Friday, March 26, 2010

Volunteers Experience Controlled Chaos

Tema, Ghana -As well seasoned triage nurses in large, high volume hospitals in Washington State and California, Project HOPE volunteers, Elise and Marley walked in to the Out Patient Department today feeling confident and prepared to start their day working side by side with their host nation counterparts. It was stifling hot. The background noise was near deafening and certainly distracting. A mass of humanity awaited care.

It was agreed that Elise would work with and mentor Beatrice in the Pediatric Department. Marley would work in the adult section with Mary, another experienced senior nurse. Patients and families were in queues at registration, medical records, the vital sign stations, the interview areas and in every available chair and bench in the consultation area. Patients arrive by walk-in, private vehicle and ambulance. Many have been referred from other facilities and clinics. Our nursing hosts are masters of organization, multitasking and directing. There is a constant bombardment of questions, interruptions, and distractions of every conceivable nature.

Elise had barely been oriented when an infant she was assessing began to seize. The child’s skin was burning. In fact, the axillary temperature was 39.7 Centigrade, a significant fever. Elise instructed the mother and nurse while demonstrating the proper technique to protect and maintain the baby’s airway. She then calmly escorted the group to the acute care area for immediate evaluation and treatment. By 1400(2pm), 93 children had been triaged by Elise and Beatrice.

Our day concluded with an elderly patient being rolled in on a trolley by her sons and daughter. “Our mother is in a coma” they stated simply. Marley immediately got up to assess the patient. The patient was unresponsive. The patient’s skin was cold. The patient was not breathing. While the patient was being moved to the acute care area for a glucose check, Marley gently suggested that perhaps the physician should be summoned while she repositioned the airway and tried to find the pulse. Although our patient most likely had died prior to arrival, her treatment might have been much more aggressive in the United States.

One of Project HOPE’s goals on this mission is to help our fellow healthcare providers optimize their limited resources and to provide mentoring and support to improve care and outcomes in these very challenging conditions.

Thanks for reading-Marley Gevanthor and Elise Chamberlain

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