All posts by katienicole96

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.

People are the memories I will never forget

By Katie Burrell

I met so many different people in Guyana from children to elderly to travelers like me. Each person left a memory with me, allowing me to value my time in Guyana even more.

While abroad, we met people from the Ministry of Health who watched over us and helped us get places. They took us to hospitals, schools, and orphanage and a senior citizens home.

I’ll never forget my visit to McKenzie High School. We took a day off of working in the Linden hospital to visit the school and conduct asthma screening.

While we were there, I met students with big dreams of playing in the World Cup, visiting Canada and even a student who will be moving to Texas after she graduates. These students and their goals helped me realize, amid all the excitement, that I was living out one of my high school goals to leave the United States for travel.

While I was watching these kids play soccer in the courtyard, I realized I achieved my goal a few years later that 16 year-old had planned, but I think my trip to Guyana was right on time anyways. These kids inspired me to keep my goals high too, as I’m confident they will surely reach their’s too.

On our last day, one of my favorite memories was making 100 peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches to take to Sofia, a care center for children under 18 who may not have families. Our group hurried to make all of these sandwiches, load donations into two vans and hurry over to the senior home before meeting at Sofia to decorate and meet the kids.

While at the senior home I met with five people who had lived in Guyana all of their lives. There they met their spouse, raised their kids and worked their whole lives. They went to church, read books and told each other stories. Here I made memories listening to others share theirs and it assured me. The seniors talked to me about their travels, their great loves and even the little things they have done daily all their lives to enjoy happiness.

Much further in their lives than the students at the high school, I will remember the zest for life and living out their dreams these people had. One senior told me about her dream to have children and how she had two happy, healthy children who visit her every week. She told me about the joy of ready to grandchildren and sharing a meal with them each week.

The people of Guyana reminded me of the joy that comes from achieving goals and enjoying life as it comes.

When we went to the children’s home we witnessed pure happiness. I watched children run their fingers through their new books, run around with beach balls and stuff yummy peanut butter in their mouths.

In each of the places we went we saw happiness and laughter. We heard stories of dreams and goals being achieved. We exchanged stories of our cultures and of our families back home. I’m grateful to the people I met for being fun and entertaining but for reminding me, during a long journey away from home, why I was there.

How traveling to Guyana changed me as a student

By Katie Burrell

I went on a trip out of the U.S. with the goal that I would learn to be brave and independent.

Having only left the country once before on a family cruise to Mexico, I knew I was missing out. As a completely unseasoned traveler, my worldview was sculpted from growing up in North Texas, moving back and forth to Oklahoma and a couple days in the most touristy spot of Mexico.

However, as a journalism student, I’ve made it a priority to diversify my friendships, read stories by other people about other places and cultures and to always look at the planet with an open mind. This mantra, albeit harmless, was insufficient. Reading and listening to others’ ideas and experiences can keep a student keen, but now I know life is learned best when experienced firsthand.

So, I spent two weeks in Guyana with five of my peers from the mass communication department, and five students I had never met before from the College of Health Professions at Texas State. I flew on a plane for the first time, in the aisle seat of course, from San Antonio, Texas to Miami, Florida and a major layover later I was in Trinidad/Tobago then to Georgetown, Guyana.

I experienced so many firsts within those 24 hours-my first plane ride, my first-time on the other side of the U.S., my first time meeting some of my trip mates and my first time feeling completely elated knowing that I had no idea what the next few days of my life would look like.

We got off the Caribbean Airlines plane and immediately stepped foot on black pavement, surrounded by darkness, stars and humidity. Straight through customs, baggage in tow, we were through the small airport and welcomed by a camera crew. I talked to fellow journalists for a quick online segment that was posted the next day, and squished myself into a van for a bumpy, and what felt like forever ride to Project Dawn. We stayed at Project Dawn, a large hostile in Liliendaal, Guyana for the majority of our trip.

Project Dawn is where I made spaghetti one night because we were too exhausted to go out. It’s also where I learned to play gin rummy, met a Canadian anesthesiologist, ate countless meals of chicken and rice and learned the value of being far away from home sometimes.

I wanted to be a more adventurous student. I wanted to consider myself a brave traveler and well-rounded journalist and I hope I am still on my way to be all of those things. But what I really learned on this trip, following students around in hospitals, interviewing locals and hanging out with school children was that my whole life is not in Texas. I discovered that I felt most at home when up late at night discussing sources with my roommate, fighting off mosquitos in the Guyana interior and laughing too loudly in a bumpy van.

My trip to Guyana was not easy and each day presented a new challenge but with the help of my peers I felt at home because I was thriving as a student. I learned firsthand what it really means to be open minded to the world and to myself. The culture of Guyana bears its similarities to the U.S. but is overall so different, and I’ve learned to embrace that.

Respiratory students tour through Guyana

By Katie Burrell

Study abroad students dedicated a day to touring in Guyana in between their time working in hospitals and schools.

The Texas State respiratory care students and Global News Team visited a museum, church and historical landmarks in and near Georgetown, Guyana on Jan. 6, the 5th day of their trip. The students traveled by van to markets for souvenir shopping and views from a clock tower.