Latest edition of SoundBites

Volunteer:  Ruth Johnson, RN
PH&S Facility: Providence St. Vincent Medical Center
Country Visited: Dominican Republic
Trip Dates: January 19 – 23, 2011
U.S.-Based Sponsoring Organization or Program:  Creighton University

…Considering I do not speak Spanish, I was humbled and so grateful that the Dominicans tried to help me understand their language.  If you are open to new cultures, see the beauty in all people, we become united in a common cause.  I found new friends in the Dominican Republic because of this experience!...This mission experience was one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had!  It was very hard work and limited resources, so I was a jack-of-all-trades.  The Dominicans were so appreciative of the care we gave.  I felt our actions, even the simplest ones, impacted people’s lives.  Not only did we give people the ability to walk by giving them a new hip or knee, but we helped teach the Dominican care workers how to give better care to their people!....


Volunteer:  Brad Jackson RN
PH&S Facility: Providence St. Vincent Medical Center
Country Visited: Dominican Republic
Trip Dates: January 19 – 23, 2011
U.S.-Based Sponsoring Organization or Program:   Creighton University

This is the second year that I have gone on this mission….Our group’s contribution was 15 total hip surgeries.  We worked in less than optimal conditions and with far fewer instruments than usual and our supplies were stretched.  This makes me very grateful for our system that we have at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center.  Last year we left without doing a surgery on a man due to lack of supplies.  I was personally pleased to have been scrubbing in the room where this man got his hip this year.  It was also good to work with more Dominican doctors this year.  They know how to motivate their staff to find needed equipment to help complete a procedure.  My sense of mission at Providence is that even as needy as the people are in the Dominican Republic, I realize that there are needy people throughout the Providence system and I am grateful that you were able to help with this mission to the Dominican Republic….


Erin San Angelo, RN
Providence Everett Medical Center
Nicaragua, January 10-20, 2009

…It was a typical day working at the jobsite, volunteers shoveling away dirt, using picks to manhandle deep-rooted roots of trees out of this soil so rich in color it reminded me of the red rocks in Denver, Colorado. I was standing at the top of the landsite next to Catalino (the health promoter) observing how hard everyone was working and what progress we were making with just two days into the project. I realized we were shoveling away so many memories of the people of Cumica, but in the same thought we were opening the doors to a life of hope, wellness, and opportunity. Catalino and I looked at each other, words were not exchanged, but tears began to fall upon my face and his face simultaneously. I wondered what he was thinking and feeling at that moment …. Catalino said, “Standing next to you is like standing next to money. I am so grateful for your efforts in helping my country and I will pray that you will return to Cumica in the future, God has sent you to us, for we have prayed for you for many years.” At that moment I realized I was there by choice but it was fate that brought me to the community of Cumica. I will remember the people of Cumica Norte for a lifetime and will pray for their future. I promised I will return and I will do so next year…..


Scott Roberts CST, Providence Newberg Surgical Services
June 18-25, 2005, Haiti

…...There were so many experiences from this mission that were meaningful, but two that particularly stand out was when we rushed a child to the local hospital (and I use that term loosely). Not one person would lift a finger until they were paid cash. It turned out that our patient was suffering from acute appendicitis and needed surgery now. After rKenya eceiving the American equivalent of $50 our patient was admitted, but surgery was delayed while they sent us to a local pharmacy to buy supplies that would be used in the surgery. As we returned we were told that the general surgeon was not available. I volunteered to “scrub in” and guide the surgeon that was available. This offer was accepted and the surgery was successful. The other thing that stuck out in my mind was that of the respect the Haitians have for medical people. This is the poorest country in the western hemisphere and the country looks devastated, however, when the people come to clinic they wear their very best clothes to see us, and even though our exam table was an old bench with many sheets for padding, they refused to put their shoes on it. I was blown away by the genuine gratitude these people showed toward us…..

