Thursday, January 28, 2010

Following My Heart... I Quit My Job As News Anchor & Booked a 1-Way Ticket to Haiti to Join Medical Team

Yep, it's true. I stepped down from my role as the weekend News Anchor and booked a 1-way ticket to Haiti! Call it crazy, but following your heart is rather liberating! Below are some answers to some recent questions I've been asked.

1) How long have you been a nurse and what's your experience?
At 29-years old, I graduated from St. Scholastica’s post-baccalaureate nursing program last August. I passed the Minnesota boards shortly after and officially became a licensed RN. I have currently been working on Grad school at St. Scholastica in the master’s program for Family Nurse Practitioner. While I am still pretty green in my nursing career, I have had some wonderful experiences at St. Mary’s hospital in Duluth and HCMC’s Emergency Department in Minneapolis that I hope will have prepared me for what is to come. Additionally, I have experience doing medical triage and setting up clinics in third world environments. Just two weeks ago I returned with a group of Students from St. Scholastica from a humanitarian medical mission in the jungles of Belize.

2) Why quit Newscenter? Why not just take a leave of absense and come back after awhile?
This weekend will be my last weekend as a news anchor for the NewsCenter. This has been a hard decision for me. I’ve been with the NewsCenter now for about 4 years. I work with some amazing people and have truly enjoyed my time there. I will equally miss working beside my dear adopted mom Michelle Lee.The big bright studio lights, the cameras, and deep connection to our community have been extremely rewarding and exciting. My leaving is truly bittersweet. So, I still haven’t answered your question as to why quit and not just take a leave of absence. The answer is partially related to how long I will be gone. I’m not sure how long I will be spending in Haiti. I booked a 1-way into the country and am not sure when I will return. After just having been gone to Belize for 2 weeks and now this, I’m discovering that my heart is truly with serving those people most in need. It seems unreasonable and unfair to the NewsCenter and my peers there to just continue popping back in and out every time my next nursing “calling” seems to surface. Stepping down from my role as weekend anchor not only gives others the opportunity to advance, but it also gives me the opportunity to advance my career as a nurse, whether that be just through my time in Haiti or upon returning to Duluth. I have discussed the possibility of doing freelance work with the NewsCenter when I get back and I may be able to provide some interesting first hand reports from the field live through a global phone or following my journey. Afterall, there will always be part journalist that runs through these veins. However, right now I have got to follow my heart into an open-ended journey to where I am needed most… and that is as a nurse administering to those undergoing great suffering. I guess it boils down to knowing that deep within my core, there is a longing to serve people on a more intimate and deep level. As a registered nurse, my audience will be one patient at a time and the news I will be delivering will be directly related to their body and health. My media background will hopefully one day provide for a nice blend of direct patient care as a nurse practitioner and the ability to provide medical correspondence to the community. For, now, it’s a new chapter.

3. Maybe the answer leads into the next question: how long do you plan to stay in Haiti?
I have booked a 1-way ticket into Haiti and will stay there until I am needed or until I have nothing left to give. I do understand that there are certain responsibility constraints here that I must attend to, so I can’t stay forever. I have pets, own a house, and am currently in the middle of Nurse Practitioner School that is all being put on hold. When the time is right, I’ll return.

4) Some of the logistics: Who/what will you volunteer with? Where will you live? Will this be volunteer work?
The logistics… this is the piece making my head spin. I’ve spent the last few night up till 2am getting details put together and organizing the who, how, when, and the where of the mission. The what part is pretty clear J Everything is very fluid and changing daily. At this point, I leave on a 10:15 flight from Duluth on Monday. I will stage and get briefed on everything there. On Thursday, bright in the morning at 6:45 I will be boarding my flight from Miami to Port au Prince. Once in Port au Prince, I will be rendezvousing with a group called Team Rubicon. This is a group of completely unpaid, self-financed volunteers that’s composed of former marines, soldiers, firefighters, medics, RN’s, doctors and PA’s. Their base camp is with Jesuit Relief Services and each day they venture out to the supposed “denied” areas of the Port au Prince, treating, triaging, evacuating patients, and providing direct care to those still waiting for medical attention. (More about Team Rubicon… from their website “What's with the name? Simple. The Rubicon was a small stream that separated Gaul (France) and ancient Rome. On January 11th, Caesar crossed the Rubicon, and it marked the point of no return. This Sunday, January 17th, our 4 man team will cross the Artibonite River, separating the Dominican Republic and Haiti, carrying crucial medicine and supplies to the people of Haiti. Once across, we will be irrevocably committed to our task.”) As I cross the border into Haiti, so will my task be… a devoted commitment to the people of Haiti. I will be with this team for about 4 days before, bringing along my own food, water, shelter, and a supply of medical equipment.

While in Port au Prince, I will also have another mission. One of our northland ties to the country is the Kako Foundation ( ). I have been speaking with some individuals up here who are connected to the Haitian music school, which lost its structure in the earthquake. I am happy to say they have already secured an outdoor school to reopen their education program. None of the children have been seen by a medical professional yet. One of my tasks upon arriving in Port au Prince will be locating the outdoor school and beginning triage with the children there. Hopefully, I will be able to bring good news of health back to their foundation members here in Duluth.

