Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Volunteers Diversify to Meet Needs in Coveñas

Project HOPE team member Marilyn Ringstaff is a Certified Nurse Midwife. Her role as part of the team is to handle all types of medical issues related to pregnancy and women’s well-being. In Coveñas, she continues the Women’s Health duties she had in Haiti, with a few key changes.

One of the biggest challenges in Haiti was that the Women’s Health department, one of six areas of medicine addressed at the med sites, was lacking all the modern equipment to perform full examinations for pregnant women. Doctors had to use the most accurate methods available to them, sometimes leaving the diagnosis in doubt.

Here, the site still lacks state-of-the-art equipment. However, Colombian patients frequently arrive with intact medical records, even ultrasound results.

“It makes a big difference... A lot of appointments are just consults now,” said Marilyn.

Another obstacle in Haiti was the population’s lack of access to basic birth control measures, notably condoms. This dearth of medical protection permits not only many unprepared-for pregnancies, but also the spread of a host of sexually transmitted diseases.

In contrast, Coveñas citizens have much better access to condoms and birth control. IUDs are available at local clinics for women who wish to postpone pregnancy. For those who want no more children, sterilization is a common practice.

“They call it ‘being disconnected.’ Took me a while to figure out what they were talking about,” Marilyn said with a laugh.

Because of these amenities, the Women’s Health station which functioned in Haiti has been incorporated into the more general Medical station for Colombia. Marilyn still sees many mothers, infants, and mothers-to-be, but her recent charges have included patients from strapping men with headaches to elderly ladies looking for advice on osteoporosis.
“Osteoporosis has no symptoms,” Marilyn counseled one patient. “But many people who have osteoporosis also have arthritis, which is probably what you’re feeling.”

The changes in procedure from country to country often present challenges for the Project HOPE team. But they are challenges that we will continue to overcome.

Story and photos by HOPE volunteer and PAO, Eric Campbell

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