Bill Rourke, Regional Microbiology and POCT Manager, Portland Service Area
October 17-31, 2005, Kenya

My personal expectations/goals have been consistently met as I’ve made each of these visits. I take seriously my efforts to provide value to the laboratory work offered in this hospital, while being certain to not introduce non-sustainable policies. The staff has received me very well. They seem to appreciate my efforts and are enthusiastic to provide the best services they can within their limitations. I gave two lectures to laboratory staff, wrote several procedures and worked shoulder-to-shoulder with several technicians. I have been invited to return whenever it is possible. My current plan is to make a fifth trip in 2007 (I have limited vacation time or I’d go more often). I have continued contact with the medical director and laboratory staff via e mail.

Debbie Van Velzer, Physical Therapist, Providence St. Peter Hospital
January 6-17, 2006, India

…All the physically disabled students we saw had grave deformities of the feet, legs, and spine, and little to no resources, equipment or access to medical care, but all were grateful, smiling, friendly and willing to try the various exercises Shae and I came up with! We tried to give several usable tips to each student based on their individual needs. We often had very limited time and certainly no access to medical records or equipment and we felt quite humbled, thinking of our American 45 minute evaluation sessions, padded exam tables, access to records, relatively new equipment and multiple resources!....The time flew and I was sad to leave. I feel changed internally in many ways by the experience, thinking about the extreme poverty that we observed in the city, the lack of public sanitation and running water, the lack of medical care and the high incidence of AIDS and other communicable diseases. I was so impressed by the kindness and generosity of the people we met. I was reminded that although skin color, language, religion and location on the globe are foreign, these are people with families, feelings, needs, dreams and laughter. I felt inadequate in my “professional offerings” because of the overwhelming need but felt very appreciated and thanked……

Angelina Stupey, Providence Portland Medical Center
February 9-19, 2006, Haiti

It is difficult to say what my expectations were for a trip such as this. This was my first trip on such a mission and my life could never be the same. Upon returning I think I experienced a bit of a culture shock. I think it was mainly due to my observations of the excesses within our society. Overabundance and inequality of our society was staring me in the face as I remembered the children who stole my heart and the people who gained my respect and inspired me. I am not sure how to describe the feeling of knowing that just holding a child or offering love and physical nurturing can make a difference. While the need for food, education and medical care were there, the children thrived on the human contact and attention more than any of the materialistic things we brought with us…..Just as the children were enriched with the playtime and the one-to-one care I was able to provide, so was I.

Denise Estabrook, RN,
Providence Everett Medical Center
February 10-19, 2006, Guatemala

panabaj…In Panabaj, the site where Hurricane Stan buried over 1,500 people, they are living in a camp….in canvas tents that are no bigger than 10’x 10’. There are 300 families…with two kitchens, one washing area. The conditions are deplorable. I was blessed to be the intake person and meet every person and hear their stories. We served more than 400 people in Panabaj which was just a drop in the bucket….all were suffering from post traumatic stress. Many had the usual flu, etc., but the skin and parasite conditions Denise Estabrookwere rampant…..We had to work through two interpreters to gain the needed information, as it was a different dialect of Spanish in that region. It gave me a better of understanding of what it is like to be in a foreign country and not be able to communicate. This will give me even more compassion for my patients here that cannot speak English. I left a piece of my heart in Guatemala and look forward to going back next year…..

Joel Kassebaum, Staff Nurse, Providence Newberg Hospital
January 28-February 6, 2006, Guatemala

The mission team’s goal was to help a team of Guatemalan doctors and dentists provide care through clinics set up in three cities. The clinical part of our mission treated 350 patients, the non-clinical portion delivered 250 pairs of eyeglasses…..The clinical team had three Guatemalan dentists and two Guatemalan doctors. The support for these doctors was provided by our team. Our duties were divided into many aspects of patient care, from pharmacy, dental assisting, and instrument sterilization. The pharmacy is where I spent all of my time working mostly with two other people from my team and a Guatemalan second year med student. I was the only one of our team with any formalized medical training and that is why I landed in the pharmacy……Last year a misunderstood prescription almost made it to a patient, except a nurse that was along on that trip caught the error that could have been fatal.