Once done in the capital, I will be traveling north to the city of Cap Haitien. I will join forces with EFCA's TouchGlobal Crisis Response team and Vision of Hope Ministries operating out of the hospital in Milot called Hôpital Sacré Coeur. It has become the major source for refugees fleeing the epicenter. ( ). I’ll be meeting with my cohorts there where we will have access to food, water. My sleeping arrangements are a bit unclear at this point. I will either be living out of a tent or staying in a barrack style-building that is shared with a number of the now post-earthquake orphans. I’ll be living out of 3 pairs of scrubs, a pair of boxers, and 4 clean shirts. I’ll have a water filter, a weeks supply of water, high protein/calorie food, a global phone, a camera, and a plethora of medical supplies. Camera aside, (because there will always be a part of me that’s a journalist at heart) everything that I’m packing has great significance. Every piece of space and weight in my pack is highly valuable… for instance, I snapped my toothbrush in half because the whole thing takes up unneeded weight. Right now, the most important things I can fill my pack with are antibiotics, wound care supplies, and sterile surgical equipment for the hospital in Cap Haitien. I finished my series of vaccines today at the Travel Clinic including Typhoid, a Hep B booster, and prophylactics for Malaria. I’ve already got pretty much everything else from my other foreign travel. Hand sanitizer and use of protective barriers will be crucial once down there to prevent getting sick myself among the rampant disease. That’s the basics of the logistics and there are certainly still more questions than answers. In a news career that has been filled with carefully pieced together stories, detailed press releases and meticulously planned shows, this is one story that is certainly unscripted and yet to be written. There’s no teleprompter to get me through this one!

5) And then there's the why: why do this? And why now? Why Haiti and not another country that needs medical help?
This is the best question of them all. Why? My answer, is why not? I sit at work comfortably at my desk, reading the latest wire updates on the quake, cruise through the video and the stories, and then go sit on the set in the studio and read the headlines on the latest death toll numbers and the incredible medical needs of the people there. In good consciousness, I can no longer sit back and read those headlines knowing I have the skills they so desperately need right now and the ability to make a difference. Sure, it will take some sacrifice… everyone down there is sacrificing something when they leave to serve, but what we leave behind will never be even close to what the good people Haiti have lost, and they didn’t volunteer for it either. In a matter of seconds, their entire lives have been uprooted, shaken to pieces, their family members are gone, their homes, jobs, livelihood, and health have all been destroyed. All I’m giving up is my comfort for a little while. My faith at this point in my life is at an all time high. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve experienced. It’s as though I am taking the pieces of my life, throwing them up into the air, and trusting my God that they will all land exactly where they are supposed to. I know that God can move mountains, I’ve seen him do it in my own life before. But, I also know you have to show up with a shovel, ready to help dig. That’s what I’m doing… suiting up, showing up, teaming up, and looking up. I know that there will be times that I’m hungry, but I trust I’ll be provided with a sense of fullness. I might not have the best sleeping conditions, but I will certainly wake up rested. I may be confronted with fear, but I will be given courage. I may be exposed to doubt, but I will be given relief and assurance that I am exactly where I’m supposed to do, doing exactly what I was made for. I have never been so proud to be a nurse or a follower of Christ.

I also want to make note of the power of spiritual healing that is taking place down there right now. There are miracles taking place at this very minute, miracles that the world has never seen, miracles that I want to be a part of. I truly believe in the enormous power of what God can do. Although many of these people surely must feel forsaken, they are in the midst of seeing the global community lift them back up, fill their hearts with love, provide them with hope, and remind them that they have not been forgotten, they have not been discarded, and in fact there is a God that loves and adores them... and who’s heart breaks for them. That hope only comes from above. It is because of his inspiration that ordinary folks like me here from the Northland will be able to do big things. We will be his hands, we will be his feet that carry us to where we’re supposed to be, we will be his gentle heart to remind these people that they are in fact not alone. I suspect that when it finally starts to rain down there it will finally be God taking a step back and weeping for his children. However, those very tears that he sheds will continue to bring hope and healing to the people because with the rain it will bring access to water to areas still dry and barren.

While I travel down there alone, I travel with a team of supporters here in the Northland. My faith group at the Vineyard Church is providing a ton of prayers and spiritual support. Jeff Sorvik with Anchor Point church has helped with a lot of the coordinating. The folks of Trailfitters graciously donated a lightweight tent that will be able to house myself, medical teams that will follow, and eventually become a temporary house for a family in need. The College of Saint Scholastica is helping to arrange the accumulation of medical supplies and I suspect that will be just the tip of the iceberg of support flowing in from our area. Know that the support will need to continue. It will be years and years before Haiti can rebuild its government, food system, water system, housing, transportation, educational, and medical system. It will only be through the financial and service efforts of the world that they will begin to see prosperity. After the wave of us medical professionals starts to ebb, a new wave will be needed… one of removal. Removing the rubble and clearing the slate for a new and more prosperous Haiti. Then, they’ll need the rebuilders. I suspect there will be many from the Northland that we will eventually see sharing the ideals of Minnesota nice and general human compassion with the good Haitian people, long into the future.

