Reflective Journals for Alternative Winter Break: Eleuthera, Bahamas 2015
One of the patients was a mother who said she only fed her 1 year old son juice and junk food, and hadn’t given him milk since he was three months old. The nurse and I explained the importance of milk for development of growth, teeth, and bones and I was surprised that she had no idea she should’ve been giving her child milk. Another patient was an obese, 200 pound, 8-year old complaining of shortness of breath, but the mother would not accept that his obesity was a problem or know what to do about it even after the doctor and nurses all told her that several times before. It really emphasized the importance of education on topics that may not seem like there would be much to teach about. They were all very receptive to the learning.
Because the island is one long strip with one main road, we spent the day yesterday driving across the entire island; unfortunately, I did not keep a journal, but I just wanted to mention that we did leave time for sightseeing, because all work and no play makes John a dull boy! The downside of the weekend was that our flight was cancelled and there was an overall 24 hour delay. When we finally reached our living quarters in the Church mission house, we discovered there was no wi-fi access or hot water. But, we made the best of our situation and still had an amazing time!
In the afternoon, we went to an isolated beach and had a peaceful few moments of mid-trip reflection. We picked shells, saw starfish and other sea creatures, and took a lot of pictures of ourselves and the beautiful sunset. In the evening, we went to the local bar where they played American popular music and we all did karaoke without caring what anyone thought- it was a blast!
(I do not have a journal I wrote this day about my experience, so I will try my best to remember what we did). On Thursday, I volunteered at Tarpum Bay Clinic, a small clinic within walking distance from our living quarters. This is when I gained the most independence and felt like I was really making a difference because the only people running the clinic were myself, my classmate, and one nurse. We did the entire process with minimal assistance- registration, assessment, diagnosis, treatment, medication prescribing and filling, education, and discharge- it was busy, but it was the best learning experience of my time in the Bahamas.
That afternoon, we went to an elementary school to teach fourth grade about infection control and other topics the students could relate to. We asked questions, sang songs while we learned about hand-washing, did jumping jacks to teach about asthma, and initiated discussion about various topics; I was happy to see the students actively participating and all my anxiety about teaching again the next day was replaced with comfort and excitement and motivation to make a difference. We ended the day by visiting miracle cove, named for it’s supposed healing powers for anyone who touches the water.
Journal Day 5
On the final day of the trip, I was happy to be able to go back to Tarpum Bay clinic on my own and feel more confident about my role as a student volunteer nurse. I really feel like I built a connection with the patients and I was continually surprised at the level of trust each patient placed in me. This day really reminded me of why I wanted to become a nurse, and was probably the best day I had.
In the afternoon, we went to teach fifth and sixth graders about a variety of topics pertinent to their age group. Again, we received a fairly enthusiastic response, at least from fifth grade. The sixth graders were pretty knowledgable about many subjects already, and also seemed a bit bored and ready to go since it was the last class of the day, haha. They were still very polite, participated in every aspect, and thanked us for taking the time to come visit their school.
On our last night, we crossed something major off my lifelong bucket list- we attended a nighttime beach bonfire party with a majority of the island locals, new music and food, and truly felt like we were welcome and belonged to the community. I met so many of my patients from throughout the week, as well as other tourists I had come across outside of the clinics and schools. We were having so much fun, we didn’t want to leave; but, all good things must come to an end, and we went home to pack so we could leave early Saturday morning for our first class flight home!
Many people in Eleuthera do have a car, but many others choose to walk. The nurse did not mention many forms of public transportation, but did place a heavy emphasis on boats because everything on the island is imported from elsewhere. These boats are also used for emergencies to get to a hospital such as when someone is expecting a child. For fun, members of this community have homecomings twice a month for different settlements, but there is not much else that goes on on a day to day basis. The nurse I spoke to specifically did mention the fish fry and karaoke, both of which I got a chance to experience, and stated that she and many people she knows enjoy watching movies and listening to music.
A majority of the people on the island do not place heavy emphasis on being involved in politics although it is briefly covered in school (the nurse was sure to mention that whatever they learn in school does not cover what actually goes on in the real world). Although the nurse said this, I remember talking to another nurse at a different clinic who was discussing politics with her coworkers, so I am not sure which is correct. Some of the best things about the community is the sense of closeness and that everyone knows everyone; however, this can also be negative when it comes to privacy and individual freedom.