrogate moms: thank you, for so much more than you will ever realize.



Finding the right fit in respiratory therapy

By Katie Burrell

A powerhouse in the ICU and a loving sister, daughter and friend, Stephanie Kelley can be found finding herself through helping heal others.

Kelley grew up in Round Rock, Texas, a town two hours away from her university, Texas State. She spent her adolescent days pounding her feet to the rubber track of Cedar Ridge High School and fighting with her older brother. The youngest of three, Kelley has grown up surrounded by love and family. This can be seen through her ability to take a joke, tease a friend and sing-a-long to a song on a bus full of people.

When Kelley landed in Guyana on Jan. 2, her step onto the tarmac was just another step toward the career of helping others she always wanted. However, respiratory therapy and Kelley did not cross paths until she was midway through college.

Kelly spent her first two years of college at Austin Community College. There she finished her basic courses including those in science and math. Science had always been her favorite, since her biology class her junior year of high school. Her plan was to be a radiation therapist, she had passed her classes and set her mind to it, until she met with an ACC advisor.

The advisor told Kelley she was made to work in the medical field, but she would not advise radiation therapy. Kelley’s grade in chemistry, after retaking the class was fine, but the advisor told Kelley she would be hard-pressed to find a radiation program open to accepting that she retook a class.

This news was a shock to Kelley, but mostly because it was a shock to her plan. She worked hard, got the grades and was content with where she would be the next two years. This news flipped Kelley’s plan upside down.

As usual, Kelley’s family was supportive and offered her advice, but she was worried she would disappoint herself most so she sought out other options. Kelley eventually decided to call her aunt in Houston, who works in a hospital as a respiratory therapist, aiding patients, nurses and doctors in all sorts of conditions.

Kelley decided to give it a go. She wanted to help people, and feel accomplished. She transferred to Texas State.

Stephanie Kelley bags a patient, allowing him to breath while the hospital was without oxygen for six minutes. Photo By Katie Burrell.

At Texas State, Kelley has spent over 600 hours in hospitals and classrooms learning how to help patients breathe, recover from surgery and survive all sorts of conditions.

“My own goals push me through,” Kelley said. “Of course my parents are always saying they’re proud of me, but they aren’t overbearing. I push myself the most.”

In Guyana, Kelley spent her days working in the Intensive Care Unit at Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation. Competent, level headed and organized, Kelley made her rounds, bagged patients and worked with doctors and nurses all on her own.

While working in the ICU in Georgetown, Kelley was faced with a moment where lives depended on her. Oxygen in the hospital went down for six minutes and nine seconds. Kelley had to help her patients breathe and delegated to the nurses to help. The hospital staff had no idea the incident would happen, but Kelley stayed cool and allowed the man, lying on the hospital bed in front of her to breathe and live on to continue his treatment.

Kelley was taught by Sharon Armstead, director of clinical education and clinical assistant professor of respiratory therapy at Texas State. Armstead said Kelley is independent and wise, which can be confirmed watching her control a patient’s room in the ICU. Armstead watched Kelley provide life-saving care in Guyana when a hospital’s oxygen went out.

“She’s the delegator,” Armstead said. “She has a lot of energy. I think one of the things about Stephanie is that she doesn’t know her own potential. When she was in the ICU she controlled the room. I don’t think she thinks that is a big deal, she just does it.”

Before the trip, Kelley organized fundraising, T-shirt design and scheduling for her team. Kelley was calm, and mild mannered every step of the way from making sure patients could breathe, to asthma testing weary high school students and organizing a day of fun for children in an orphanage.

Amber Hazelett, Texas State alumnus and registered respiratory therapist was on the trip and worked with Kelley in the emergency in Guyana.

“I met Stephanie about a month before the trip,” Hazelett said. “My first impression of her was that she was a bubbly and talkative person. On the trip, she was actually eager to work in the ER.”

Kelley graduates this spring with the goal to work in Austin, Texas, as a registered respiratory therapist specializing in pediatric care.

Georgetown Public Hospital functions as the country’s last stop for care

By Katie Burrell

Guyana’s Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation is known as the country’s last-stop hospital, and takes the heaviest load in patient care.