You bring up a good point about why Haiti. Everyone has Haiti on their mind right now, it’s right in our faces. Aside from this being the site for one of the world’s worst global disasters it’s also the poorest third world nation in the Western Hemisphere. Right now, their need is immediate. It’s crucial, life and death treatment that needs to be performed. An entire country needs to be rebuilt. That being said, there are certainly long lists of other countries throughout the world that are in dire need of aid and support. There is part of me that does fear some of these other needy countries will suffer as the attention shifts to Haiti. My hope is that these countries at least have food and water systems available to keep them sustained for the short term. My fear is that their medical support including volunteers and supplies will become greatly diminished in the short term as well. For right now, Haiti is where I’m needed, but trust me, I have long term goals in place for other third world locations, including the country of Belize which holds a very special place in my heart. There’s a growing undertone within me to build a clinic that also serves as a church down there one day. Perhaps that will be another chapter in my life at some point.

If anyone is interested in supporting my efforts down there and the team I will be working with, your donations would be greatly appreciated. What I am able to bring is fairly limited because of weight and size limits. However, your cash donations will go a long way. Many of the still healthy Haitians are being utilized as drivers, interpreters, and navigators. When possible, they are being paid for their services, which will be helpful in starting to reboost the nation’s economy. Donations can be transferred or deposited via credit card to my Paypal account at:, or checks/cash can be sent through the mail to:

Attn: Julie Pearce Haiti Relief Fund
Checks made payable to: Duluth Vineyard
1533 W. Arrowhead Rd., Duluth, MN 55811

I still have room for any large quantities of antibiotics, wound care, or surgical supplies. What I don’t have room for can be shipped to the team that is flying out of Ft. Lauderdale that I will be meeting up with in Cap Haitien. Lastly, if all you have are prayers, we’ll take that too. Keep all of the rescue workers, medical personnel, Haitian people, and various others supporting the relief efforts in your thoughts and prayers.

I am hoping I will have access to providing updates while I’m gone. If that be the case, then those updates will be posted on here on my blog. You can also follow things through facebook. Also, if you are interested in joining in some unity for all the people of Haiti, there will be a benefit concert sponsored by the College of St. Scholastica this Wednesday, February 3rd, 7pm at the Mitchell Auditorium. Check with the college website for some additional workshops being offered.

Thank you for the privilege to serve as your local news anchor for the last few years and thank you for giving me a place called home that I know I will be grateful to return to. For now, that same generosity and loving spirit I have so freely been given will be extended to the people of Haiti.

Blessings, Julie “Jitterbug” Pearce

"...I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." Philippians 4: 11b - 13, NIV.

My friend JP summed my departure up in a sweet James Taylor Song...

There have been some really nice articles put out there regarding my decision, see below:

NBC & CBS, Northland's NewsCenter-Duluth:


West Central Tribune:

CBS- WCCO- Minneapolis:

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Back to America...Big Visions For the Future

Thursday came so quickly and most of us were pretty sad that it meant we all had to pack up and go home. I could have stayed for a much longer time. After a quick breakfast, we loaded up on the bus, made our way to the airport, did some last minute souveneir shopping, and then boarded our planes. I was lucky because I got to take the Miami portion of my flight with the group by flying standby instead of waiting around 4 hours until my flight was scheduled to leave. On my flight, it just so happened that I ended up sitting next to a guy that was part of a construction mission down there. Our group had run into him and his peers while they were out in More Tomorrow. He and his team had been passing out rice to all the families there. I told him I had big plans to build something here in the future and asked if it would be something he and his team would be interested in helping with. He eagerly agreed, and I got his contact information.

Here's the deal... what originally felt like a calling to just build a clinic in the jungle has evolved into a much bigger vision. I feel like I am supposed to find land, and construct what primarily serves as a clinic but also serves as a church! Am I really being called to be a hand in building a church?! Where is this coming from?! I can't deny though that it is very real and something I can't seem to ignore. I can see the blueprints in my head, I can see what it looks like inside, and I can see it actually happening. My vision is this.
The facility will serve primarily as a clinic. It will be open free to the community on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Mondays, it will serve as women’s empowerment program for battered and abused women, or simply women wanting to regain their feminine power as mothers, wives, or potential business women. On Wednesdays, the clinic will serve as an outpatient drug rehabilitation facility. Patients can enroll in a quarterly program that takes them through all 12-steps. Fridays and Saturdays I would spend doing outreach in the villages including home visits and raising funds and finding volunteers to support the facility. On Sundays, all the benches from the front porch and lobby will rearranged to form what will become the Church. The reception desk will become the altar and the lobby tables will hold the communion. As far as a description of the facility, it will be made primarily out of concrete with a tin roof that overhangs above the front and back porch. The back porch will be fenced in for privacy of the staff. It will accommodate anywhere from 5-7 staff members. Those may be permanent staff or housing for individuals serving on a temporary basis. There will be 2 full bunk beds and one half bunk bed, under which there will be a couch that can convert into a queen sized bed. An additional 2 chairs will be available for relaxing. In the residency area, there will be a simple desk with computer access for correspondence. There will be a bathroom with a sink, toilet, and shower. In the kitchen, there will be a refrigerator, a stove, a sink, and a kitchen table. The clinic side of the facility will host an exam room with cabinets for storage as well as a small side table and sink. The office is where I will do any outreach and fundraising efforts. It is also where patient records and such will be kept. There will be a bookcase for resources and there will be an area with a couple chairs in the corner for individual patient counseling regarding diagnoses, concerns, etc. Next to the office will be a laundry room. We can wash sheets, towels, and scrubs. There will be additional storage in this room for medical supplies, church supplies, and group supplies. There will also be an autoclave in the room for any necessary sterilization. Lastly, there will be a simple bathroom with a toilet and a sink for the public.

