Monday, March 15, 2010

Sunday (3/14/2010)

Here ends the blog for the 2010 Service Trip!

Some people went to church, some went back to the artisan market. Some did both. Then we packed up and went to the airport back in Guatemala City. The flight back to Miami went smoothly, and, after the four-hour planned layover and the one-hour unplanned flight delay, so did the flight back to Nashville. We landed around 1:00 am and arrived back on campus by 1:45 am.

We would like to give special thanks to the following people and organizations for contributing to our wonderful spring break service learning experience:

Maria Jose de Gallardo
Elisa Arenales
Sr. & Sra. Arenales
Cindy & Raj Bhavsar
Jerry Collins
Bob Seay
Keith Loiseau
All our donors!
Tina Shaw
John Dunbar
Ray Erlandson
Steve Wadley
VUSE Dean’s Office
Mark Bandas, F. Clark Williams, & the Office of the Dean of Students
Dennis & Cindy McCutchin
Lori Catanzaro
Ted Fischer
Dolores Black
Ryan Ortega
Megan Bowles & Student Health
Ed White
Betsy – our translator
Steven – our driver
Odra Flores
Axel Higueres
Carlos Esquit
Sheyla (at Pedro Bethancourt)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Saturday (3/13/2010)

We started the day off by hiking the volcano Pacaya. The bottom was covered in trees and seemed like any other hike. Here, we see Toby, Dr. P, and Ed White, the previous dean of the Vanderbilt School of Engineering who joined us in Antigua.

This picture was taken through a break in the trees. A mystical floating volcano. Impressive. Thanks to Garrett for the mind-boggling photograph.

Eventually, the trees gave way to a green field. That was abruptly cut short, however, by the end of a lava flow from an eruption in 2006. Here is the first bit of the flow we encountered. In the background, we see the peak of the volcano we climbed.

Garrett also has a camera that will take panorama pictures. Very useful considering the amazing view from way up on the volcano. This is Kyle and Ryan in the limited range of green field before it gave way to black rocks.

At this point, there was no more green anything. From here on the volcano was covered in sharp, jagged, hardened lava from the 2006 eruption. The sign tells us “Danger, high risk area.” This was after a sign warning us that by hiking any farther, we were exposing ourselves to gases that were dangerous to our health. It was also before another sign that that read, “Peligro, Flujos de lava,” which means, “Danger! Flows of lava.” Despite our ability to read, we continued to the top.

A Flujo de lava.

A view from up near the top of Pacaya.

After getting back from the Volcano and showering thoroughly, we spent a couple of hours in the artisan market getting souvenirs for ourselves and our friends and family back home.

We went to a super nice restaurant for our last night in Guatemala. The Casa Santo Domingo, a converted monastery. The food was awesome and they had live music. Dr. P’s birthday isn’t for
a little while, but we figured it was close enough.
(Another video.)

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Friday (3/12/2010)

At breakfast, everyone was super excited because we got to sleep in – a whole extra 45 minutes. Everyone met downstairs for a breakfast of pancakes or eggs before heading out.

We spent the day at Hermano Pedro, a hospital with prominent Catholic influence in much more than the name. In fact, at first glance, it looked quite a bit like a church. Inside, we found many murals and statues of Jesus or the saints, including the beautiful stained glass window pictured below.

Hermano Pedro, according to the teaching of its namesake, devotes a great amount of both its facilities and its efforts to helping the physically and mentally handicapped. On our tour, we got to meet some of the patients and Chris in particular made a new friend.

After our tour, we worked the day away on all the hospital’s problem equipment. Kyle and Ryan repaired an operating room light that had been rewired to bypass a fuse, as well as buying some replacement fuses from a local electronics store to donate to the hospital. Joseph worked on a SAG saw, providing the hospital with a fully functioning piece of equipment by day’s end. Garret diagnosed problems with fiber optic light supplies and left the hospital with a list of parts to order.

After lunch, we took a short break. Some people walked across the square to see the church in which our translator will be getting married later this month. Some of us simply enjoyed the beautiful weather in the park with some helado delicioso (delicious ice cream).

