One of my volunteers, Amanda (pictured below), had an amazing experience delivering a baby at the local hospital here we work at in Savusavu. Amanda is an amazing asset to our team, and is working towards being a PA working in women's health. I'll let what she wrote tell the rest of the story:
“'What did you do in Fiji? What was your favorite part?' people ask me. More like, what didn't I do and what didn't I love! Being in Fiji is an incredible experience, and I have been fortunate enough to do so many different things. However, when I’m asked what I did and what my favorite part was, I will surely answer by telling of my experience delivering a baby.
The midwives told me in the afternoon that a mom came in and was expecting to deliver that day. I was so excited! The week before I was able to observe a delivery and was told that I could preform the next one. We sat waiting for about 4 hours as the mother was getting closer and closer to a 10 cm dilation. She would walk up and down the hall, lean against the wall, or go sit on her bed. Finally the midwife called her into the room to check if the baby was ready. As the midwife was checking the mother, I turned to grab a few more gauzes. I had my back to them when the midwife called out, “Amanda come! come!” I turned around and the baby was just beginning to crown! I ran back next to the mother and prepared myself for the delivery. Before I really had time to think the crowning continued and then I was supporting the baby’s head as I checked for the umbilical cord. We told the mother that it was clear and with one more push the baby came into this world, and I placed him on his mother.
At this point a few things overwhelmed me. The first was the emotion of this living human being coming into the world. I understand now why so many parents get emotional when they first hold their child. It is a beautiful experience to watch the first few moments of a new life. To see how the mother instantly relaxed as her baby that she cared for and carried was finally there for her to hold. It was exciting, relieving, joyful, warm, hopeful, and every other good word you can think of. The second thing that impressed me was the mother. She was so calm and so quiet during the process. She never screamed, never even moaned. She was just still, focused and calm. After the delivery was over I asked the midwife if the mom was on any drugs or epidural- she wasn’t. The strength these women have is amazing to me. This mom reminded me that delivering miraculous children is what our bodies are made to do and are capable of doing.
Once the baby was on the mother we cleaned him off with some of the towels, then cut the umbilical cord. Next was the afterbirth step where we helped the mother to deliver the placenta. This all seemed to be easy for her as well. Again, she was so calm and quiet, or she appeared to be so on the outside. We then had to check for any tears, and the midwife sewed up the ones we found. After about 45 minutes of the delivery the baby was passed to the father and the mom was cleaned up and walked from the delivery room back to her bed in the maternity ward.
I am so grateful for the opportunity to experience this delivery. It helped me to gain even more motivation to do well in my schooling in America, because now I’m even more sure of what I want to do for a career.
I also wish I was a better writer so I could better depict the emotion and events that took place. I just know that life is greater than us, and I feel that is the reason why it is such a powerful and impressing experience to witness the beginning of a life.
We love also working in the Special School! It’s a school of 24 children who are each different. Some have learning disabilities; some are behind because of circumstances growing up. There are some who have mild autism, some more severe, one in a wheelchair, and one has one of the rarest conditions in the world, with only a hundred surviving people on the planet like her. Working at the school is a challenge that our volunteers have faced with excitement, love, and patience. They are like celebrities when they walk by the school, with all the kids yelling their names, and they always run and give us the best hugs!
Usually we help with homework and aide in teaching classes. Today, the girls (Dana, Wyn, Hannah, Natalie and Heather) came up with a creative way to teach colors, letters and have a bit of fun. Little did I know that Dana knows how to make all sorts of balloon animals. The kids had a wonderful time, and so did we!! They are a rambunctious lot, and they loved those balloons!
We may be far from home, but we had a wonderful 4th of July!!
We started with our projects. We work at the Buca school, which in my opinion, is pretty much situated in paradise. Although, I suppose most of the schools here are J There is a long winding road up a steep hill leading to the school from the main road. The school board has a major concern about the safety of the kids walking from main the road, where the bus stop is, up to the school. The problem is that the bus won’t come from the main road up to the school because the “bridge” it has to go over is just some boards that cross this stream at the beginning of the road, and unfortunately there are major holds in getting that fixed. The school asked for us to be involved in building a pathway with a fence between the road and where the kids would walk on the side of it. We wanted to go to the root of the problem and get a proper bridge built so the bus could come up. However, unfortunately due to complications with the stream being on government property, we are unable to take care of it, and must wait for a government process that is happening. It’s a little confusing. Hence the pathway! It is a solution that will work until the bridge is fixed. Two children have been killed in the last year leading up to the road, and so it is a huge concern, and a project I’ve become very invested in. We are setting posts in concrete (thanks Dad for teaching me how to build fences- I never thought the day would come when I would miss having a post hole digger to dig holes!) and then stringing wire between the posts, onto which we will string painted recycled bottles. Colorful, cheap, and effective! Today was the beginning of setting the posts. So grateful for the strong students and volunteers who mixed some very old concrete!! Although I’m an expert with that level ;) Today was just the beginning so more updates to come as the project progresses! We're so grateful for our local friends from the branch coming and helping with the project! It's a lot of holes to dig!
