Posted By: Alyson Landry on September 15, 2011

Labels: El Salvador , Volunteers

Earlier this summer, 21 Project HOPE volunteers provided medical care and health education in El Salvador. Read their stories.

Volunteer Janis Zloto, a Certified Nurse Midwife from Albuquerque, New Mexico describes a typical morning of work in El Salvador: “Aboard the coaster (translate small bus) to the med cap (translate medical clinic) site to begin a long hot day’s work surrounded by Salvadorian military with machine guns. About 1,000 people lined up, some having walked many miles leaving their village before dawn hoping to be seen by the Continuing Promise 2011 staff of nurses and doctors,” she says. 

“As a nurse midwife I care for women from menarche through menopause,” Zloto says. “At the medical sites in El Salvador, women present with a myriad of problems from ovarian or breast cysts, uterine fibroids and infertility problems to general health issues such as headaches, stomach pains and hypothyroid. The majority have no potable water, no electricity, or money to access additional health care.”  

On the last day of medical services in El Salvador at Santiago, an elementary school turned into a medical clinic, volunteer Nurse and Nurse Practitioner student Beverly Griffis finally paired up with Zloto in the women’s health room. 

Behind the privacy of white curtains on wheels, Griffis examined a pregnant woman’s belly as she lied on a cot. Zloto showed Griffis how to find the head using her hands, measure her stomach with tape, and listen to the faint heartbeat of the fetus with a fetoscope. 

Since the school was only steps from the beach, women in the area make a living selling coconuts from the trees and fishing. Some women have several kids and only live on 10 dollars a day. Most eat rice and beans, sometimes fish, said Zloto’s translator, who is from the area. 

“There are always questions,” Zloto says. “Such as how do I best serve these women? With a 30% home birth rate attended by traditional birth attendants (TBAs), many untrained, I may have a greater impact training TBAs. Improving their basic skills will impact high maternal and infant mortality rates.”  

As Zloto supervised Griffis’ diagnoses, she also recognized healthy habits of the El Salvadorian women, such as how they keep their babies close and participate in a lot of physical contact with their infants. “In the States, women rarely breast feed out in the open, and they don’t carry their children on their bodies, instead, they carry them in car seats,” she says. “Research shows when you touch your baby often, good hormones are released. For this reason, premature babies are placed directly on their mother’s bare chest. This helps stabilize the baby.” 

“I am humbled by the gratitude our patients show us,” Zloto adds. “They are the best teachers!”  

All 773 patients who stood in line for care that day were seen by the medical professionals.

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