When I sometimes get frustrated that I didn't just take the shortcut straight to nursing when I began college, I'm starting to see there might be a reason I had to accumulate so many other degrees along the way. Perhaps my Chemical Dependency degree will be needed here for the recovery center, my psychology degree will be needed here for the women's empowerment groups, my liberal arts degree for envisioning and designing it, and finally my nursing degree to run the clinic. Perhaps I'll have to find some other willing soul to come and run the church, but then again, maybe that's something God is calling me to do as well. I certainly have learned not to underestimate him by now!

So, I now I have to return to the states to get patient about my vision. I need to patiently get ontop of learning my spanish so I can become fluent down there. I need to finish my Nurse Practitioner licensure. I need to start gathering support, funding, and more. While all that goes on, I must continue each day to ask myself what am I doing that's taking me one step closer to this dream.
What's funny is that this is not how I planned my life. I planned that I would be come an advanced practice nurse, make lots of money, pay off my student loans and my house, travel around the world, live it up, have a kid or two, and then settle down and live comfortably and raise them. I didn't plan on wanting to live in a bunkbed out of the back of a clinic in the jungle eating God knows what, countries away from the closest McDonalds, barely able to keep the lights on, and serving the poorest of the poor. But, ya know, the coolest thing about the whole calling is that there's little fear accompanying those dreams. I know that when you step into God's army, he takes care of you. Things might not be easy or comfortable, but the internal satisfaction that I would find from knowing I'm doing the right thing and for the right reasons would be all the comfort I would need. So, we'll see how things go over the next few years. Ineviteably, I'll return to Belize a time or so before any construction would begin and in the meantime just listen quietly for the directions of where, how, and when.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wednesday- Last Full Day

Well, I'm still not feeling very good this morning. I got up and had breakfast, but I can't seem to shake this high fever. Everything just aches and my head throbs. Fortunately, I came fully vaccinated against things endemic here plus got my H1N1 vaccine a week before as well. So, I stayed back today where we're staying alone. I'm just sleeping, relaxing, and reflecting on my time here. I could look at this two ways: One, I could get really upset that I'm missing the last day with everyone in the clinic. I could start feeling left out and end the trip on a bad note. Or, two... I could use this last day off to really reflect on what I've learned here, what lessons and insight I want to bring home with me, and what fears and hopes I can leave behind. Afterall, Belize is a place that has my heart, so I know this will not be my last time here. Perhaps I can talk some of the students from this year to return with me.
After the group got back from their long day they filled me in on the details. Everyone went to the newly build San Ignacio hospital and helped to refill their supplies with the bags and bags of donated materials we had brought. The hospital was very grateful.
They also stopped by the Belize Marketing & Development Corporation. This organization helps get families the resources they need to be self sustaining and I believe may help individuals with starting businesses. Anyhow, today they were giving out a ton of rice which the group was able to assist with.
From there, everyone went to visit a cousin of our driver Alberto. Upon arriving at their house, it was evident that the family was struggling.
The children had bunk beds that they slept in, but there was no mattress, only flat steel bottoms. Our team decided that was just unacceptable. Everyone put in 5 dollars to contribute to the purchasing of 2 twin sized mattresses, and 4 sets of sheets so those children could rest well. The mother got teary eyed and said, "no one ever gave me a gift like this before." The children were very happy with their new beds as well.

The last clinic for the day was in Los Flores. The students say it was a good day for patient care. There were also quite a few patients that had to be taken to the hospital as well. Since the kids have returned to school this week, we get the joy of playing ball and running around with them outside on their breaks. It's really a treat for everyone... everyone except for Pete today. He was running to catch the frisbee and fell into a tree... a very sharp and prickly tree...
Suddenly, Pete went from nurse to patient. He was cut and poked from his arms down his side all the way to his legs. Luckily, we had plenty of gauze to fix him up. Now, he's half way dressed as a mummy and ready for next Halloween.

