How it all started
The study abroad project was truly a goal and vision that came about after returning to Guyana after approximately 46 years. I was born in Guyana but left as a child and returned later and joined a mission group. In 2015, I began a personal journey of missionary service with the team of Bridge Global Medical Missions (BGMM) in Georgetown, Guyana. I was the first respiratory therapist to join the team.
I remember during the first few days in the hospitals I was told that there was “a lot of wheezing” in the EDs. Treating patients consisted of just administrating short-acting nebulizer treatments, but I remember being very impressed with the ICU at the main public hospital, Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC), because they had the ventilators I could use. However, physicians only managed the patients while the nurses were left to monitor the ventilators and equipment, which they did not understand.
At the Linden Hospital in Guyana, the ED was constantly full of the “wheezers,” and the ICU only had ventilators that were basically nonfunctioning due to language barriers or a lack of biomed professionals. One of my fondest memories was fixing two ventilators from China. I could get the ventilators to work and explain the basic modes because in my mind, it was just a ventilator, and they could see the modes. The problem was the language was all in Chinese! So, we all got together: a Cuban doctor, a Cuban biomed, and a nurse with a translation program and, finally, changed the language to English. It was an interesting day!
When we were on our study abroad trip this past January, I was able to place an intubated patient on that same ventilator. After my first visit to Linden Hospital, I addressed a few of my observations with the medical director, and I will never forget his comment. He said, “I thought respiratory would just come do some nebulizer treatments and show us oxygen.”