Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Third Continent for Fourth-Time HOPE Volunteer

It all started at a kitchen table in Seattle, almost as far from the Katrina disaster as one can get in the United States. Gabrielle Seibel and her husband, Mike, were, like so many Americans, frustrated at the lack of help being provided to the flooding victims. “And then it came to us," Gabrielle says, “We can do something.” The couple rounded up their three children and had a talk how their family could make a contribution. “We concluded that my nursing skills would be most directly beneficial to the Katrina situation,” says Gabrielle, who recently completed her fourth Project HOPE mission in Indonesia.

Gabrielle’s qualifications make her extremely well suited as a HOPE volunteer. She’s a nurse practitioner with two decades of experience, most of it working with children of immigrants, the underserved and minorities. But she also has a masters in public health that has given her the skills to support Project HOPE's commitment to education and infrastructure development. “What I love about Project HOPE is that they don’t just go into an area for a short term assignment and then leave. They are all about sustainable relationships and partnerships that result in better local health care. Everything was gone after Katrina,” says Gabrielle. “We had to pull a medical site together from scratch, while also seeing patients, all of whom where suffering from traumatic stress."

In Indonesia, Gabrielle assessed and treated hundreds of children in a variety of locations and conditions. In Ambon, at a site that was almost shut down because the crowds were on the verge of getting out of control, she saw a two-year-old boy whose arm and hand had been severely burned several days earlier. With no treatment, the child was in pain, the wound was infected, and his hand was contracting. Not content to just treat the pain and infection, Gabrielle took photos of the injury and discussed the case with both a plastic surgeon and a dermatologist. Arrangements were made to bring the child onto the ship, where state-of the-art burn care was provided. “The boy should regain full use of his hand," says Gabrielle. “There’s a lot of satisfaction when we can do something concrete like that.”

Gabrielle also had an opportunity to mentor two HOPE volunteers on this mission, both RNs who are just completing their final requirements to become nurse practitioners. During a MEDCAP, Gabrielle was able to demonstrate for them the many ways in which pediatric assessment differs from adult assessment. “You can hurt the child if you don’t hold the otiscope a certain way,” says Gabrielle. Dawn Horowitz, one of the NP students, took the initiative to write notes on every pediatric patient they saw together that day. Later, Gabrielle and Dawn reviewed the list and talked about standards of care that are feasible “in the field” as opposed to standards of care in optimal conditions.

“I also learn on these missions,” says this HOPE veteran. “In Ghana, they have a beautiful system for baby clinics. They bring in all the prenatal patients on one day, as a group; then all the well-babies and their mothers on another day.” She explains further that each clinic begins with a prayer, then songs, then dancing. Once everyone is relaxed and feeling good, the clinical care commences. On well-baby days, the mothers walk their infants through a series of stations, where they are weighed, measured and otherwise evaluated. “They don’t have the same concept of privacy that we do,” says Gabrielle. “But they also don’t have post-partum depression.” The mothers of her small patients in Seattle are often isolated, and she feels they could benefit by some Ghanian wisdom about scheduling and program design.

Gabrielle has now treated patients on Project HOPE missions in the United States, Liberia and Ghana in Africa and throughout Indonesia. “The medical care we provide can change lives,” says Gabrielle, certainly thinking of her recent burn patient. “But truly, the medical clinics just scratch the surface. The education and infrastructure piece is huge for us to meet the goal of local sustainability.”

Note to my non-medically trained readers, which may be most of you! Inside the world of health care, we love code words like infrastructure and sustainability. For the rest of us, those words boil down to something we can all understand: people, equipment and buildings that provide health care over the long run.

Thanks for your interest in Project HOPE -- Kathryn Allen, HOPE Public Affairs Officer

1 comment:

  1. awww, finally, another entry! i miss your blogs!
    and i can't find you on facebook. can you search for me?
    - ellen =)