Pat Drusky, RN, Providence Milwaukie Hospital
February 2-10, 2006, Haiti

Haiti…When I returned I was asked if I thought I had made a difference. I can wholeheartedly answer yes. When you are able to help one person, you are helping one person that would not have been (otherwise) helped. One simple bottle of Tylenol saves one child’s life…Having use of a new arm or a leg can be the difference between survival or death….Antibiotics can make the difference between life and death. Our bringing supplies to orphanages helped the caretakers to buy food instead of bedding and clothing. Our donations of wheelchairs, walkers, and crutches can enable someone to hopefully become self-sufficient and contribute to their society. Our teaching Haitians how to administer health care and educate their own can only help to improve their living conditions. So, thank you again for enabling me to be a part of reaching out to other countries, because we are all part of one world and together many things are possible.

Nancy Heston, RN, Providence Portland Medical Center
February 9-19, 2006, Haiti

I worked in the Healing Hands clinic triaging patients and taking medical histories. I also spent three days up in the mountains at an orphanage doing medical assessments and staff training. All the children at this particular orphanage are disabled…..We are so lucky here to have access to a wide range of treatments and medicines. Almost every child I assessed at the orphanage had spasticity which could have been greatly reduced with antispasmotic medication, but we had none! The same was true in the clinic. A high percentage of patients had high blood pressure. We had some meds to give them but no way to sustain them on a month-to-month basis…..

Dr. Corie Coe, DO, Medical Resident, Providence Portland Medical Center
February 17-26, 2006, Haiti

I exceeded my personal expectations/goals. I learned tremendously more than I dreamed. I felt our team cohesiveness was superb. We take so much for granted! We overuse our resources dramatically. I met a 39 year-old woman with advanced, untreated breast cancer…..she has seven kids at home. I know she’ll probably die in 3-5 years, but here (in the States) she probably could be treated and put into remission for a long time…..I’m thankful daily for what we can accomplish here…...

Gail Buck, RN, Providence Portland Medical Center
February 8-19, 2006, Haiti

My goal was to lead a team consisting of mostly first time volunteers—I feel I was successful in doing this. As we also joined forces with a Canadian team we had an opportunity make a bigger impact in several areas of medical care as well as teaching. This also allowed me further learning experience with leadership as well as international healthcare….Despite increasing healthcare costs in our country, nearly all its citizens have access. Unfortunately, in Haiti, as in most third world countries, the majority of people don’t have this access…….

 Levi Cole, RN, Providence Portland Medical Center
February 17-26, 2006, Haiti

I work in the ICU, “kingdom of the million dollar work-up,” where # seems to flow endlessly and is not always spent so wisely. The culture of waste is not just restricted to the ICU or even the hospital. (We are poor stewards of the earth in so many ways). But going to some place like Haiti will instill a great respect for resources in anyone. In the face of unprecedented wealth in an ever more unified world, “globalized” is a buzz word we all use. “Globalized” seems to apply to production of greater wealth without protection of better health. Two hours from the shores of Miami, the Plastic Surgery Capital of the riches nation on earth, Haitians die of completely preventable and curable disease. This has particular meaning to me in my work there and here.

Dr. Janan Markee, Providence Portland Medical Center
February 18-25, 2006, Haiti

…..I saw patients all day long with the urgency to keep moving as there would always be more people left outside who wanted to be seen. I rarely stopped and looked around at the plain sadness of the whole situation, until I met one woman who was my age. I had heard her story in church the previous Sunday, as she was one of the members of the first graduating sewing class in this area (as part of the bigger public health issues we are working on in Terra Blanche). She told me her story, through an interpreter, how five weeks ago while she was 8 months pregnant she started bleeding. S he was taken to pastor Delamy (our dear friend and organizer of all the projects in this area) who brought her to the hospital. She was taken care of in the hospital, and despite living through this deadly event, she lost her baby. She told me the story with a complete lack of energy, interest, or sense of meaning. She didn’t cry, but I did. Her sadness was something I could understand, something I’ve seen and dealt with in my practice in the United States. She was depressed and there was nothing I could do. But somehow I felt a connection with her and her despair. With her I felt how deeply the Haitians suffer, but also realized how similar we all are. We live in entirely different worlds, where they worry about finding food and we worry about checking our email. However, we are connected and she taught me how to see past the extraneous debris and see the person.