Upon returning back, we had a special dinner and then our cook played music for everyone to dance on the patio to. The highlight was when two kids who couldn't have been more than 8 or 9 got out and started doing Michael Jackson impressions. It was hilarious and they weren't half bad.
On an entirely different note, my heart hurts for the thousands of lives lost and suffering right now in Haiti from Tuesday's earthquake. I've ready conservative estimates at only 30,000 people dead all the way to estimates as high as 500,000. One life lost is too much as far as I'm concerned. It's such a tragedy to aflict a country already burdened with probably the greatest poverty level in the Western Hemisphere. I think about what we're doing here and imagine all those who have been working so hard to do the same in Haiti. All of the homes, shelters, schools, churches all just gone in the snap of a finger. I just pray that those who survived the quake will find the refuge and comfort they need as they begin to rebuild their lives and locate their family and friends. I pray they will find the strength and endurance they need to press forward, avoid illness, and find hope despite their loss.
Part of me wants so badly to just hop on a flight and head straight there to offer assistance (in fact already looked into tickets). If I wasn't sick right now, I probably would just go ahead and do it! The cool thing about being a healthcare worker is that you posess a renewable resource. It's the gift of knowledge that you don't just run out of. You can only feed a person for as long as the food is there, you can only build things as long as there are materials available, but the knowledge that can be applied in health care never runs out. You don't even have to save room in your luggage to pack it along. Truly, becoming a nurse has been the best thing I've ever done.
As I have been laying around here today relaxing and trying to get better, I walked to the resort across the street. I walked into the main lobby to inquire about the place and made a really neat connection. As it turns out, the owners are a couple who have been married for more than 40 years! The wife Lordes used to be a registered nurse. In fact, she worked with the United Nations and was part of the Public Health department here in Belize working to develop the community health outreach program. She helped write the manual for integrating preventative health teaching into the communities. Lordes has worked with our pharmacist Daisy Codd and our diabeties specialist Rose Anderson. It is amazing how you end up meeting just those you should and how there's often a much greater purpose in life than we first see. This woman was very interested our enthusiasm for our mision. You could tell she had a good heart as well. I discussed with her the possiblity of coordinating future outreach groups, utilizing their accomodations and insight. She said she might be willing to get out with us in the clinics as well. I love seeing the relationship with the people here grow and develop. Just yesterday, while bringing a patient to the hospital we connected with a young woman Maya Ken, who's specializing in linguistics. Her dad is the chief of staff at the hospital there, her mom and aunt are also doctors. She was willing to join us in the village today to assist with translating.

When I look at how much these clinics have evolved in just a year, it is amazing. For our second time at doing this, we have gone from ideas of a small blood pressure and blood glucose screening clinic to something much greater! Because of the relationships we have forged with the communities and professionals here, we are able to offer so much more. Now, patients can come and receive pelvic exams, pregnancy testing, on-site HIV testing, heart and lung assesments, ear nose and throat exams, vision screenings, and access to everything from cold medicine to antibiotics. We've even made connections with a local orphanage, the battered women's shelter, and the recovery center for addicts and alcoholics. It's such a beautiful thing that I feel so blessed to be a part of and am so eager to see how it will yet evolve. It is true that one person truly can make a difference! As I watch it all unfold before my eyes, I am humbled and grateful to see the knowledge I've gained through my nursing education at Saint Scholastica, the compassion I've learned through my faith, the enthusiasm that is kindled by my friendships, the serenity I have been blessed through my recovery, and the love I have been given by my family all come together to help me fulfill what I believe is God's purpose for me in life.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Day 9- Tuesday

We only have one more full day left after today and most of us are pretty sad. The time flies by so fast when you're having fun! Instead of having two clinics today, we had one crew of nurses and another crew of construction workers. Half of the team worked on building some structure that would help support a soon to be constructed orphanage. It was really hard work they say... mixing and moving loads of concrete. However, they say they got a lot done. Plus, it's nice to leave behind such a tangible difference.

The rest of us went to the village of Billy White. On our way there we stopped at a private hospital in San Ignacio to get pictures of where Patra had stayed on her visit. It was the strangest thing ever. We were all in there walking around for at least 10 minutes and I never saw but one staff in the very back of the place. It was eerie. There were no lights on in the Emergency Room, and you could walk all around. We peaked in the exam rooms, the delivery room, and even the surgical suite! It was like an old abandoned building! Once in the village, we got to work immediately. I've never been there before, but it's an interesting village. The homes are very spread out and the level of poverty seemed to be up a notch, yet still far from poverty the way we know it in the U.S. We had some interesting cases today. It was also busy. We saw a ton of patients in one day, mostly children from the schools coming to get their physicals.
The most interesting case was a woman who brought her daughter in with the chief complain of having a cold and a runny nose. She didn't seemed concerned that the whole front of the girls face had scalding water burns. It turns out the mother had been boiling water and the little girl pulled the pan down, splashing the boiling water all over her. Once we got her shirt off, we saw a host of 2nd and 3rd burns all down her trunk and on her shoulder. It was the saddest thing and you just have to know it was painful. Fortunately, someone had donated some Silvadine creme that is perfect for healing burns. We also had some non-adhesive Telfa pads we were able to put on the girl. It just broke my heart to see the pain she was in and made me even more sad to realize that the mom didn't appear concerned. This was also a good opportunity for some teaching with the mom on instructing her to turn the handle away from the edge of the stove or fire, and explain to her girls that things up there are hot. This poor girl will be lucky if she doesn't end up with some serious scars.
Another interesting case was a boy who's tooth had rotten its way through the roof of his mouth. If you look at the picture below very carefully, you will see that the flesh has tunneled away to the root of his tooth. I wish we could have done something for this poor boy, but when it comes to things like this, our resources are limited. The hospital wouldn't be able to do much either. He desperately needs a dentist.