For people in Guyana, it means they likely will be taking a trip abroad for specialized care if they cannot receive it in Georgetown. Being largest public hospital in the country can be costly on the hospital’s budget and resource supply.

Elizabeth Gonsalvez, deputy CEO of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation,  stepped into her position three months ago. She has traveled to other countries including Canada to witness medical care and said shetook her position to improve conditions in her hospital because she knows how many people rely on its care.

“We call it the last-stop hospital because we’ve got lots of hospitals that are out there in the less developed areas and they’re not able to handle some situations,” Gonsalvez said. “We have quite a few specialties that are under one roof. We’re doing pretty good with what we have. I know there is room for improvement.”

In Guyana, hospitals are either privately owned or they are funded through the Ministry of Public Health or the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation.

Private hospitals charge patients for care, medications and operations unlike public hospitals which charge nothing for almost all services. Public hospitals rely on the ministry for supplies including medications and tools.

Gonsalvez said she wants to get more equipment for the hospital and give more attention to the nursing staff. She said nurses at the hospital will benefit from more education.

Sharon Armstead, director of clinical education and clinical assistant professor in Texas State University’s department of respiratory care, was born  in Guyana before moving to the United States to pursue a career as a respiratory therapist and later, a clinical professor. Armstead has travelled to Guyana at least four times since 2015, making it a point to visit Georgetown Public Hospital and provide training, advice and supplies.

Armstead compares the hospital to any other in the U.S.; it has hardworking staff doing their best with what they have.

She said the hospital is so inundated with patients it often does not have enough materials to work with. In a hospital with 500 beds and plenty of patients in need of care each day, the last-stop hospital could use more specialized caregivers.

“I think if you add another discipline (respiratory therapy), you would improve the care,” Armstead said. “By literature, it shows a faster recovery time and less time in the ICU for patients.”

Sheik Amir, director of medical services at Georgetown Public Hospital said the hospital does the best with what it has, but would benefit from receiving more supplies from the Ministry of Public Health.

“Patients have a finite limit for what they can pay, so when that happens they come here,” Amir said. “This is the capital of Guyana, the city hospital, so historically this is the better staffed hospital. Generally speaking, most surgeries are being done in this hospital and regional hospitals.”

Amir said he sees how his hospital will improve with the addition of respiratory therapists, or nurses trained to specialize in respiratory care would benefit his hospital which is so responsible for specialized medical care in the country.

Five Reasons Why You Should Study Abroad

I have always been told that studying abroad is on the list of ‘College Must-Dos’ and I am glad I took advantage of the opportunity before I prepare to graduate in May. Here is a list of my top reasons to study abroad:

Personal development

Texas State University professor, Sharon Armstead, waving to Georgetown Public Hospital doctors in the distance. Photo by Alana Zamora / Global News Team.

Visiting Guyana helped me in growing as a person and gaining a wider world perspective. Before our study abroad trip, I had a fixed image of what a developing country looked like, based off of images I had seen on television. When we arrived in Guyana, we found, as my colleague Ashley Skinner described in her recent blog post, “a community who makes use of the resources available to live the best possible life.”  During our trip, I grew as a person by being exposed to things that were out of my comfort zone and by learning life skills along the way.

Experience a new culture

Texas State University mass communication student, Ashley Skinner (left), and respiratory care student, Xiomara Ojeda (middle), talk to woman (right) at local nursing home in Georgetown, Guyana. Photo by Alana Zamora / Global News Team.

Studying abroad allows students to gain a better understanding and appreciation for other cultures. Traveling to Guyana was my first exposure to a new culture and I took in every moment. From interacting with local people to understanding the way others live, I did my best to fully immerse myself in the experience.

Take in the view

View of the Essequibo River from Baganara Island. Photo by Alana Zamora / Global News Team.

Have you heard of the saying, “Stop and smell the roses.”? Well, honestly, you should. When in another country, it is important to take time to become calm and reflect on your experience, and even find a deep appreciation for the beauty that surrounds you. During my trip to Guyana, my time of reflection filled me with a sense of gratitude for being fortunate enough to be having this new experience and for getting to see new things.

