Saturday, June 27, 2009

Health Education in El Salvador Proves Timely

I spent most of the day today with Project HOPE volunteer nurse educators Meg Candage and Tina Weitkamp. Together with two U.S. Navy nurses, they took over a classroom at the military secondary school located on the Naval Base in La Union, El Salvador.

There, they met 20 doctors and nurses from local hospitals and clinics in the La Union area (some from nearly 2 hours away) to train on ACLS (Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support) and CPR. Working through translators (I even got to jump in to translate at one station!), they set up four different stations—defibrillation, CPR technique and airway opening, types of arrhythmia, and tachycardia—and began training.

The Salvadorian medical personnel were quick to catch on—and equally quick to point out where U.S. procedures and regulations differed from those in their hospitals.

By the end of the day, these nurses who were just now getting portable defibrillation devices in their hospitals, were able to demonstrate exactly how to diagnose and use the portable defibrillator on a cardiac patient safely and quickly.

I was also able to sneak in a tour of a Navy project site with Capt. Jim Hudson, the man in charge of all ashore transportation. He showed me around the project site of the Navy Construction Battalion (CB—or SeaBee’s). They’re partnering with the El Salvadorian SeaBees to completely redo a local playground—right now it’s a prime hang-out of some distinctly non-family people once the sun goes down. New roofing on the toilets and main picnic area, new basketball hoops and backboards, and some 660 feet of new fence, topped by concertina wire to keep the place safe for kids after sundown are all in the plan. It’s an amazing project, and just one of the ways that NGO’s, the U.S. Military, and foreign militaries are all working together towards a common goal.

The training and that side-stop took most of the day—but we were able to get back to the ship while there was still daylight. It was the first time I’d really seen El Salvador in the sun, and it is an amazingly beautiful country. The jungle, mountains, and ocean all come together in exactly the same spot. All in all, a great day.


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