Monday, September 8, 2008

Project HOPE Volunteer Lends an Ear in Nicaragua

Below is another excerpt of notes and stories from the Nicaragua portion of the Continuing Promise mission. These notes and stories are of our volunteers and their encounters with local patients in the coastal town of Puerto Cabezas and were written and compiled by Project HOPE volunteer Lynne S. Enjoy!


Snapshots from the field..."It was important that someone listen to him."

Nearby in Medicina General # 2, Eddie drops his motorcycle helmet on a desk and slides into the cramped school desk in front of Project HOPE volunteer Maria Rivera, who is a family Nurse Practitioner (NP) and a certified nurse mid-wife.

Perspiring, hesitant, his face is lined with weariness. Five years ago, he slowly tells Rivera, he was robbed at gunpoint. Filled with anxiety, he can’t sleep at night. Rivera nods, listening carefully. She knows he can’t afford professional therapy, and it’s not part of the services offered by Continuing Promise this day. She gathers her thoughts, quickly debating what she can offer from the limited medications available at each site.

As she begins to speak, he leans forward, hanging on her every word. “I’ll give you Benedryl to help you sleep, but you need to seek out a family member, trusted friend, or a member of the clergy,” she urges. “Find someone you can talk to.”

Eddy looks down and away. Dozens of people wait outside for their turn, but Rivera is willing to give him the time he needs. “You were assaulted, yes, but you are here, alive and well, and that's a good thing.” He stands slowly, thanks her and leaves.

“For Eddy it was important that someone listen to him,” she later explains.

She speculates that it’s probably the first time Eddie has ever had a chance to talk about his ordeal without being criticized or questioned. The work of Project HOPE volunteers goes far beyond dispensing medicine; often, they may be the only safe place for someone to talk, especially in a culture where machismo is ingrained and feelings are kept hidden.

Not long afterwards, Rivera leads a young pregnant mother behind two white sheets draped over wire. “Can you hear that?” the maternal child health care specialist queries as she manipulates her field Doppler over the woman’s swollen abdomen. The entire room is filled with the echoes of a tiny thump thump, thump thump. The young woman smiles in disbelief. It’s the first time she’s ever heard the heartbeat of her 12-week-old baby.

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