SON Student Continues Volunteer Service in Mexican Village

Leilani Trowell, a rising senior nursing student, is doing a one-month summer residency in the Zapotec village of Teotitlan del Valle just outside of Oaxaca City, Mexico.

I thought you would appreciate another update!

I spent the first three days of work at the clinic walking around the village again. There are campaigns three times a year in February, May and September. I just happened to appear during the May campaign, but we are still working on keeping everyone vaccinated. This time we drove since we needed to get up to the mountainous area to reach some residents.

Blanca, the only English-speaking nurse, told me about how many people would get upset and refuse to get the vaccinations. They try to explain the vaccinations but sometimes their explanations aren’t effective. In my experience, everyone has just listened. But the stories puzzled me. I can understand why some would refuse to allow a male physician to help birth a baby, not take medicines because the side effects are more debilitating than the sickness itself, or rely on folk medicine practitioners. But it’s very important to get vaccinated to prevent sickness. But maybe it is a cultural difference that I do not understand. I tried to explore it with Blanca but the view of biomedicine in American culture will always be somewhat different from what other cultures believe.

The next two days, I helped around the clinic. I got the vital signs and height/weight of patients who needed consultations and changed out the sheets and medical instruments in the consultation rooms. I cleaned the instruments using a mixture of bleach and detergent, then, we wrapped up the instruments in paper. Blanca said it’s to keep them “sterile” but the instruments are contaminated before they get wrapped up in the paper that is also considered contaminated. Is sterile another word that translates differently in another culture?

I really like my coworkers. They are very friendly and fun. We sit around the kitchen table laughing. I have to straighten my hair and take out my piercing when I’m at the clinic. I usually take out my piercing for the UNC clinicals but I’ve never had issues with my hair since it’s short and usually it is satisfactory to keep it pinned up away from my face. However, they do not like my curly hair. Some of my coworkers have come at me armed with spray bottles and cream to flatten my hair against my skull so it would be “work-appropriate.”

I’ve been to a couple of parties, including one at an artists’ collective in the city. Another was a dinner party held by some students studying abroad from Berkeley. This now makes sense to me since most live at home with their parents, even when they get married!

I hope you are enjoying what I have to say. Let me know your thoughts!


SON Student Volunteers at Public Health Clinic in Mexican Village

Leilani Trowell, a rising senior nursing student, is doing a one-month summer residency in the Zapotec village of Teotitlan del Valle just outside of Oaxaca City, Mexico.

Hi, everyone. I just got off my third day of work volunteering at the public health clinic. The most difficult thing for me is that no one at the clinic speaks much English, and my Spanish is not much better. So it is hard for me to understand everything! The first day was the most frustrating because I had no idea what to do. However, I soon learned how the village was divided up into five sections, and I THINK that it is health week.

Right now, we are concentrating on giving vaccinations to children. The first day, I made a census of all the children under age 5 in the village. The second day, I walked around the village with Blanca, one of the nurses who does speak English. That was a very long day with a lot of walking around. Fortunately, it was the coolest day since I’ve arrived, but it was still hot. I liked doing this a lot.

Today, Blanca and I went to the original clinic in El Centro, near the town Zocalo that has been closed since the new clinic opened on the highway. They are trying to rebuild the original clinic. We gave vaccinations to the children, mostly vitamin A and Sabin for polio. I also gave injections for anti-hepatitis. The most surprising thing was how no one wears gloves and does not do the whole ‘wash your hands before and after patient contact’ thing. All that was available in the new clinic was a bar of soap next to a sink and a hand towel. In the El Centro clinic, there was nothing at all. Thankfully, I had some of the waterless hand sanitizer that I bring everywhere with me! There is a lot for me to learn and teach during the four weeks I will be here.


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