-Abbey Phillips, Contributing Writer
How many students are able to say that they watched their professor deliver a baby on a school desk? A group of nursing students had the opportunity to participate in a medical mission trip to the Amazon in Colombia and Peru in June, and let me tell you, it was amazing.
In the Mississippi College School of nursing, students are required to complete a summer elective between their junior and senior year. There are a number of options: an internship, an externship, an online class, or a medical mission trip. The medical mission trip was one of the many things that attracted me to MC ‘s nursing school as a prospective student, and I had been looking forward to this opportunity since my freshman year.
Our team was comprised of two doctors, three professors, 14 students, and four alumni. Imagine you and 13 of your classmates arriving in an airport where nobody speaks English, only one person in your group has a rudimentary command of the native language, and it’s midnight.
That’s how we arrived in Colombia. We began preparing for the trip during the spring semester, and on June 5th we were finally on our way. Even though we had months to get ready for the trip, nothing could have really prepared us for life on the Amazon. We flew into Bogota and then to a small port city called Leticia before heading down the river to our ‘home’ village. Saturday morning, we walked from the hotel to the port and loaded our bags and supplies onto two large, wooden boats for a nine hour trip to our village.
That afternoon, we finally made it to the village that would be our home for the next seven days. The village was named Siete de Agosto after their independence day. Once we got settled into our home (tents that were set up in the village school house), we were taken to the soccer field and were introduced to the villagers. They told us the story of their village’s history and described the history that the indigenous people have with the Amazon. Sunday morning, we set up our medical clinic in the village. We set up clinic every day in different villages on the river in Peru and in Colombia. We had a triage station where we took temperatures and blood pressures, heights and weights, and gave out parasite medicine. We had an ear station where we were able to treat infections and remove foreign objects from the ear. We had a delousing station and a women’s health station, as well as a dentistry clinic, a pharmacy, and a physician station. Every day, we would wake up and get breakfast, load the boat, and travel to a different village.
One of the highlights of our trip occurred on our second day when we were in a village named El Tigre (the tiger) in Peru. After we finished our day in the clinic and began packing up the supplies, a man and a pregnant woman pulled up to the village in their peke-peke canoe. The woman was in active labor and had gotten in the canoe and travelled down the river to have her baby at the clinic. We scrambled to set up desks to make a table for her, and one of the professors delivered the baby. It was amazing to see that beautiful new life in a place that was filled with darkness.
Each day, after all of the villagers had been seen and had received medicine, we would load the boat and head back to our home village to eat dinner. After dinner we held soccer tournaments for the village children, and then we would “shower” in the river. Since we were in Colombia during the World Cup, we latched onto the hype and used the Cup as the theme of our tournament. Each night, we would have two soccer games and would present a Bible story to the village children, ending in a final championship round on our last night in the village.
After a few days of hosting clinics in the villages, our team leaders surprised us with a ‘rest day’ in a larger, tourist village. We had the chance to swim in the Amazon, where we got to see the infamous pink dolphins. The braver students took the chance to go caiman hunting with some of the men from the village. Caiman are a type of Amazon alligator. We left to go hunting in tiny wooden peke-peke canoes after dark, and stayed on the river until early the next morning. The Amazon is beautiful at night; we could hear all of the sounds of the jungle. The trees on the banks of the river even seemed to glow from the eyes of huge spiders that lived on the river.
It was truly humbling to be able to spread God’s word to the people and minister to them in a very tangible way in order to meet their health needs. Our nursing department has afforded its students with so many opportunities, but our trip to Colombia was one of the best things I have experienced. I would highly recommend this trip to nursing students and I hope to go again someday.