Sally Moe, RN, Providence Portland Medical Center
February 24-March 5, 2006, Tanzania

We were so touched by how engaged the Tanzanian nurses were in the classes we held. Our classes were full every day. The nurses took notes while we talked. They would stay after to copy down all the teaching sheets we taped to the wall during our Tanzaniatalks (there were no copy machines available). We would ask them questions during our talks so we could make sure they were following our level of teaching as well as due to the fact that Swahili was their first language and English their second. We had many of the nurses volunteering to answer our questions. Keep in mind that this area is very hot and humid - 95 degrees during the day and 80 degrees at night, and without electricity there were no lights or air conditioning in our classroom. Even so, Tanzaniathe staff was so anxious attend our classes and really learn the material we presented. From this experience, we felt that the staff at THI were very capable, but their access to knowledge was very limited. They appreciated every word we taught them. I think we got just as much out of the experience due to having nurses who were so hungry for knowledge, and willing to spend many hours in class every day with us. They were so endearing to us - they called us "Sista Sally and Sista Kristen" when they saw us each day. They truly invited us into their lives……

Kristen Lewis, RN, Providence Portland Medical Center
February 24-March 5, 2006, Tanzania

The THI nurses were amazing. They were so attentive and interested in what we had to say and teach. They speak and understand English for the most part. Many took notes during class and several stayed after class to sit close to the bulletin board where we taped up our teaching material to finish taking notes and absorb the material. There was not a copy machine (or the power to run one) to facilitate this. They participated willingly by answering our questions about heart anatomy and physiology and other newly taught content regarding open heart surgery recovery. A correct answer earned them a reward from our grab bag full of calculators, hemostats, scissors, pen lights, light-up flashing rings and candy. They loved it! And so did we. By the end of our second class on 2/27, the nurses were referring to us as “Sister Sally” and “Sister Kristen”. To be called a “sister” in Tanzania is an endearing term, meaning that you are well liked and part of the family. From then on we were greeted as such, even passing in the hallways. They, in turn, were eager to teach us their native language of Swahili. What a great feeling, it makes me swell up inside. Everyone seemed genuinely happy at THI and in Tanzania as a whole.

Nina Beach, R.N., Providence Portland Medical Center
March 9-20, 2006, Ecuador

It is truly amazing to be submerged in an area with no plumbing or electricity, to not have TVs, hot showers, blenders, skillets, toasters, washing machine, dryer, etc., etc. Originally, I thought that the people there must be so depressed to have so little, but that is what was so amazing… For the most part, everyone was content with their living situation. People still smiled and made the best of what they had. Luckily food was available. They at least have access to gardens and game that people are not starving. There were those who traveled into the city on occasion and knew what life could be like with more modern conveniences, but at the same time they continued to live as they have, living out their cultural beliefs/rituals and they are content. I was overjoyed that they were willing to trust us and treat themselves with the medications we prescribed/provided. I was afraid it would be so foreign to them, that they would reject us and we wouldn’t be able to help. However, just giving an ibuprofen tablet to someone whose knees have ached for years due to the hard work that they constantly do, they were amazed and thought it was a miracle that we could take away some of their pain.

Cheryl Waitkevich, ARNP, Providence St. Peter Hospital
March 9-21,2006, Ecuador

EcuadorI found that I have the concern and discipline to work 16 hour days in less than desirable conditions and that my dedication kept me pleasant and on task. I felt like a part of the village, both in the jungle and in Shell, as the people there were incredibly open and friendly to us. I expected to come back feeling fulfilled and I did. However, my fulfillment was found by watching and being part of a culture that was directly sustainable with the earth, and, in addition, by being able to provide them with things that might make their day-to-day living just a little easier. The health care expectations in Ecuador are so different that the US. There seems to be a more reasonable evaluation of living life and the toll that may take on the body. I was also impressed by how clean everyone was, especially in Shell, when they came to visit us. They had a great deal of respect for the work we did and showed that in their demeanor. My key message is that smiling and being kind are a universal language.