We saw some pretty bad skin infestation problems as well. Impetigo, scabies, and fungal infections are the most common.
We thought we were going to have a short day today, but 140 patients later and it was already almost 4 o'clock. On our way back, we stopped off at a house that had a pet spider monkey. It was so cute and it let me hold its hand and scratch its back. Monkies are the coolest animal ever. They are like little furry people!
Once returning back to the hotel, we were greated by a group of construction workers doing a project who had brought in one of the helpers from the village. He had been bitten by some kind of bug that burrows into your skin and starts to eat away at your flesh. It had developed into what looked like a huge cyst on his back. Using all of our sterile hospital supplies, we were able to attempt lancing the wound and draining anything that looked purulent. The man was very strong for what he was able to withstand.

From there to dinner, and a little surprise desert... a brownie and ice cream! Everyone was very excited for our yummy treat! I'm getting to bed early tonight cause my fever was peaking and I'm wiped out. We'll be up for another exciting day tomorrow, and it sadly will be our last full one.

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Day 8- Monday

There's several things that I would like to update everyone on, but by the end of the day I'm usually too wiped. Plus, I've come down with something and have been running a fever and feeling pretty crappy. On Monday, we had one group go to the village of Springfield. It is a community of traditional Amish folk. They are the real deal. This was a first for any medical team going in there. They have allowed government officials to come into the community, but up until now, they have not had a team of healthcare workers come into the village and offer assistance. It's truly groundbreaking for the organization we are with Pro Belize, and an honor for us all. Unfortunately, we don't have any pictures. Apparently, they believe taking a picture takes a piece of your soul, so we didn't want to start a collection.

The other half of us went to the village of Armenia. This is the second time I've been to this village. It was one of my favorite villages and it is also one of the poorest. As you get further from the main roads and easy transportation to jobs becomes more scarce, the level of poverty grows. We treated a ton of patients here and because school was back in session we started teaching in the schools as well.

Halfway through the day, I brought two students with myself and Adrian and we went for a follow-up visit in the village of Santa Marta (otherwise known as St. Margarets). Here, we came to visit the woman I've encountered in several dreams and whom I've had this great need to go and see. Bonificia has been blind for at least 30 years. She's got pretty severe diabetes that even with her medication isn't being properly regulated. That's why she went blind in the first place. I went believing sincerely that we were going to see a miracle. I thought that if we just prayed hard enough that we would see some healing take place and see God do something radical. Myself, the students, and the family all laid hands on the woman and started to pray with her. I wasn't sure really what to say, but I knew God knew what my heart was feeling. Several of us, including Bonificia and her husband started crying. Adrian said many beautiful words, and we kinda wrapped things up. Unfortunately, the woman didn't regain her vision back or anything, but she told us how good she felt and how happy she felt. She thanked us profusely and told us we were always welcomed back. While I went to this woman's home convinced that we were going to see a miracle, it would be ashame to dismiss what God has in store for her. Perhaps the vision being restored is not that of her eyes, but a vision of hope, a vision of love, a vision of connection with something much greater than any of us. Maybe God is working on his time. Maybe we started something moving that will reep results beyond what we will see. I'm not quite sure what happened there, but I do know that there was some healing that took place. It was beautiful and I was so proud of the girls Steph and Justine for taking the leap of faith with me. It was a blessed moment.

Later in the day, we transported a patient to the hospital with a blood glucose level of 454. She got on an insulin drip to get her levels normalized. Meanwhile, this guy comes limping into their ER with blood pooring down his leg. He had sliced his leg open with a machette. These types of wounds are very common down here because people use their machettes as a primary tool to do so many things. This guy, just whacked himself in the process of doing his day's work. It was amazing to see though. He just barely missed the artery that you could see pulsing in sync with his heart. The doc stitched it up, gave him a tetnus shot, and he was good to go. By the way, the only thing he got for pain was a lidocaine injection around the site... no painkillers!

Anyhow, that's how Monday looked. It was a busy one and a productive one. I skipped dinner and settled into bed around 7 because I was feeling so crappy. But, I did wake up Tuesday morning feeling a little better.

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Sunday... Weekend Recap

Hi everyone, when I had left on Friday several of the students were getting "quarantined" for their food poisoning. Our one student nurse is out of the hospital and doing great. As of today, everyone is feeling wonderful and they all went to the ATM adventure through the jungles and had a blast.
We suspect E. Coli was the source of the troubles and everyone was treated accordingly. I guess it worked! While I didn't end up getting food poisoning like some in the group, I did get the perfect remedy for the adventure bug. Well, where do I begin... it's been a busy couple of days for me. I made my way down to Belize City on the chicken bus on Friday.

