HOPE works in more than 35 countries worldwide. Please enjoy our blog as we document the successes and challenges of our work to provide Health Opportunities for People Everywhere.
HOPE volunteer experiences cultural differences and similarities at Vietnam hospital
HOPE volunteer Christine Booth changed careers after 25 years to become a registered nurse. She currently works on a medical surgical floor in a hospital outside of Rochester, NY. She recently served on a Pacific Partnership land-based mission trip in Vietnam. She and 10 other HOPE volunteers implemented side-by-side training to local health care professionals and provided patient care.
Nursing is a second career for me. Previously I was employed in the property management industry for 25 years becoming a Vice President/Asset Manager overseeing a portfolio of 10,000 apartment units in several states. But I had become disillusioned with the corporate world and saw numerous openings in the local newspaper for nurses. I started working as a patient care technician to see if nursing would be a good fit. Within six months my father was hospitalized with a stroke that left him paralyzed on the right side. My mother and I cared for him for three years until he finally succumbed. While sitting at his bedside one day, I made the decision to return to school and begin the process of becoming a nurse.
I graduated four years ago and decided to go on this mission in an effort to help those less fortunate than myself. Although I have been on three medical missions in the past, this is my first medical mission with Project HOPE.
While in Vietnam, I worked alongside the Navy nurses on the burn/wound ward of DaNang General Hospital. The hospital ward was divided into groupings of six patients to a room with a small bathroom to share. The windows opened up into a hallway where the patients’ clothes were hung to dry. The two patients I cared for lay on metal beds covered with a straw mat. Next to them were the provisions for their stay: water, snacks and meals provided by their family. The Vietnamese families are extremely involved with patient care and play an active role in their recovery.
I was surprised to find that two of my patients were suffering from injuries as a result of the Vietnam War.
My first patient was a young man who was employed as a soldier. One month earlier he had stepped on a landmine and was severely injured by the explosion that severed his left arm, which was now amputated below the elbow. He was also blinded by the blast and had several wounds on his right arm and hand. His brother stood by his side and cared for him.
The second patient was an older man who had been returning to the hospital for the past 40-plus years for ongoing treatment for a non-healing wound on his left shin from the Vietnam War. He had a prosthetic on his left leg and a glass eye on the right. His son was there to help with his care. While changing the dressing on his wound, his family handed me a tube of Aspercreme (a topical pain reliever) to apply on his leg. The cost of this over-the-counter ointment was 700,000 Dong – the equivalent of $30 U.S. dollars. According to www.wageindicator.org, the average monthly salary of a Vietnamese worker last year was $145. I didn’t have the heart to tell them the medicine would not heal the wound but only reduce pain and discomfort to the area. I applied MEDIHONEY (a medical-grade honey-based product for the management of wounds and burns) and covered the wound hoping this one application would stimulate wound healing.
I would definitely go on another mission trip with Project HOPE in the future. As I do on all my trips abroad, I saw firsthand that people are people. Regardless of our cultures – mothers, fathers and children all experience the same challenges, joys and sorrows.
Neonatal Nurse Provides Expertise and Learns Much Along the Way
Kylee Nelson is a Project HOPE volunteer who served at the University Clinical Center for Pediatrics in Skopje, Macedonia, where she provided training to nurses through continuing education and side-by-side modeling. Originally from Omaha, Nebraska, Kylee graduated with a degree in Biology from Clemson University and then completed an accelerated nursing program at Emory University in Atlanta. She is now a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) nurse.
I always knew that I wanted to go abroad somewhere and help out, however I had no idea what that entailed. Last summer (2016), I started feeling the need to get out of my own bubble and my own comfort zone and see the world in a different way, by helping those who truly need it. I also knew that by helping others, they would be helping me. I wanted to learn from others and see how people around the world operate different than I'm used to operating. That is when I started researching places online and found this amazing opportunity with Project HOPE. Although this is my first Project HOPE mission, I hope it is not my last!
I am the first volunteer from the U.S. to come help in the NICU here in Skopje. It was evident from the start that there is a big need for more education for the nurses. I have been able to do some research and put together a few PowerPoints to share with the nurses. It is always so rewarding when what I teach them actually clicks, and I see them making changes in their day-to-day care of the babies.
