The Dominican Republic is one of the most common places for Americans to vacation for sun, sand and beaches, but there is another side. Poverty, preventable maternal deaths, human trafficking and drug trade are also part of this paradise.
In October Drs. Rebecca Haak, Anita Mazdai and I returned for the second time to Good Samaritan Hospital, accompanied by Crystal Neighbors who was going for the first time. The goal of our medical mission trip was to provide care to the women of the Dominican. The trip was coordinated by the University of Indianapolis Nurse Midwifery program to give service while offering students a chance to be challenged, gain experience and make a difference in the lives of the women served. This spirited group was made up surgeons, advance practice nurses, advanced practice nursing students and nursing students (including one brave male).
Good Samaritan Hospital is a mission hospital that was built to provide medical care to provide medical care to people who worked in the sugar cane fields and now also cares for the people of La Romana. The facility hosts over 60 mission groups annually who provide medical care, construction, education and sand filters for clean water. A band from the Dominican tours the States in the fall to help raise money for the work of the hospital, which does not turn anyone away because of a lack of money.
The service provided included: 27 preoperative evaluations, 15 major gynecological surgeries more complicated than last year, four tubal ligations with one being laproscopically done with old equipment (which we deemed not safe), 69 paps, women's health education for 85 women (and countless onlookers young and old), pre and postoperative care for all surgical patients (two hours postoperative), 10 prenatal visits, one diagnosis of pregnancy, three referrals for children's health evaluation, and two referrals for breast ultrasound. Nursing students were mentored by both advance practice nursing students, advanced practice nurses and physicians.
Challenges varied each day. The lack of air conditioning made us encourage each other to drink fluids. The inability to speak the language forced us to trust and be dependent on our translators, which many of us found difficult because we felt at times they only told the women what they deemed important. Equipment shortages required the innovative use of the instruments we had. The lack of a health care clinic lead to paps being done in a bus, churches, and a school (which the children appreciated because they got out of classes). They were met with creativity, patience, and at times, tolerance. Education on family planning, human trafficking, menopausal changes and self breast exam was done by the nursing students in group settings.
Lots of bean and rice, limited phone services, homesickness and the challenges faced were soon forgotten at the beach on the last afternoon. New friends were made, cultural diversity became more than words, and lives both ours and those we touched would never be the same.
Photos Courtesy of Paula Stephens-Bibeau: (Left) Women receive education about self breast exams. (Right) A few of the amazing mission team!
Paula Stephens-Bibeau is a Certified Nurse Midwife at Hendricks Regional Health