All posts by Lindsey Blisard

The ways I’ve changed

When I left for my study abroad trip in January, I did not think that I was a journalist. I was afraid that my skills would not stack up against the other students that I was headed there with. I had never been off of my own continent and I was just afraid of being away from the safety and security of my own bubble.

When I left for my study abroad trip, I did not think that I would grow to care so much about the group of people that I was with. Strangers at the start of the year and, now, people that I hope to keep in touch with even after the semester has ended. We learned something from each other, and that is what has changed me.

Skyler, a journalism student, that faced her fears and left her comfort of home just as I did. She is brave and can survive any bug bite that she is faced with (at least with an EpiPen in tow). She showed me that I wasn’t alone in my fear and discomfort and that I would be okay, just like she was.

Alana, a fellow Public Relations major, showed me what it means to truly care about and have a passion for the field that you are going into. She is passionate about museums, latinx history, art and photography. From her, I learned to find something that I love and never stop chasing that.

Katie, the sassiest and most outspoken of the group, is so involved in reporting news and writing the best stories that she can. She taught me what it really means to be a journalist and helped me gain skills that I didn’t know I had–like interviewing, gathering sources and being confident in what you are writing about.

Ashley, the inspiring and resilient nineteen year old, really showed me that even if you have been in the trenches at points in your life, you can rise above and come out on top. We shared our stories of childhood and found many points that we could relate on. She is a strong woman who has set her mind to whatever she wants, and I know that she can achieve her dreams. I wish that I had been more like her when I started off as a student–determined, passionate and hard-working.

Last, but certainly not least, Holly Lynn Wise. The most inspiring woman that I have met in my college career. Holly pushed me and convinced me to go on the study abroad trip two days before the application was due. I learned how to use my writing skills, thanks to her, and for that I am very grateful. Journalism aside, I am now passionate about finding my place in the world and using my skills to add to it. Holly showed me what it means to be career-driven and to take your life and run with it. She is caring, kind, compassionate, and I am excited to watch how the next chapter of her life unfolds. I hope she knows how much she means to me and that I would not trade the experiences that I had because of her for anything.

I will not view my life in the same way I did before I left on my study abroad trip. I have determination and the drive to use my skills and have an effect on the world around me.

Featured photo by Alana Zamora/Global News Team

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Family as a Foundation: Bridges Global Medical Missions

By Lindsey Blisard

Dr. Claudette Heyliger-Thomas founded Bridges Global Medical Missions in 2008 with the sole purpose of giving back to the country that she is from–Guyana.

Her team of volunteer medical professionals ranges from nurses and social workers to doctors of different specialties, such as endocrinologists, gynecologists and cardiologists.

Food For the Poor, an organization in the United States that helps to provide donated items, meals, and healthcare to poor areas, has been one of her greatest supporters. They supported her in the beginning of her mission work and continue to support Bridges Global Medical Missions by donating shoes, clothing and toiletry items for her to distribute in the country.

When Heyliger-Thomas started Bridges, she knew in the beginning it would be challenging to help the entire country, so she decided to start near where her mother grew up – West Coast Berbice and Parika.

On her first medical mission in 2008 to Guyana, Heyliger-Thomas brought along with her a team consisting of her cousin (a cardiologist), her daughter (a surgical resident), her childhood friend (a pharmacist), and her husband’s cousin (a nurse).

“It was family. Family, family, family,” she said. “I talked with them… they jumped on board, and we did it.”

Heyliger-Thomas left Guyana when she was 18 to attend university in Montreal, knowing that when she left, she wanted to be a physician. After going to UMDNJ Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey, she became a pediatrician and has been doing private practice in Atlanta, Georgia.

In addition to her medical outreach, Heyliger-Thomas has also started a Continuing Medical Education program in Guyana. Since 2009, she and her medical team give lectures at the hospitals that they rotate at, but in the beginning, they felt they were leaving much of the country out and that not enough people were getting chances for expanding their education.

In 2017, as a  collaboration with the University of Guyana, they put out ads in the newspaper to invite nurses, physicians, and allied health professionals to the Continuing Medical Education program. Diversity was important to her in order to get as many people to come to the conference as possible.

The number of people who showed up was something Heyliger-Thomas was not expecting.

“We catered for 100 people and 350 showed up,” she said. “I walked into the room and we were absolutely blown away.”

Sharon Armstead, a respiratory therapist, has been a part of the group since 2015. She is also from Guyana and, with Bridges, was able to return home for the first time since she was a child. She has gone with Bridges back to Guyana in order to help expand the respiratory therapy knowledge in the country.

Armstead said she appreciates Heyliger-Thomas because of the amount of passion she has for her profession and her country.

“She gets people from all over the world and all over the country to come and volunteer their time for free,” she said. “And they come because of Claudette.”

Heyliger-Thomas has several future projects she is working on.

Currently, she is trying to get a grant to help provide support for maternal health and prevent maternal death nationwide. She is also working with the University of Guyana to offer a respiratory therapy program within the school.  