I have given the nurses the educational tools and resources to find answers to questions that they might have. I have also tried to express that while things can go wrong in the NICU, it is still a team effort and if they are starting to become overwhelmed, they should just ask for help – there is nothing wrong with admitting that you need a little help now and again.
When it comes to what they have taught me though, I have definitely received so much more than I ever could have imagined! What they have given me has been so valuable. They have showed me what teamwork, hard work and dedication is truly like. Unfortunately, they don't have the greatest working environment in terms of space and equipment (that will be changing with the opening of the new NICU), but they make the most of it and put their hearts and souls into their work every single day. They have taught me patience and the value of not taking little things for granted. I will be forever grateful for the time that they have given me and everything that I have learned from them along the way.
While in China to promote health care worker training, Project HOPE CEO Dr. Thomas Kenyon had the opportunity to visit Lujiazui Community Health Center – a pilot community health center (CHC) for HOPE’s pediatric asthma program in Shanghai.
Shanghai’s prevalence of asthma is the highest in China at 7.57 percent. Previously, young patients had to travel to crowded tertiary hospitals like the Shanghai Children’s Medical Center (SCMC) for treatment because most CHCs did not have pediatric clinics. This made it difficult for patients to complete follow-up appointments and resulted in low controlled rates of asthma.
In 2015, Project HOPE initiated the China Pediatric Asthma Prevention and Management Program with funding from AstraZeneca and support from the Shanghai Children’s Medical Center and 14 community health centers in the Pudong District of Shanghai. The program helps CHCs strengthen their own pediatric asthma clinics to benefit local children in many ways including decreasing wait time, reducing medical costs and helping to control asthma symptoms in these young patients.
To support the program, Project HOPE worked with SCMC to train 35 doctors and nurses from 14 CHCs in the Pudong District of Shanghai, qualifying them to open their own pediatric asthma clinics. HOPE also donated a portable lung function machine and three nebulizers to each CHC for their pulmonary function test rooms and nebulization rooms. Pediatric asthma medication was provided to the CHCs with support from the Pudong Committee of Health and Family Planning.
The results have been inspiring. All the CHCs have now opened their own pediatric asthma clinics and data shows that patients are achieving the same asthma control level with less money spent in CHCs compared with those who had their follow-ups at SCMC.
During Dr. Kenyon’s visit to the pilot center, he discussed the program with Dr. Liu Lingjun, the asthma clinic’s doctor. Dr. Liu indicated that most of her patients were very satisfied with the convenience of their local asthma clinic and shared a poignant example. “One of my patients could not complete the 12-month follow-up protocol because it was too difficult for her to travel to SCMC to see a doctor,” Dr. Liu said. “The patient spent an entire day traveling to SCMC, waiting for the appointment, attending the appointment itself and then returning home. This patient is now able to go to the nearby Lujiazui CHC to get prescriptions and receive lung function tests and nebulization, making the treatments far less time consuming and practical.”
In addition to convenience, medical costs have been reduced because national medical insurance has better coverage in CHCs. Doctor-patient relationships are also reportedly much better in the CHCs because doctors are able to spend more time communicating with patients than doctors at SCMC.
Dr. Kenyon thanked the dedicated hospital staff for investing their time in professional training and making great strides in helping pediatric asthma patients receive better care.
Hurricane Matthew served another blow to the disaster-worn people of Haiti last fall. More shelters were ripped apart, roads washed out, buildings destroyed and lifesaving medical care became even more challenging to access. People were weary and fears of another cholera outbreak were a major concern for those trying to survive in the hurricane-torn southwest region of Haiti.
Project HOPE was on the ground in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, providing medical volunteers and essential medicines and supplies to help with immediate needs. But with your support, HOPE has stayed on to support damaged health systems and also help support infrastructure that will benefit the health of Haitians for years to come.
One of those projects is a new cholera treatment center, being completed next month at the St. Therese Regional Hospital in Miragoâne, the capital city of the Department of Nippes in southwest Haiti.
Cholera is an acute diarrheal disease that can sometimes kill within hours if left untreated, and locating a cholera treatment center at the St. Therese Hospital in Miragoâne is a lifesaving measure.
Before this center was built, people who lived in the Nippes Department had to travel long distances, up to three and four hours to get care for complicated cholera cases. Because of the aggressive nature of the illness, three or four hours can mean a matter of life or death. The new cholera treatment center at St.Therese Hospital now makes care accessible immediately for those near Miragoâne, and even those living in the most remote areas can get care within an hour or two.
