In many global regions, adults and children face barriers when accessing medical care. There are often a shortage of health care professionals or they lack the training and equipment necessary for treating patients. In response to this dilemma, medical mission trips have given health care workers the opportunity to volunteer and serve for a designated amount of time in regions that need basic health care services.
In November 2019, health care workers from MemorialCare Miller Children’s & Women’s Hospital Long Beach teamed up with other U.S. hospitals to embark on a mission trip to Zacapa, Guatemala. Among the medical teams were Shelly Green, BSN, RN IV, CPN, CPHNON, outpatient hematology/oncology, Miller Children’s & Women’s and Krista Warren, RN, nurse practitioner, nurse navigator, hematology/oncology, Miller Children’s & Women’s.
For 10 days, medical teams were stationed at Hope of Life, an organization that provides aid to local communities through various initiatives. Throughout the mission trip, health care volunteers provided Hope of Life medics training in CPR and emergency preparedness, as well as medical visits for more than 500 adults and children located in remote villages.
While on the mission, Shelly provided pediatric care at numerous locations, including the Hope of Life campus hospital, remote village clinics and a nearby landfill clinic. Her duties included providing medical assessments and feeding services to pediatric patients and preparing prescriptions for their families.
During several occasions, Shelly and other health care volunteers served children and families living in a landfill near the Hope of Life campus. While at the landfill clinic, they encountered barefoot children running through heaps of smoking rubble and tents made of trash bags and sticks. Because these families lacked access to nutritious foods, the medical teams provided hot meals and protein drinks to the children and adult residents.
On a separate occasion, nurses and doctors ventured to a remote mountain village where a malnourished 3-month-old baby needed to be rescued. The teams were able to bring the mother and baby to Hope of Life, where they were successfully given feeding treatments and medication.
Though their days were long and demanding, the health care volunteers felt rewarded by the appreciation their patients showed. “The kids and parents showed us so much gratitude,” says Shelly. “Even though the families did not have much, they had smiles on their faces and were happy we could care for them. I recommend that everyone participate in a similar experience—it will change your perspective and give you a renewed appreciation for life.”