NICARAGUA- This most recent mission marked Laurieann Milligan’s third year traveling to the area to teach native first responders and other personnel how to use Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) as part of her role with Sudden Cardiac Arrest Association. This year she traveled through the Betonia Foundation and brought along Lauren Calden, a state certified CNA from Dirigo High School.
“This year, we had a few students from Foster Tech in Farmington and Lauren from Dirigo,” stated Milligan. “I would really like to see our students from Region 9 joining us in the future.”
As soon as the plane landed in Nicaragua, Lauren noted an obvious change in her surroundings. “I just wanted a breath of fresh air, but it was so smoky and thick. It was quite a shock.”
Milligan added, “They burn everything there, so just to get a breath of fresh air is something we definitely took for granted. A lot of their ailments stem from lung problems due to the air quality. Some of their homes are no bigger than a closet with a hole in the roof and a fire in the center of the floor. Sometimes up to five or more family members live in a dwelling such as that.”
Their mission lasted just under two weeks and while there, the group trained locals on AEDs, assisted in surgical procedures, helped feed hungry school children and even had an opportunity to visit and tour Granada, the largest and oldest city.
Milligan explained of their mission, “There is a hospital there that is only opened once a year when we make the trip down. We open it, stock it with medical supplies that we transport as part of our luggage, perform surgeries, provide educational clinics and when we’re done, we clean it up and close it.”
Milligan stated that the two doctors that perform the surgeries go back two weeks after they all return to the states to check on those patients who need follow up care, but the rest of the group won’t go back until next year.
Lauren shared how amazed she was to see the line of people outside the clinics in the morning, waiting to see the doctors or to have the doctors see their children.
“The line outside the hospital and clinics is just crazy,” stated Lauren. “They know we’re coming and they want to get a chance to be looked at and they line up early in the morning and stay for as long as it takes.”
Lauren worked alongside the physicians in the hospital, mostly taking care of patients in post-op. She was witness to one young boy taking longer than normal to come out of anesthesia due to lung issues. He eventually did come through, and Lauren stated that she was now contemplating furthering her education as an anesthesiologist.
Both Lauren and Milligan also spent time at Meg’s Place, a clinic run by an American woman, Meg, who moved down there several years ago after serving on her own mission. She wanted to help the area, so she opened her own clinic and resides there.
Another eye opening moment for Lauren was when she was able to visit the women and children hospital, a 150-bed structure for women to birth their children, but the halls were jammed with almost 300 women waiting to have their babies. More than 30 children are born a day there, and no sooner are they delivered, then the mothers are sent home with them.
“Most of the orthopaedic issues we face during surgery are from clubbed feet or other bone defects that were not detected at the time of birth,” stated Milligan.
Both Milligan and Lauren were able to spend some time in the birthing hospital and noted that it’s quite different from anything here in the U.S.
“They literally have a piece of paper taped to the end of their bed with their name and illness or what have you, written in magic marker,” noted Milligan. “That’s the only record they have of anyone being in the hospital.”
Moving on through their days in Nicaragua, the original mission plan called for a day spent at a village called the dump, but they decided a mobile clinic will be planned for the area next year, as just prior to their arrival there was an outbreak of Dengue Fever, so they weren’t able to provide any relief during their visit for fear of themselves contracting the illness.
In the months prior to planning this trip, Milligan and several members of the mission reached out to local businesses, friends and family for monetary support of the trip.
Milligan explained, “This example of a local contributor goes to show our dedication to Neighbors helping Neighbors. The donors, who wish to remain anonymous, donated $300 to help feed a school for a day. Their hands and hearts were able to stretch out from the River Valley ever so far to touch the lives of children they didn’t even know. Kids go to school all day long without lunch or a snack. You should have seen the looks on their faces when we came in with hot dogs. It was sad, but so uplifting to be able to help. I’m so thankful to those who contributed.”
Milligan will continue to serve this mission in 2014 and is hopeful that more River Valley residents will take part, especially those students who could contribute so much of their knowledge from studies at Region 9.
Lauren plans to take time off from college studies next year and return, as well, noting, “I need to go back there. I know I can do a lot more for them.”
Their last couple days were spent visiting Granada, where they enjoyed ziplining, a tour of the city by horse and carriage, they hiked a volcano and visited coffee fields.
If you would like more information or are considering joining this mission, please contact Laurieann Milligan at Med-Care Ambulance by calling, 364-8748.