In addition to its central location, the region also has medical professionals who are already trained in advanced cholera treatment. Project HOPE volunteers actually worked at the St. Therese Hospital following the Hurricane in October and knew that the staff at the St. Therese Hospital had the skills they needed to care for cholera patients and would be able to use the new facility immediately.
The new 20-bed cholera treatment center will be completed and open to care for patients soon.
The center was built with the help of Project HOPE partners, Mazzetti and the Sextant Foundation, who have experience working in Haiti and provided volunteer engineers to oversee the design and construction for the center, which was built by a local Haitian construction company. The cholera treatment center has brought together the best practices from similar facilities in Haiti and other cholera treatment centers around the world. It uses renewable energy and a renewable energy distribution system. The center will strengthen the health system by allowing doctors to treat a normal case load of cholera and other diarrheal diseases throughout the year, and support a large response in the event of a cholera outbreak in the region.
People in the community are relieved that there is now a cholera treatment center that is more centrally located, knowing if they are ever infected with this deadly disease, help is near and chances of survival increased. Thank you to all of you who supported Project HOPE’s Hurricane Matthew relief projects, including the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, 3M, Pfizer, Merck, CSRA, UnitedHealth Foundation and their employees, and the many individuals who donated. This support helped to ensure construction of this much needed cholera treatment center!
Quite simply, America is the linchpin of the system of global health development and humanitarian assistance.
But the recent release of the White House’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget blueprint unveiled stark cuts to foreign aid which, if implemented, would risk endangering the health and well-being of millions of people around the world as well as our nation’s historic role as a lifeline to those in need.
And since instability and deprivation is also a threat to U.S. national security, it would be in America’s interest for Congress to mitigate the budget reductions for USAID and State Department programs, and to safeguard the U.S. government’s role in humanitarian assistance and development of lifesaving health programs.
The proposed budget cuts of about one third for State and USAID will put the lives of vulnerable people in peril, increase poverty and undermine America’s prestige in the world. We should remember, for instance, that millions of people are alive today because of U.S.-provided anti-retroviral drugs used to treat HIV/AIDS and five million children still draw breath owing to treatment funded by the U.S. taxpayer for diarrhea and pneumonia. Not only is this the right thing to do from a humanitarian perspective, but it provides an incalculable fund of goodwill towards the United States.
Foreign assistance accounts for less than one percent of the federal budget but saves millions of lives every year. USAID provides assistance to tens of millions affected by natural disasters, drought and conflict and responds to the needs of people facing severe hunger and famine. Each year the United Nations, which receives U.S. funds, provides food to 80 million people in 80 countries, vaccinates millions of children and assists those displaced by conflict and instability.
I witnessed firsthand the lifesaving power that the U.S. has had during my career at the U.S. Centers and Disease Control and Prevention, serving as the Director of the Center for Global Health and as Country Director in several African nations. Slashing funds available for U.S. and local health organizations that are active abroad will risk degrading local health systems that will be vital to fighting the next major outbreak of contagious diseases that can spread across the world like Ebola did. We need these partnerships with partner nations during epidemics to help protect Americans.
As the UN warns of potentially the biggest humanitarian crisis in its history – with 20 million people in need of urgent food aid in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Northeastern Nigeria, these sweeping budget cuts are clearly the wrong move at the wrong time.
NGOs like Project HOPE are well aware of the pressures on the public purse, but hope that the administration will consider the broader implications of U.S. foreign assistance programs.
Those of us who work in the international development sector note that cutting USAID budgets will not measurably improve the nation’s fiscal picture. U.S. foreign aid amounts to less than one percent of the overall federal budget. The Pentagon’s top brass, while welcoming their budget hike has warned however that diplomatic and humanitarian engagement are some of the most important tools in projecting U.S. power to expand stability abroad.
Aid programs should not just be seen as a giveaway but as a vital plank of any strategy to keep America safe. We know for instance that global threats like extremism, bio-terrorism and public health emergencies like Ebola can be fostered in conditions of poverty and deprivation.
The United States can continue its global leadership - and preserve its own national interests - with a continued budget of $60 billion across all accounts.
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