On my bus ride down to the coast, I met the coolest guy. His name is Abner. This 23 year old kid grew up in Guatamala and was involved in all kinds of gangs and stuff. He came to a point where he decided he wanted to get his life together and make his mom proud so he left the gangs, the drugs, and the crime and moved to Belize. Of all the people I could have ended up sitting next to on the bus, this guy just happens to work for a tv station out of Belmopan! He's their camera man and takes his job so seriously that its amazing. When the floods came through here, he tied a rope around his waist and waded to the middle of the river for a good shot. He says, "if there's a really good shot from the middle of a pile of mud, then I'm going into the mud because I want the best shot possible." This theme of people taking such pride in the work that they do here is very common. People truly value having a job and work their butts off. I had pictures on my camera of our studio at the station in Duluth and was able to show him. He was amazed and said, "Wow, it's so big!" Abner also volunteered for the Red Cross. He said he often found himself conflicted with his roles whether to document a critical situation or to help offer assistance. I can sure relate to that with my dual role as nursing newslady! I'm also just going to plug this band he's created. He's the oldest in a band called Hawksworthe Field. The drummer is only 13 years old and they are a rock band down here to covers old rock like Guns and Roses and such. They call themselves Hawksworthe because that is the name of the bridge that separates the towns where the band members live, the "Field" part is because that's an open grassy area where they all come together to play ball and jam out and be united. I just thought that was a sweet way to name the band. By the time Abner had to get off, he had told me his whole life story and it was pretty intense. I felt honored to have made this new friend.

Once in Belize City, I had to navigate through the taxi scene to find a driver not wanting to screw me with American pricing to get to the charter airport. Finally, I found an honest driver who charged me what the Belizeans pay. Once at the airport, it was so bizzare. Compared to the rigorous screening checkpoints that we have in the U.S., I didn't even have to show an id to get onboard. I just told them my name and they gave me my boarding pass... literally a laminated piece of colored paper! There's no metal detector or screening either. While I was waiting for my flight, I walked over to the deli and found some taxi drivers playing gin rummy. I lit up a clove cigar and joined them in a hand. I also got to try drinking this strange cola that tastes like health cereal. I can't remember the name, but I don't recommend it. The whole moment with these guys was good fun!

Finally, arriving on the island, I was greeted by warm weather. I took a long walk on the beach, passing resorts filling the air with reggae music, dogs chasing one another, and folks just returning from their long days of diving. I got to see a man and his pet raccoon hanging out on the beach and a giant eagle ray cruising along the shoreline. On my walk I met this man named Steve. He had given up his life in Connecticut to move here and open up a pizza joint called Pirate Pizza. His family had told him he was crazy when he decided to do it, but he says he is now ten times happier than he ever was. Nice guy and nice little pizza placed if your ever in town. I explored through the town and got some freshly caught red snapper for dinner (by the way, so many of the restaurants down here are so expensive it's ridiculous. Bring your own food if you ever come to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, but the atmosphere of most dining spots is pretty splendid. One place I walked into had the feeling of an Olive Garden, but the floors were all made out of sand like a beach... strange). Later, I went to check out some music at a local club, got myself some handmade ice cream, and then found an outdoor game of Bingo going on that I randomly decided to join. What a fun day I had experienced so far. That night, I met a cool young guys Miguel and Ali who captained one of Island Sun's ferries. He and I made plans to go take kayaks out on Sunday and go spear fishing. He said we'd be able to catch some sting rays and lobster and such. Too bad a front rolled in on Saturday afternoon and gave the city record lows... we didn't end up going on Sunday. I cracked myself open an ice cold Fanta and sat on the dock beside 2 awesome dogs just chillin' as we watched the sun trade with the moon.Finally, I headed back to my hotel room. On my way, some guys were cat calling me to come over, and I just politely ignored them and went up to my room that overlooked the main road. I had shut the door and then heard footsteps and heard knocking on my door. One of those creepos had followed me up to my room and was trying to get me to come out. I wasn't really scared, just irritated. I kept telling him, "no, leave me alone, I'm going to bed, goodbye!" He eventually left, but I was still ill at ease because I was staying in the grossest hotel room I believe I have ever stayed in. Nice picture, huh? Thank God it was only 2 nights and thank God it was cheap! If you ever stay at Ruby's Hotel there, make sure you get to see your room before you book it... otherwise you might be sorry. Off to bed I went that night to get ready for my big day of diving that lay ahead.

Saturday morning, I woke up wondering what all the noise was outside and wondered what time it was because my alarm had not gone off yet for me to head to the dive shop. I looked at my watch and the time was 5:54am. I was supposed to be at the dive shop at 5:15am! My alarm had been set but never flipped to on. I jumped out of bed, threw stuff in a bag and went running down the beach to the dock. I made it just on time and everything was okay, but talk about an early morning jolt! They fitted me in my gear and we were all off. I've done all my dive training through to Rescue Diver in Lake Superior. I had never seen a fish (except one that was dead) and never swam in warm water. This was going to be a treat for me! I was headed out to conquer the Great Blue Hole. The near perfect circle is about a 1/4 mile wide and more than 400 feet deep. It's shaped kind of like an urn as you can see here.

