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Hayes’ helping hand

By Monica Grice

Overwhelmed. This is how Maria Hayes felt walking through the rain forest of Nicaragua.

It’s day three of the Texas State University nursing student’s trip, and they set out to complete census’ of a rural community located in the rain forest.

“Many of us went into this experience being very timid and unsure of what we have learned up to this point,” said nursing student Logan Smith. “However, once we got accustomed to conducting assessments and communicating with patients, the uncertainty melted away and confidence was built.”

Confidence is something Hayes exuberated without fault while abroad. Her adaptation to the Nicaraguan culture communicated her will to help people, and her love of nursing.

Next Stop Nicaragua

The Denison, Texas, native fell in love with healthcare when she was a student in high school.

Hayes spent 12 hours a day for a week shadowing doctors and nurses at her local hospital and experienced everything from surgeries to deliveries, which made her want to be a nurse midwife.

“The first delivery I saw, I cried; it was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen,” said Hayes. “That’s the moment I knew I wanted to be a nurse.”

Hayes on day two in Nicaragua. Photo by Monica Grice.

Hayes went to Nicaragua with her nursing school colleagues in January hoping to see what it was like to practice global health as a travel nurse, and to brush up on her Spanish.

Hayes originally enrolled at Texas State University in San Marcos as an engineering major.

“I wasn’t really connected to that; I knew I would get a job and went with it for that reason,” said Hayes.

After talking with her father, she ended her engineering major and pursued a nursing career.

Clinic Days

While in Nicaragua, the College of Health Professions students split into three groups and spent four days in three communities.

On the first day in the community, the teams were guided through the villages to interview community members and take a health census. The census would give them a better understanding of what illnesses were in the community, and how to prepare for them when clinic days arrived.

Hayes saw patients at a clinic located deep in the rainforest of Ticuantepe, Nicaragua.

“She just jumped right into whatever challenge was set before her,” said fellow nursing student Jessica Yehl. “She communicated well, assessed her patients with all the skill of an actual nurse, and was so prepared to help the team in whatever way she could.”

Hayes during day two of clinics. Photo by Monica Grice.

Hayes remembered meeting a young woman in her 20’s on the day they collected census. The woman was emotional because she had a lump in her breast that she believed to be cancerous. Since the team didn’t have any medical supplies on them that day, Hayes urged the woman to come to the clinic. She came on the first day, but became nervous and left, leaving Hayes worried for her health.

Day five was frustrating for Hayes. The woman still hadn’t shown, and another patient’s blood pressure was dangerously high. Hayes and other healthcare students urged the woman to go to the hospital, but never found out if she did. It left Hayes feeling like she wanted to do more, but she couldn’t.

“I think her ability to be realistic sets her apart,” said Yehl. “A lot of nurses can be tempted to sugar coat hard situations, but she just gives it straight.”

On the third, and last day of clinics, Hayes felt rewarded.

“I feel really proud of the team and how much work we accomplished,” said Hayes.

The Woman From The Rainforest

After the last day of clinics, the Texas State group returned to one of the clinics for a day of giving back. Games, balloons, and a piñata were brought for the children and triage stations were set up outside of the church for any remaining community members who hadn’t been assessed.

Hayes’ clinic was chosen.

The woman from the rainforest was there. Hayes helped assess her and found out the lump was mastitis.

“I’ve been worried all week,” said Hayes.

Mastitis is an inflammation of the breast most common during the first six months of breastfeeding. Although painful, it’s not serious and can be remedied easily.

The emotion Hayes expressed was pure joy. She got the reassurance she had been waiting days for. Her worries were alleviated.

“That was really good, it was so relieving,” said Hayes. “I told her ‘I was ready to climb back up the mountain and find you,’ she thought that was really funny.”

She made a warm compress for the woman and explained how to continue treating the inflammation.

Hayes recalls this day as being the best part of the trip.

Returning Home

“I feel like I don’t need to be home,” said Hayes.

After the clinics, the team had a few recreational days and went to the nursing home in Masaya.