Bridges has worked with the Ministry of Public Health to provide care in the country. During a press conference in January of 2018 at Georgetown Public Hospital, Volda Lawrence, the minister of public health, and Dr. Karen Cummings, the minister within the ministry, explained how important the work that Bridges is doing for the country.

“We do not offer a first-world health service, but I can assure you that we are working towards that,” Lawrence said. “And we will reach our goals.”

Since she is close to retiring from being a physician, Heyliger-Thomas will make Bridges Global Medical Missions her primary focus. She hopes to work toward providing care to many other countries. Originally, her organization was just called Bridges Medical Missions, but after starting her missions and realizing that she wanted to go to places other than Guyana she added Global to expand her mission.

“My focus is not only Guyana,” she said. “My focus is to go to other places in the world.”

Featured image by Nigel Durrant

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.

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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.

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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. 

Eating food Guyanese style

One of the main questions that we have been asked since we arrived back home from Guyana has to do a lot with what it is that we ate. Luckily, we have some photographic evidence of that very thing!

While we were tired of eating chicken and rice towards the end of our trip, we did eat many new things that most of the students had never tried before.

Stewed Chicken with Fruit
Usually with our lunch and dinner we were always served with fruits and vegetables. Pictured here clockwise is stewed chicken, boiled pumpkin, collard greens, baby banana, papaya, and rice with beans.
Pepper Pot
Pepperpot is the national dish of Guyana. It is made of meat that is stewed in a preservative made of cassava, cinnamon, and sugar. This dish is popular for both breakfast and dinner and is typically kept on the stovetop at all times.
Curry Chicken
After a shift at Georgetown Public Hospital, we went to a local restaurant and had a mix of Indo-Guyanese food. Pictured here is curried chicken.
Stewed Chicken with Rice
Our first meal of arriving in Guyana was stewed chicken, rice, long bean, and a dish called cook up–a mix of rice and vegetables.
Burger King
Guyana did have many American chains. One day for lunch, we ordered Burger King. A few of the other restaurants were Dairy Queen, Pizza Hut, Church’s Chicken, and Popeye’s.
Resort Food
Baganara Island Resort served us barbecued chicken, rice with veggies, potato salad, and fresh mango juice.
Chipz
A lot of their snack foods in the grocery stores were very generic names–Chipz and Tortillaz was a good example of this.
OMG Restaurant
OMG! Steakhouse is an Americanized steakhouse that had lots of options like steak, fried chicken, and even a philly cheesesteak sandwich. These places seem to be more appealing to the tourist crowd.

Blisard: I won’t forget the people I met

By Lindsey Blisard

When I left for my study abroad trip to Guyana, I did not know what to expect. I never would have thought that a week after coming home, I would long for returning back to the country at the next opportunity. While this has been my only mission-type trip abroad, it has had a great effect on me.

Meeting Guyanese people and learning about their lives touched me in ways that I have trouble even getting onto paper (…or keyboard). We saw how they lived, the jobs they worked and how resourceful and resilient they can be.

We met high schoolers that want so much for themselves and that were inspired by these college students from Texas. The fact that you have these people that have never met you before, yet are so enthralled by you just being there in front of them gave me warm and fuzzy feelings. Those feelings sank straight into my chest and I hope they stay there forever.

Two people I met have impacted me the most—Sharisee, a student at Mackenzie High School and a little boy whose name I never even learned.

Sharisee, a senior and future journalist, talked to another Texas State student and I about her life and what she does on a day-to-day basis.

When the school day came to an end, she didn’t want to leave our sides, and to be honest, I didn’t really want her to leave either. She talked to us about her plans for the future—college or maybe traveling the world—and I want every dream she has ever dreamed to come true. She will be something one day… I have never been more sure of a first impression of someone.

The little boy I met lived at the Sophia Care Centre in Georgetown. While we were there, we gave out toys, snacks, clothing and books to the kids.

I had a stack of books that I would hand out to every kid and every time I brought out a different set of books he would ask me for one.

While most of the children only barely had any interest in the books, he was set on collecting every single book that we had to give. I eventually began to sneak over to him and hand him every one that I had. The books varied in subject, from U.S. History to women in the Civil War and technology development.

Before we left the center, I went up to him and told him that I hope he reads every book I gave to him. He looked up at me with a missing-toothed-grin and told me that he would. I have the highest of hopes for the boy whose name I will never know.

Featured photo by Alana Zamora/Global News Team

A Look at Guyana

While it may not seem like a spot for tourism, Guyana has lots of natural beauty along with historical sites and landmarks that have a deep meaning to the people that live there.

A group of Texas State students visited Guyana on a study abroad trip and in their downtime were able to visit many of these spots. Guyana is ethnically, racially, and culturally diverse with many groups being represented throughout the country. Watch below for some clips of the places the students saw as they traveled.

For more information on tourism in Guyana please visit http://www.guyana-tourism.com/