Eat new food

Delicious meal prepared by Baganara Island Resort. Photo by Alana Zamora / Global News Team.

Wow, let me tell you – the amount of flavor packed into every meal is amazing! The great thing about Caribbean food in Guyana is the various Chinese, African and Indian influences. Although we ate chicken and rice just about every day, I enjoyed it all, especially the curried chicken and pepperpot. Wherever you go, go with an open mind and empty stomach because you are bound to find some new delicious foods!

Make lifelong friends

Texas State University mass communication and respiratory care students before they embark on their trip for the day. Photo by Aubrey Odle.

As I mentioned in my last blog post, never did I think it was possible to feel this close to a group of people in such a short amount of time. Studying abroad allows you to connect with the people you are traveling with on a whole different level because you all are experiencing something for the first time together. I am happy to say that I will forever cherish the memories that were made on my trip and I will be closely connected to my group of friends.

Third time’s the charm

By Lindsey Blisard

Whether Shane Rodgers is fighting fires, giving CPR or intubating a patient, saving lives has always been on his daily agenda, and as a respiratory therapy student at Texas State University, Rodgers is discovering his new role as a part of his third career move.

In his adult life, Rodgers has done many things. He started in the Air Force, worked as a registered nurse when he was in his early 20s, and became a firefighter before he turned 30. Now, as a retired firefighter, he is ready for his next move: to become a respiratory therapist.

Rodgers instructing nursing assistant students on chest compressions. Photo by Lindsey Blisard/Global News Team

“I don’t want to just totally retire,” he said. “I don’t necessarily want to work full time anymore, but I want to go back to school and just have that experience of only going to school.”

After weighing his options of what to go back to school for, Rodgers decided on respiratory therapy. It was something new and specialized enough to have a different feel from nursing. He has always had jobs that helped people, whether they were his patients or not, and this career move is not any different.

Rodgers said he wants to work part-time in a field that he still cares about. He was most excited about being a full-time student for the first time, since he had to work through nursing school when he was younger.

“I just wanted to go to school, study in the library, and be like a normal student,” he said. 

Rodgers, his wife, and two daughters live in Cedar Park, Texas. He has been doing his hospital rotations as the end of his days as a student go by. He has done his clinicals and internships in different hospitals and medical centers in the greater Austin area and will be ending his school year at the Cedar Park Regional Medical Center.

Rodgers said he prefers to be a general respiratory therapist so he can travel around the hospital and not be confined to just one area. He hopes he can continue to work in Cedar Park after he graduates in May. 

Recently, Rodgers went to Guyana with a group of four other respiratory therapy students and his professor, Sharon Armstead. There they delivered treatment and teachings to two hospitals in the country–Georgetown Public Hospital and Linden Hospital Complex.

Armstead calls Rodgers her “quiet leader” and said he showed so much concern in the hospital, yet remained calm with a strong presence in every room. She hopes that all of her students, including Rodgers, find their confidence of being a respiratory therapist within themselves.

“I want them to stay in the career… and see the value in their profession,” Armstead said. “I hope that [Rodgers] enjoys the passion that respiratory therapy can give you.”

After watching Rodgers working in the hospital, Armstead noted that what he excelled at was the teaching moments he had with the medical staff and even nursing assistant students.

Rodgers working alongside Armstead in adjusting a patients ventilator tubing. Photo by Lindsey Blisard/Global News Team

Amber Hazelett, a newly registered respiratory therapist, went along with the Texas State students to Guyana and was there to provide support and instruction to the students and hospital staff. She was in the emergency room for a great part of the first day in Georgetown Public and worked alongside Rodgers.

“I do feel like Shane is ready to be a respiratory therapist,” said Hazelett. “He seems very prepared.”

When Rodgers thinks about the future for himself as a respiratory therapist, he said his and his family’s dream is to explore more of the world and take their careers with them. He and his wife are both in the medical field and they hope they can find work either abroad or travel to the east and west coasts with their children. 

An immersive study abroad program in the School of Journalism & Mass Communication