Contribution from Sallie Weissinger
When you meet PINCC trainee Maria Antonia Aviles Castillo, or Antonia as we call her, you want her to be your own nurse back home. She is warm, reassuring, down-to-earth, and knowledgeable. Her outgoing, competent manner makes you wish you could see her for your regular OB/GYM exams. She makes you feel you're going to be fine.
Now in her early 50s, Antonia has been a nurse for 31 years. She has no plans to retire because she loves what she does. "I'm going to work as long as I can. I love everything that has to do with women's care," she says. "I am a nurse at work, in the street, and in my home - women come to ask for my help."
Starting out as a nurse's helper and then becoming a medical aide, Antonia studied hard to become a professional nurse, obtaining her nurse's credential in 1995. In 2007 she was licensed in obstetrics and perinatology. Her hard work over the years is matched by her friendly smile and dedication to her patients - and her patients-to-be.
Antonia's goal is to bring PINCC's work to her hospital in her home town of Sauce, 90 kilometers (56 miles) from the Leon hospital training site. This week, she has been getting up at 4 am and getting back to her village at 8 pm. The bus ride, with endless stops, takes three hours each way. That doesn't deter her - she is committed to developing her skills and establishing a special center at her hospital to spread PINCC's work in her region. She sees no reason she can't make it happen.
When asked what she does for fun in her spare time, Antonia responds, "I have no spare time. I have three children and five grandchildren ranging from 2 months to 11 years old. When I was younger, I didn't have enough time with my family. Now I dedicate any time I have to them because I finally can. My weekends I spend with them."
But this week she's been with us, so she can serve the women of Nicaragua.
PHOTO: Antonia (seated) counsels a patient she has just examined how to minimize her chances of contracting HPV (the human papilloma virus) and how to take steps to prevent cervical cancer. Patient education is of paramount significance in reducing this preventible disease.
Thank you, Sallie!
Our last day in Leon
Today was one of our busiest. There were many patients who arrived in an ambulance and minibus from a village outside of Leon. A lot of effort went into organizing the trip, ensuring that the patients who needed extra care gathered from their respective homes, some by horse or foot, and took the long drive to Leon. In addition to this group, women continued to arrive over the course of the morning. The large group presented an opportunity to teach the women about cervical cancer and explain to them the VIAA procedure. They were surprised to learn that the practitioners were using plain old vinegar to identify abnormal cells.
The last patient arrived with her little girl. Chelsea interviewed the mom, then entertained the daughter with crayons and paper. Meanwhile, Leah faithfully entered data into the computer, while Rebecca washed speculums (again). Then, we interrupted the repacking of the suitcases to participate in the closing ceremony. There were many grateful words for PINCC 's efforts on behalf of the women of Nicaragua. Dr. Pam thanked the Nicaraguan trainees for their hard work and patience over the course of the week.
We ended the week with a celebratory dinner, and a wonderful musical performance by local artists.
Since this is my last blog entry, I want to say a special thank you to Carol. She is tireless and selfless, treating everyone with great kindness and respect. Despite the scarcity of medical resources, difficult conditions, and numerous workarounds to be engineered, Carol never seems flustered. She is everywhere, answering hundreds of questions, and ensuring that our work gets done. Many, many thanks, Carol!