Maureen Gonzales, PT, Providence Newberg Hospital
March 15-22, 2006, GuatemalaGuatemala

My goals and expectations were more than realized. We accomplished a great amount of work, helping over 350 medical and dental patients. The work we did for the communities as well as the team work within the group was tremendous. I have already emailed many of my co-workers, friends and families as well as some of my pGuatamalaatients who wanted to be apprised of our work. One of my patients is considering applying to work in the Peace Corps as a result of her own interests. She said that my letters from Guatemala inspired her to make a decision. ……..

Verity Caruso, RN, Providence Newberg Hospital
March 15-22, 2006, Guatemala

…The doctor who was running the medical clinic encountered a young girl who was “tongue tied,” meaning her tongue was attached to the floor of her mouth for the full length of her tongue, not just towards the back as usual. Because of this she could not touch the tip of her tongue to the roof of her mouth. Although she did not have any trouble swallowing, she did have a speech impediment….although none of the dentists routinely did the surgery required for her to have fuller use of her tongue, a couple of them had performed it before. The surgery lasted almost three hours. The only sedation available was benadryl and a 1 mg tablet of ativan. The dentists did have lidocaine carpules to numb the area as best they could….Everyone was thrilled when the surgery was over and she stuck her tongue out at us. We also were able to arrange for speech therapy to see her. I think for all of us it was a good reminder of how lucky we are to have health care at our disposal.

Chaplain Grethe H. Barber, Providence Portland Medical Center
March 17-25, 2006, Guatemala

…There are many experiences that have meaning and/or application for health care providers here in the States. I will never forget sitting on a concrete floor with drawing paper and crayons. Many children accompanied their parents, grandparents, nieces, and nephews on this trek to Las Obras. Slowly, inch-by-inch, young children approached me and asked permission to draw. Many spent the whole day doing Triage drawing and telling me about their families and their homes. Eventually, many snuggled against me to have their picture taken and hung up on the nearby wall. Self esteem was increased, as was trust, I believe, through shared experiences. Trust was increased also through sharing family stories. The Guatemalans were interested in learning about my life in the States. And I was interested in hearing about theirs here in Guatemala. Sometimes, I believe, we become so acclimated with being “professional” that we forget that we are all human beings and have our stories to share….

Emily Ohlin, Physical Therapist, Providence Gresham Rehab
March 18-24, 2006, Guatemala

My personal goal was to be able to make a difference and learn to live more simply. These people I met have so little but are so happy. It really opened my eyes to faith/family and friends. I can only hope that I touched their lives as they touched mine……


Ann Topping, Physical Therapist, Providence Easter Seals Rehab Clinic
Guatemala, March 18-24, 2006

GuatemalaI definitely improved on my Spanish-speaking skills, since most of the time we did not have an interpreter available and the staff knew almost no English (the patients knew no English). I have also come away with a new perspective on Hispanic people in general. I no longer see them as impoverished (even though their material possessions are far less than ours); they are rich with a joy, peace and contentment that we seem to lack…..


Linda Bowman, RN, Providence St. Peter Hospital
March 25-April 1, 2006, Palenque, Mexico 

We just returned on April 1, after spending four long days doing surgeries and outreaches to four villages. There were 17 surgeries done in not the most ideal circumstances. They ranged anywhere from a facial scar revision, cleft lips, hernias, hysterectomies, nasal polyp, gall bladder removal, and a modified radical mastectomy. Under such primitive conditions it is not surprising that there were some tense moments. Thankfully, all patients did well…..The opportunity to share the skills I have acquired with people who most of the time do without any medical care was rewarding and in keeping with the Providence values of compassion and respect……

Christine Panagos, Physical Therapist, Providence Portland Medical Center
March 18-24, 2006, Guatemala

…I feel the most important component I came away with is the idea that more can be provided with less. We had minimum rehab equipment and our patients had some very serious medical conditions (rheumatoid arthritis, CP, spinal bifida, head injuries). In the U.S. the typical person with CP would present with joint contractures in the knees, hips and elbows. I expected my patients with CP to demonstrate similar joint contracture but they did not. Because of the adequate staffing and the lack of an insurance company labeling range of motion as maintenance therapy for someone with PT, these services are provided 4-6 days a week. These people do not experience the pain of joint contracture or loss of function associated with loss of motion. Everyone deserves care and a little attention. This provided on a consistent basis can make a significant difference.