Megan Barney, of Milton, has worked as a nurse anesthetist for eight years at Davis Hospital. She works with several doctors who have organized many service trips to Guatemala through the organization Utah Medical Outreach.
After seeing numerous groups embark in service on these biannual foreign trips, she wanted to join them. About a year and a half ago Barney began her plans to join the group traveling to the remote area of Senahu, Guatemala, April ## through May 4, 2013.
Allison Apedaile of Peterson also works at Davis Hospital. She is a nurse in the OR and has watched as groups have gone on these medical trips and desired to join them.
As the last group went out last fall, Apedaile began seriously planning to make sure she could join them. In additional to all of her personal preparations, she was able to help with gathering and packing supplies.
The group of 22 set up a clinic with two ENT (ear, nose, throat) surgeons; two OB surgeons; a general surgeon; nurses; anesthesiologists; as well as other volunteers to help the destitute people of the region.
During the three days the clinic operated, doctors met with patients to determine if they would be able to properly care for them and help them recover in the time frame they were there. Approximately 70 surgeries were completed in the small clinic. They treated a variety of maladies including ovarian cysts, hernias, lymphoma and three C-sections, among other cases.
Barney used her 15 years of experience as a nurse anesthetist to aid in the surgeries. She was confident in her anesthesia abilities; however, she was surprised at how physically challenging the trip was.
It took a total of 23 hours to get to the isolated city, eight of those hours on bus. The last three hours were spent on a bumpy, dirt road. After their long trip to get there, Barney and Apedaile found that the hotel had unreliable water. Having clean drinking water is something we often take for granted. We just expect it, but it is a sporadic luxury for the people in the area they visited.
The heat was penetrating on top of the intense situations. Barney felt like she was “sweating buckets” in the tropical sun. She felt exhausted, however, even more grateful to be able to help others.
“I just love the people,” Barney said of the experience. She found moments to connect with individuals even aside from giving medical care. She brought along soccer balls to cheer the children. One of the balls helped to joyfully bring one struggling young boy out of anesthesia. While documenting her travels, she let a young girl experience a digital camera, allowing her to take and view photos.
Apedaile most enjoyed being able to provide medical care for those who would not receive it otherwise, being able to improve their health and give them a better life. The group treated some very painful maladies that would have remained untreated otherwise as there is no medical care in the area and residents can’t afford to travel to distant cities.
“It’s an amazing experience to go and help the people,” Apedaile explains of her trip. She is a circulating nurse and worked with the team to prep patients, aid doctors during surgery, help in recovery and other activities where she could advance the health of the patients.
Barney took her two oldest children Danika, 14, and Miles, 13, to help with the project. They began their service long before they packed their bags. Danika sewed pillowcase bags to be given to patients on the trip as part of an LDS Young Womanhood project. Miles collected Ibuprofen and Tylenol for the trip for an Eagle Scout project. Barney was pleased with her children’s efforts as well as the opportunity for them to see the end results.
While there, Danika aided in pre-op and post-op. Miles worked as an orderly, changing bedding and cleaning and sterilizing instruments. Both Danika and Miles have aspirations to work in the medical field.
Apedaile didn’t come alone either. She brought her second of four children to the experience. Marleah, 23, joined the group and aided in the OR and recovery. She was able to help patients move around and assisted with sterilization to make sure surgeries ran smoothly enough to transition to the next patient quickly. “We kept her very busy,” Apedaile said of Marleah.
Every person on the trip not only volunteered their time, but they also paid their own way to go and help the underserved patients in Guatemala. The patients in the area received all of their medical care from consultation through to recovery for free.
Both Barney and Apedaile are already aspiring to travel with Utah Medical Outreach again.