Editor’s Note: This column is one of a regular series submitted by Carolinas HealthCare System’s Office of Diversity & Inclusion. For more information, go to www.carolinas.org. CHS is a Qcitymetro sponsor.
Levine Children’s Hospital nurse Leslie Golden, RN, had no idea the two years she spent in Spain as a teenager would be beneficial years later as she traveled to Guatemala to educate nurses on caring for critically sick children.
While not fluent in Spanish, Golden was able to talk with nurses, doctors and the mothers of the sick children at the public hospital in the town of Chimaltenango.
“The people were shy, of course. We had a translator and it was a little awkward at first, but they were incredibly eager to hear what we had to say,” says Golden.
Golden, part of a team led by Dr. Dwight M. Bailey, medical director of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Levine Children’s Hospital, traveled to Guatemala in March to provide training after the installation of new equipment donated by the International Medical Outreach Program (IMO). A collaborative partnership of Carolinas HealthCare System and the Heineman Foundation of Charlotte, IMO donated enough medical equipment to furnish a 10-bed neonatal intensive care unit. The unit, dedicated in honor of Ann Tarwater, wife of retiring CEO Michael Tarwater, is supported by the foundation of the first lady of Guatemala (SOSEP), Chiquita and Biomeds Without Borders.
“Before installation of this equipment, these hospitals were faced with treating critically ill infants with very little or no resources,” says Theresa Johnson, director of IMO. “This donation will now give every baby a chance.”
IMO’s first NICU, installed at the National Hospital of Cobán, has been very successful and, in fact, cut the infant mortality rate by 50 percent. IMO hopes to install additional NICUs/PICUs in 2016 in Central American rural hospitals through the support of the Heineman Foundation for Research, Educational, Charitable and Scientific Purposes Inc.; The Leon Levine Foundation; and The Bissell Family Foundation.
After the equipment is delivered, people like Golden educate the staff. One nurse and two nursing technicians cover the entire pediatric floor – including open wards. “The staffing ratio was unbelievable,” she says. “Parents are also at the bedside. They do not leave and help provide direct care.”
Children in the region have a lot of asthma from air pollution, pneumonia, sepsis and infections, Golden says. So she spent two hours with two groups of nurses focusing on signs and symptoms of respiratory distress. She also taught them the Heimlich maneuver, which they didn’t know.
“I had brought resuscitation babies for practice and a larger, child-sized mannequin to practice intubating (inserting a tube in the throat to open the airway),” she says. “They didn’t want to leave at the end of the two hours. They were soaking up everything.”
What really grabbed her heart, though, was talking to the mothers. “It really hit home with me,” she said. “This is why I do what I do.”
One mother told Golden about her 2-month-old baby who was on a ventilator for the second time. “Her eyes just welled up with tears as she looked at her baby. She told me she was scared,” Golden says. “It just hit me. It doesn’t matter whether a mother is from the U.S., Guatemala or anywhere (else) in the world; they all desperately want their children to get well and come back home.”
Golden hopes to return this summer to provide more training once construction of the next NIC/PICU is completed in Escuintla, Guatemala. While grants help pay for travel expenses, Carolinas HealthCare System teammates use vacation time when volunteering for these trips, which Golden doesn’t mind. “It’s very gratifying,” she says. “I’d rather do this than sit on a beach somewhere.”
Written by: Theresa Johnson, Director, International Medical Outreach Carolinas HealthCare System