NIFA Surgical e-News, December 22, 2013

Name: Amber Rodriguez

Credentials: RNFA

Student Status: Graduated from NIFA’s RNFA program Oct. 2011

City and State: Casa Grande, AZ

Current Position: Sierra Vista Regional Health Center, RN First Assist

NIFA-sponsored Medical Mission: Ghana with Dr. Glenn Geelhoed, Summer 2013

Why did you want to go on a medical mission? I always wanted to do something like that. When I was finally able and had the right credentialing, it sounded like the perfect opportunity.

What did you do there? We were on site for 12 days and did over 200 surgeries. We primarily did direct and indirect inguinal hernia repairs, hydrocelectomies, neck dissections and excision of lipomas.

Where did you stay? We were treated like royalty for over there. We were in a house that had (cold) running water; we had a bed, although I shared it with another student. We had a couple of meals a day, mostly fish.

What did you do besides perform surgery? We walked everywhere. We would get up at 4:30 a.m., walk about a mile to the clinic, perform surgeries, then when we left we would walk around, go by a church, go meet up with people, walk by people’s homes. The whole group walked together and Dr. Geelhoed would tell us whose houses we were going to visit. For example, we visited the queen mother and the physician of the village. We would sit in a circle and let everyone talk. In this way we would get in everyone’s good graces.

How were you received? The people were extremely happy we were there. A radio station had broadcast that we were going to be there and on the first day there were 300 people waiting for us.

When we went to the church on the first Sunday that we were there, they had us stand in line, in a full church, and introduce ourselves and explain why we were there. The entire congregation surrounded us and prayed for God’s grace to help us help them. They brought us bottled water and a malted sugary drink. They themselves had so little, but they gave us everything they could.

One patient walked from two villages away–5 or 10 miles–and he came into the clinic and sat down next to me. He said he had suffered from a stroke in his 20s. He looked at me and said, “You’re the white woman sent by God to fix me,” and I had to explain why I couldn’t do that. He started crying. Things that we take for granted here, like being able to recommend physical therapy or a consultation for this or that, were impossible in this setting. We just did the best we could.