The nursing home was a unique experience for Hayes. As a career, she loves working with children. She seemed a bit hesitant, the whole team did. However, she molded quickly to the environment and left happy.

“She was able to adapt to the different culture and conditions of Nicaragua and perform confident and competent assessments on patients,” said Smith.

The day before the team’s departure, Hayes didn’t want to leave.

“It’s a bitter feeling to leave,” she said. “I wish we could have a few extra days.”

The soon-to-be midwife gained a deeper knowledge of the people and the country during the trip. Fellow nursing students, Smith and Yehl, admired how Hayes was able to jump into any situation and tackle it.

In the 11 days the Texas State team was in Nicaragua, Hayes explored what it’s like to be a travel nurse and practice global health: she thinks she can do it.

“I definitely loved it and I definitely think I could see myself doing it long term,” she said.

Hayes with a village girl. Photo by Monica Grice.

International Service Learning: Connecting communities through service

By: Monica Grice

In a small church 20 minutes outside of Masaya, Nicaragua, Lucia Rodriguez distributes medicine to members of a rural community deep in the rainforest, her face friendly and smiling at every person.

Lucia Rodriguez, 16, is a translator for International Service Learning and recently worked with the Texas State University health professions team in Nicaragua.

This is Rodriguez’s second year working with International Service Learning and her role in January 2017 is an assistant team leader.

The nonprofit organization has been leading volunteer teams in Central and South America, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Africa since 1994. ISL assists more than 215,000 people every year and donates $180,000 in medical supplies.

“I saw how they work and how they help people, and that was a goal for me,” said Rodriguez. “You learn about culture; you learn about everything.”

ISL’s workforce is diverse. Ages, jobs, backgrounds and cultures provide a variety of differences in ISL’s team members which helps to provide perspectives and knowledge for the volunteers they lead.

Though Rodriguez is just 16 years old, she already knows what she wants in life and that working with ISL will help her achieve her goals.

Rodriguez, a senior in high school, was born in Jinotega, Nicaragua, and moved to the capitol of Managua eight years ago with her mother, two younger siblings and two aunts.

For people in her hometown of Jinotega, Rodriguez said most of their careers center around helping people. She is no exception.

“Most people want to work in medicine, agriculture, or with animals,” said Rodriguez. “But I want to do something interesting, not like a typical career.”

She got her start in ISL through her uncle, Pavel Guevara, the country coordinator for ISL in Nicaragua.

In the beginning, it was hard for Rodriguez because she was not fluent in English. Motivated by her goal to do something special for her country, Rodriguez learned enough English in two years to become a translator and assistant team leader for ISL.

“I just keep practicing and practicing; I’m determined,” she said.

ISL is the only non-governmental organization allowed by the government of Nicaragua to manage experiences for healthcare students from the U.S. ISL provides faculty and students with comprehensive logistical services from deciding the clinics they’ll serve to the restaurants they eat dinner at.

ISL chooses different communities for the Texas State students to serve each year.

“We don’t want to go just one direction – we want to bless everybody, not just one place,” said Harold Mojica, an ISL team leader.

The ISL team leaders deliver medical censuses taken in the communities to the health administration in Nicaragua and take inventory on medicine needed.

Harold Mojica is a team leader for International Service Learning and recently worked with the Texas State University health professions team in Nicaragua.

A father of two girls aged 18 months and 10 years old, Mojica is a licensed tour guide that has worked with ISL for four years, and with other organizations for almost 12.

“You are not only helping in the clinics for a day or two, but you’re leaving a foundation for future actions in the community,” said Mojica.

He was born and raised in Casares, Nicaragua, a fishing community. He still lives there with his wife of 15 years, who is also a licensed tour guide and two daughters.

“I have had the opportunity to work with different institutions and different people and I always got committed to do my best and put my community first,” said Mojica. “So I love when I have the chance to bring a team to my community.”

Casares didn’t have a high school for Mojica to continue his education and his lifelong dream of becoming a doctor was a long shot away.

“As a consequence I couldn’t carry out my studies, and didn’t go back to school for eight years after elementary,” said Mojica.