Tonight, Ryan made sure we had a good 4th of July celebration! He planned with Lea, our cook, to have a BBQ. Luckily, she had a grill she let us borrow so that Ryan could grill. We had a BBQ, listened to the most American music we could find, danced, and played some fun night games. No matter how far I travel away from home, I never forget the sacrifice of my ancestors and what they did to fight for liberty and freedom. And I will never forget the sacrifice of those ancestors who came not a half a century later who fought again for and lived that freedom during the Restoration of the gospel, giving up everything to have a live the truths that were again given to us. God bless the USA!
These kids can dance!! If I ever feel myself getting in a bad mood, I just watch this video! Haha the kids love to dance and work with us! We love it more :)
Attending a baptism with the branch here before Sunday meetings was one of the most special things I've done. I guess it's the island, the trees, the colors, the purity of the people, and their happiness that makes me feel like I must be in a movie sometimes. I love singing the hymns with the members more than anything. It doesn't matter if there are few or many people, the hymns are sung with such feeling and faith that it could inspire anyone. I serve as the Young Women's teacher here. Before I came, the YW met with the Relief Society, but now we have our own class, and I act as whatever is needed (president, planner of activities, explainer of Personal Progress, class teacher, finger nail painter, etc) and I love it! There are two Young Women (one of them is to the right of me in the picture above), and we have two who are investigating. The Elders and members here do an amazing job teaching and fellowshipping, and it's a privilege to be apart of it. Not to mention that little Douglas (pictured above on the left) is one of my favorite people on this whole island. He seriously makes my heart melt! After the baptism, a bunch of us piled into a truck for a ride from the village down to church. I was sitting down in the corner of the truck bed so all of the pictures I have are looking up at them, but it's fitting since I do look up to each of these primary children, youth, and YSA so much. I've never met a stronger branch in my life.
We had the BEST WEEKEND EVER!!!!! Our friend and partner, Teang, who is the principal of the Special School, invited us all to come with her family to an island for the day. And by family, I mean like 40 people. I felt right at home :) I was so happy just to get on the boat that took us out to the island! Once we got out to the island, which sits between the reef of the ocean, and the saltwater river leading up to the salt lake, we began exploring. We spent the day swimming, exploring, getting bit by crabs, climbing coconut trees (ok, getting shown by the Fijian boys how to climb them), drinking coconuts, and having our first Lovo, or feast of fish, chicken and pork cooked in the ground. I even got to try my first lobster ever! It had just been caught from the sea. Can't get much fresher than that! Can't imagine I'll really like it anywhere else after that haha. Also, turns out I LOVE coconut water. It's all about picking the right coconut! Later that day, we played volleyball, and I and a couple volunteers went with some of our new friends on a boat ride up the river to the Salt Lake. It was perfectly round, undisturbed, and appeared pre-historic. My heart was so happy just to be there! It was the perfect day.
The work at the hospital here has been difficult but rewarding for our volunteers. There isn’t much equipment and it is quite understaffed. It’s unlike anything someone in the States would picture when they think of a “hospital.” And it’s certainly different from the hospital I was working at before coming here! That being said, it is an absolutely wonderful place to work that helps us to understand what sorts of things healthcare professionals are up against in other parts of the world. One intern, Ben, recently wrote that in one week, he “helped treat dengue fever, pneumonia, acute febrile illnesses, a mandibular fracture from a fight, and a patient who sliced open his fingers at the sawmill.” Our volunteers and interns going to the hospital usually are not sure what they will face that day. Another volunteer told me that during the morning, they took measurements of a pregnant woman, and checked the baby’s heartbeat. Oh it brought a smile to their face! And then that afternoon, a dead body from a nearby accident was brought in and they were asked to help it be processed. There’s sometimes nothing like working in healthcare to bring you face to face with the circle of life. So proud of the volunteers and interns I work with, and how they handle themselves in these varying situations. They are lights during the more intense situations, and they work happily and diligently on the more mundane tasks, always making a difference and following our team motto of “see a need, fill a need.”
Our interns and volunteers who work at the hospital are involved in a number of projects including:
-help in triage taking vitals and prepping patients to be seen by the doctor
-assisting on the doctors’ rounds
-assisting and teaching pre-natal classes
-public health campaigns about nutrition and breastfeeding
-outreaches to villages and schools on the island
-working in records.
The records are currently in one dusty bunker of a room, and there are SHELVES of them. Unfortunately they are completely unorganized, which means when a patient comes in, they aren’t able to find their chart, and often a new one is begun. If anyone out there who is reading this works in healthcare, that will make you absolutely cringe! It means that the patient’s complete history is unknown, making continuity of care difficult and inefficient. We hope that by working with the Rusi, the head of records, we are creating a system that will greatly improve care at the hospital. Rusi pretty much makes up the records department by himself, and has never been able to get to it, and it’s a privilege to work with him, and to help train others on how to use the system. We love all those we work with at the hospital!! We learn so much from them as we strive to contribute to their efforts in lasting ways.
Every Wednesday afternoon in Fiji there is an hour set aside for all government employees to have time to exercise. That includes those who work in hospitals, schools, law enforcement, etc. It’s part of a health initiative they’ve begun. We were asked to teach wellness classes at the hospital for it. The special request was for zumba-Fijians love to dance! So proud of my girls who had never done zumba, but put together a class! It’s harder than it looks to do in this humidity! And they did it after sweating all day on other projects. We have so much fun though, and it’s awesome to bond with those we are working at the hospital with! After they challenged us to a volleyball game- Hospital vs Help! Haha
Hannah's signature dance move!
Dana is a high school sports coach, and it shows!! Haha she's helping us get those legs in shape!
Clearing and breaking of the ground for the garden has started!! See my previous post about meeting Lenette at the hospital to know what this is all about. We are so excited to help the dietician and cooking staff at the hospital provide good meals with lots of fruits and vegetables for the patients! I'm so proud of everyone's work! There's a lot of work to go, but it took a lot just to get those rows turned and prepped! I’ll let the pictures and videos tell the rest of the story!
All of us just standing around while Hannah is working away...what's new? HAHA but she got to us a machete so she's happy :)
I am having a blast with the volunteers here beginning projects! This week we took everyone to Nukubalavu village to meet the women’s group there that we will be working with. Rosa is the president of the group, and an incredible woman with a business shop at the market in town. Before we can work in the village, we must do something called a Sevusevu. It’s where we must first all go to the village hall and wait there to be introduced to the chief. Once he comes, we present him with a gift and he meets us and welcomes us into the village. From then on we are allowed to come in and out of the village as if we are family. Today we did that. However, the chief was delayed and so we spent some time with the women getting to know them. And since it’s paradise there are amazing flowers everywhere, they began teaching us how to weave necklaces from palm fronds, adding in flowers. And when one placed a crown of beautiful flowers on my head, I sort of felt I shouldn't wear it because I believe they are only for special occasions. But they all assured me it was fine, so I definitely wore that to my meetings that afternoon haha. Don't know when I'll get to do that again ;)
Afterwards, Wilma gave us a tour of the village, which is right on the ocean. Slowly, as the children saw us, they joined us and we ended with a walk on the beach.
It was wonderful to have that time with them learning and laughing. Sometimes I fell that development work challenges me in a way nothing else has, and other times I just feel like Fiji understands my true love language: flowers. I loved spending time with these women. They are incredible wives, mothers, aunts, sisters, wonderful entrepreneurs, and thirsty for knowledge. While we will be teaching classes and supporting the women’s group during our project here, it was me who felt supported through their love and smiles today, and of course, flowers.
First day off!! After over 3 weeks, Ryan and I finally got to get in the ocean!! Wow, it’s felt a long time coming haha. We went snorkeling to a place just out of town called Split Rock. We enjoyed it, and everyone got a taste of real Fiji water. The snorkeling was good, but I think we may see much more wildlife next time. It was just good to get out, get some sun, and have some fun. Everyone is adjusting to life in another country in different ways. It’s really interesting to me to be apart of helping in that process as much as they choose to include me. I admire each of my volunteers so much, and the way they give of themselves and their time. Each of us are in process in becoming who we want to be, and it’s a privilege to work with our team.
I am definitely a freshwater lake girl though. Because at home when I jump in a deep part of the lake, I don’t have to worry about kicking something beneath me! I reminded myself of that when I got in the water here, but misjudged where the rock and coral was beneath me at one point, and kicked a rock with the top of my foot SO hard! Oh it hurt terrible. So much I didn’t even yell out. It was like one of the stunned silent scream pains. After getting out of the water a bit later though I seemed to be fine- even giving someone a piggy back ride who had cut her feet on the coral. But that night I could barely put weight on it. I was unsure if it was just a bad bone bruising…or something worse. It’s on the exact spot on my 4th metatarsal that I fractured when I fell in the Mississippi River on my mission. I was getting worried as it was getting nothing but worse for a couple days, so I eventually went to the hospital. Very lucky for me, the head doctor there decided to do a complimentary X-Ray, since working with them I am “now family.” God bless Fiji. X-Ray came back no fracture!! So now the pain doesn’t bother me so much because I know I’m not making it worse and it should just take a month or so for the tissue damage to heal up, but I can still do everything I want to do! And I’m friends with the Physiotherapist at the hospital, so we did ultrasounds and wraps to help me be able to walk without so much pain.
Life is good! Saga na laqa.