It took us about 2.5 hours to get to the site. I slept the whole way there, so did most everybody else. Finally, with the help of some coffee, we geared up took the plunge and rapidly descended to down into the abyss. After a sandy bottom, you go deeper to the cave like area of massive limestone stalactites and stalagmites. Apparently, they are some of the largest stalagtites in the world. We also get to see at least 11 sharks. We saw Bull Sharks, Reef Sharks, Black Tip Sharks, and in a later dive a nurse shark. These sharks were huge... at least about 7 feet long! Once I got to around 140 feet deep, I started getting "narc-ed out" a bit. Nitrogen narcosis happens at extreme depths and you lose your judgement a bit and get feeling similar to the gas at the doctor's office. I remember thinking, "oh, pretty shark" and swimming towards it, while the part of my mind not narc-ed out was saying, "bad idea, leave the shark alone, bad idea." One girl didn't even remember the divemaster playfully coming over and grabbing her around the neck. It's things like that that make diving with a buddy so important. Anyhow, the dive was phenomenal and breathtaking. I'd recommed it to anyone.

The second dive of the day was at another pristine reef known as the "Half Moon Caye Wall". There are huge verticle walls and beautiful colors and wildlife. Here, I got to see a massive eagle ray below me about the size of a small car. It's amazing how beautiful things can be underwater. God was definitely feeling creative the day he made the oceans. I think he was playing with his paintbox as well. It was this dive that I ended up getting burned all up my arm from fire coral. That stuff hurts! All the sudden your skin will start burning and feel like its on fire. At 60 feet deep, there's not much you can do except try and distract your mind. My arm is all red and welted now, but at least I didn't have a worse reaction as some do. We didn't have any vinegar onboard, so one guy was going to pee on it! Gross! But, I wanted to try and wait to see if the pain faded before that and it did.

Following that dive, we visited the island of Half Moon Caye for a big chicken lunch. A bunch of us hiked over through a jungled area to the Red Footed White Faced Boobie Bird sanctuary established by the Audubon Society. We could see hundreds of these crazy looking birds who look like they're carrying around red balloons.

Finally, we did another wall dive called the Aquarium. The water for all these dives must have been at about 50 feet of visibility. This dive is located off the coast of Long Caye. It was here where we got to see our last shark... very appropriately named, a nurse shark! I was most excited about this guy than anything. Upon resurfacing, we saw that there was a storm coming in. The water had already started to get rough making getting into the boat a bit of a challenge.

As we started our charter back to Ambergris Caye to call it a day, the front came in even worse. While it was nice getting to see dolphins flip and twist their way out of the water because they like to ride the waves, it was very unsettling for many people's stomachs. We were in the middle of this front in completely open water where you can't see land anywere around you. The waves were cresting at about 10 feet and the boat was just getting tossed. Two guys had to start puking over the side of the boat, everything had to be secured down after a dive tank went flying, and several of us were on the floor of the boat holding on to each other as not to go flying. It was fun at first... kinda like a big ride at the fair, but after 4.5 hours of it, I was miserable. We were all soaked and cold and our stomach's were churning. Other than the ride back, it was a great day of diving and it was also nice meeting new friends.

We finally made it back, and I was able to take a hot shower and warm myself up. I got bundled up and went off to find a hot cappacino and internet access. Once my core felt like it wasn't going to freeze anymore, I found a hot meal as well. I met up with some of my dive buddies later that night. We spun around town in the golf cart they had rented and looked for a place to go do some dancing, but no one was out yet and I was too exhausted from my adventure day to really care. That's when I headed back and hit the sack.Sunday morning, I was able to sleep in! That alone felt so good. I went over to an oldskool Roman Catholic Church for mass. It was interesting hearing some people speaking in spanish for it and others in English. The reading stunned me... it was all about giving sight to the blind (an calling regarding the blind woman I talked about earlier). This was very reaffirming. After mass, I ventured out to find some breakfast and settled at a place where all the locals go. It's tough sometimes in a foreign country because you have all of these local options for food to choose from, but then something American based that offers comfort and familiarity. However, we get to eat American food everyday, so challenging yourself to at least try something new is important. It's also scary worrying about getting sick from something you eat that wasn't fully cooked, etc.

My day ended with swinging back by the dive shop to check out the pictures from the previous day's adventure and heading to the airstrip for my return back to San Ignacio. I got on the plane and found out that... get this... I got to sit in the co-pilot's seat! After we got in the air, we had to land at a few other airports to pick others up. On our final route into Belize City, I tapped on the pilot's shoulder, looked at him with a grin, and pointed to the "steering wheel". I asked him if I could put my hands on it and he said, "I don't care, here you can do all the flying yourself!" Suddenly, I found myself in control of the airplane and flying it on my own... the best part... there were passengers! Can you imagine that ever happening on Delta?! It was the highlight of my day. Three of the guys from the day before's dive were also aboard, including my golden shower guy, I think they got a kick out of it too. Back in Belize City, we all took a taxi back to the terminal, hopped on the chicken bus, and I returned to our resort. It has been a wonderful and memorable weekend!

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