At 12 years old he became a fisherman. After earning enough money for a round-trip ticket to the nearest school, Mojica attended Saturday school for five years to finish high school. Then in five more years, he finished his university studies.

When he was 20, he started working for a hotel that gave him the opportunity to be a translator for guests. This is where he gained the experience that would help him work with ISL.

Five years ago, the president of ISL came to Mojica’s hometown looking for properties to buy. After having a conversation, he offered Mojica a job with the organization.

“I love serving and I love helping other people, and I loved the idea,” said Mojica.

Three months later he took a job as a translator. Mojica would later be promoted to assistant team leader and eventually team leader.

Though his dream to become a doctor wasn’t realized, Mojica is still involved with medicine. He has worked with a team of surgeons from Sacramento, California sometimes being right in the operating room.

“I’m right there between the surgeon and the scrub nurse, doing ACL’s, or open heart surgeries,” said Mojica.

He recalls one moment working with an eye doctor that had a few elderly patients who couldn’t see enough to mend their clothes or even pick the rocks out of their beans before cooking. A simple pair of reading glasses would change everything for these patients and some of them would cry of happiness.

“The most rewarding moment for me is when I work with doctors,” said Mojica. “They will hit the nail on the head with a diagnosis, and you can see how happy people are.”

Desiree Davis, a senior nursing student from Texas State, worked closely with Mojica during the university’s recent inter-professional study abroad trip in Nicaragua.

“He was so much fun to be around and the joy he had never went unnoticed and he always had a joke to tell and for a lot of us that really was appreciated especially on days that were so tiring,” said Desiree Davis.

She said one day she became sick at the clinic and Mojica immediately noticed a change in her character. It was this day that Davis and Mojica spent time talking about both of their cultures and backgrounds. She realized the two were very similar.

“It was also that day that I realized I had just gained a friend,” said Davis.

For more information about ISL and volunteer opportunities, visit their website.


Nursing Home: My Experience

Andrew Pagel and Rebecca Duffy (nursing students) clean a wound on a resident. Photo taken by Monica Grice.

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By: Monica Grice

Before I even began packing for our Jan. 2 departure, I knew going to the Nicaraguan nursing home would be the toughest thing I would deal with on our study abroad trip.

Nursing homes in the U.S. are one thing, but I almost couldn’t stomach the one in Masaya.

To paint a picture, the residence is lovely. It’s a part of a catholic church and is run by the nuns. It has a beautiful outside courtyard with a church in the middle and all the rooms surround it.

But the reason I was disturbed is because most of the elders have either been abandoned, are homeless, or their families can’t take care of them. One nurse attends 43 residents, and all of them have some type of medical need. Many of the other staff are volunteers.

Since I decided to make one of my multimedia projects about the nursing home, I dove straight into documenting as soon as we got there. I didn’t have a clue where to start; I don’t think any of us did.

Some healthcare students were brushing the resident’s teeth, some were mopping, and even the mass communication students were doing kitchen work. As I started gathering myself and my work I had captured, I began to realize the state most of the elderly are in.

Mostly all of them have some type of bed sores, some don’t have the strength to feed themselves, and some just sit in a stupor. Most people think an abandoned child couldn’t possibly get any more tragic. To me, children are the epitome of hope. They have their whole future ahead of them, but these elderly residents don’t.

Some devoted their entire lives to providing for their family only to have to spend their last days with people they barely know. Once I got all I needed for my project, I had to take a break. I had no appetite, just a sort of numbness in my stomach.

When I came back from lunch, I saw that a DJ had set up music and the seniors were dancing with the healthcare students. This scene made my entire trip. In their minds, they’re happy. As an outsider looking in, I thought, “They don’t have a lot of medical supplies, everything from food to bedding is dependent on donations, and they seem tired and alone.”

They don’t see it that way. They find happiness in what they have and don’t linger on the thoughts of what they don’t have. Seeing them laughing and dancing energized the numbness I felt earlier, and left me with a smile on my face the rest of the trip.

Logan Smith (nursing student) dances with a resident after healthcare assessments and services. Photo taken by Monica Grice.