On our way back into the hospital after our break, guess who we met??
…Unless you have been talking to someone on our trip, you were probably wrong. It was Hunter Campbell “Patch” Adams. The real-life person that Robin Williams played in the movie. When we asked if we could take a picture with him, he said that he would consent only if we all picked our nose.

We got back to work after our break. This is apparently a picture of Garrett teaching Dr. P how it is done…

After leaving the hospital, we said good bye to our translator friends, Betsy and Elisa. I think all of our girls have already friended them on facebook.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Thursday (3/11/2010)

I like the picture book format, so I'm going to stick with that...

We spent most of our day at the National Hospital of Antigua. This was definitely the most productive day yet. We split up to address all the problems the hospital staff dictated. Unfortunately, I do not know everything that was worked on throughout the day, but here are a few pictures of things I witnessed first hand. Chris worked on an autoclave with Lina and Toby.

Joseph, Rosie, and Ryan ran diagnostics on all the patient monitors in the surgical recovery suite. Though they did not have the specific spare parts that were needed, they were able to make a list of the parts the hospital needs to order, and assuming the hospital follows their directions, all the monitors will soon be fully functional.
Garrett, Ryan, Kyle, and Elise worked on surgical lights in the operating suite. The surgeons were complaining that the focusing mechanism for the lights was not functioning correctly. They were able to solve this problem, as well as replace some bulbs that had burned out.
We were at the hospital from before 8:00 am until after 4:30 pm with only a brief break for lunch. After this productive day, we took a much-needed hour and a half to ourselves before walking to a highly-recommended restaurant for dinner. We were joined by Dr. P’s Spanish teacher and Dr. White, a retired dean of the Vanderbilt School of Engineering. The food was delicious.

After dinner, we took salsa lessons from Elise. We are all professional dancers now. Sort of. Everyone should go watch Elise perform at Cafe con Leche on March 27th.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wednesday (3/10/2010)

Today’s blog is going to take more the form of a picture book:

We kicked off the day with a tour of the Shalom Surgical Center. An old home converted into a facility completely devoted to providing surgical care to children. It is currently under construction, so we had to use some imagination (and hard hats). Construction crews are working seven days a week, often double shifts, so the center should be completed in August. This group picture was taken outside the surgical center after the tour.

After our tour, we piled into our van and Steven, our driver, chauffeured us over to Antigua, where we will be spending the rest of the week. After having some trouble finding our hotel, we pulled up to what is hands-down the nicest place we have seen in Guatemala. Here, Chris is posing on the stairs leading from the courtyard up to the second level and his room.

We dropped our luggage off at the hotel and had a lunch (graciously provided by our hosts within the Shalom Foundation) in the hotel’s lush courtyard. While eating, we enjoyed the warm weather and radiant sunshine as well as each other’s company. Despite appearances, it is not required for us to match. This picture just shows how good of friends we are all becoming.

After long, hard days of work followed by nightly activities and early mornings, Lora isn’t the only one who has been caught dosing off in a brief bit of down time.

We ate dinner in an open-air cafĂ© in downtown Antigua, a short walk from our hotel. Despite the constant “boom” of fireworks, we enjoyed the food and the lush flora of the courtyard dining area. No expense was spared since Dr. P picked up the tab.

We walked around Antigua’s central park for a little while to work off our dinner. We listened to live music while watching some brave tourists dance as well as enjoying the beauty of the park. We even met some other Vanderbilt students, quite by chance. In the background, there is an exquisite fountain and church.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tuesday (3/9/2010)

Today was extremely productive. After a quick tour of the future neonatal intensive care facility, we were able to work with some professional technicians from Cuba. Under their direction, we fixed six incubators and cleared an electrosurgical unit for use. The fixes made on the incubators were temporary, but Lina has been in contact with the machines’ manufacturer and is arranging for parts for a more permanent solution to be shipped soon.

Ryan and Dr. P attaching an innovative sleeve to an incubator. Many of the incubators were similarly lacking simple parts.

Around 2:00, we left the hospital for the University of the Valley of Guatemala. After being provided with refreshments and a chance to ask questions about the Guatemalan education system, we were given a tour of the beautiful campus. Then, Dr. P gave a presentation about Vanderbilt and Rosie, Lina, Garrett, and Kyle presented on their various research and design projects.

Lina giving her presentation on her research: Glucose metabolism in vivo.

Guatemalan students demonstrated their “mega-project,” control of a robot via three mechanisms: eye movement, electrical activity in the motor cortex of the brain, and beta wave generation from intensive concentration. All projects were impressive and they even allowed us to try to control the robot. Unfortunately, it seems that some brief training is required in order to become proficient, so we were unable to succeed in doing so in the time allotted.
Rosie concentrating really hard on trying to prove the Guatemalan engineers wrong. They said women could not control the robot in this way. ...Apparently they were right.

The group of engineering students that attended our presentations and presented to us.

Overall, it was an exciting and busy day. So exciting and so busy, in fact, that most everyone is completely worn out. We are all going to bed now, around 11:00.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Monday (3/8/2010)

Our day began with a 7:00 breakfast consisting of pancakes, bacon, and eggs. We left the Nazarene Center at 8:00, and upon arriving at the hospital, we were taken on a tour of the facilities. We then divided into groups to work on the assigned equipment. With the exception of a brief lunch break, we worked until 4:00, a long day filled with hard work.

An amiable doctor giving us a tour of the surgery wing.

(Right) Garrett and Elise working on an electrosurgical unit.

(Below) Local children who strategically sought us out for our delicious cookies.

Back at the Nazarene Center, we enjoyed a game of soccer before dinner and then roasted marshmallows over a small campfire. Everyone retired early, worn out, but excited to continue work tomorrow.

Toby being efficient by roasting multiple marsh-mallows at one time.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sunday (3/7/2010)

We met at 11:15 this morning to drive to the airport. Our flights went smoothly and our awesome hosts met us at the Guatemalan airport.

The group passing time by playing UNO in the Nashville Airport. (I think Chris won.)

We are all now safe and sound here in the Nazarene Center in Guatemala City. After getting situated in our rooms, we had a group meeting, and Dr. Paschal took us on a brief moonlit tour of the compound. Everyone is now currently snuggling under the covers of our bunk beds due to Dr. P’s 11:00 curfew. (I think this time is subject to discussion.) For all the parents reading, if you haven’t heard from your child(ren) or were disappointed by an abbreviated phone call, everyone is doing well and excited for an early start tomorrow. Breakfast will be at 7:00 and we will head over to the hospital for a full day’s work at 8:00.

The ladies on our late-night stroll around the Nazarene

The men under the moon light.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

With spring break officially under way and excitement setting in, we are making final preparations for our trip. Last minute acquisitions have been made and the more forward thinking students might even be packed. We will be leaving Vanderbilt at 11:30 am on Sunday to catch our 1:00 pm flight; we will have a brief layover in Miami before continuing on to Guatemala City, where we will be working for the first half of the week.

Learning how to say "Thank you" and "excuse me" in the same class period as "infant incubator" and "electro-surgical unit."

We have spent this semester practicing our BME skills on various pieces of equipment and researching specific machines that we know we will be working on. In addition, we have been studying basic and engineering-relevant Spanish. All our work throughout the semester is about to culminate in an adventure down to one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. Clean water? Air conditioning and heat? Toilet paper? Who needs it? Well, we are bringing our own toilet paper, but besides that, we are roughing it. All for the sake of Guatemalan citizens under the care of the National Hospital of Guatemala, the hospitals Hermano Pedro and San Juan de Dios.

We look forward to a wonderful cultural experience and local food, as well as an opportunity to hike a local volcano and see the surrounding country side. Our primary focus and overriding motivation, however, is the service learning aspect of our trip. In addition to repairing medical equipment, we will be spending time with young children in the Shalom Surgical Center and giving presentations on various subjects in our individual areas of expertise.

Here, we are packing all the supplies and gifts we will be taking with us on the trip. Joseph is keeping an inventory while Dr. P explains how she wants things done.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Countdown ... T-4 days and we'll be on our way! On Monday, we packed up our tools and a bunch of Vanderbilt t-shirts, water bottles and pens. We're waiting on some last minute spare parts for the medical equipment we will be working on in Guatemala. There are lots of last minute odds & ends and of course we still need to finish work in our classes.

Here's a link to the blog for last year's Vanderbilt BME Service Learning in Guatemala trip: