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That Time I Popped up in India

Well well well, look who's back. I'm back and better than ever, filled to the brim with brand new experiences and opportunities. For the past two weeks I have been in India. Here is one of a 5 part blog-series I'll be posting on my experiences in India. Posts will cover: what I'm doing here, culture, the elephants, touring and India's public schools.

When I told people I was going to India, many cocked their heads to the side, gave a concerned look and said, "...why?" Cue the backstory. My mom has been a NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) nurse for 34 years. She works at UCONN Health Center in Farmington, CT. One of the doctors in her unit is from Hyderabad, India and he is part of a team that is working to improve the healthcare system in India. They have created a foundation called NICE which provides free healthcare to babies and children. They are now implementing a World-wide program called Helping Babies Breathe and Helping Babies Survive which teaches simple care practices to local nurses and midwives to help babies breathe in the first few minutes of life and how to help them survive. The program has been so successful that HBB has programs all over the world in developing countries. Their influence has been widely successful and the number of newborn and infant deaths has plummeted.

Here is a short clip on The Program featured on ABC News: Helping Babies Breathe

That's great, but you're a teacher, not a nurse. True, even the sight of a paper cut will turn my face pale as a ghost in 5 seconds flat. Because the nurses are invited over to India to help teach, they are allowed to bring their husbands. Since my mom doesn't have a husband, she decided to bring her favorite daughter instead, me (just kidding, the other two have adult commitments that would have made it impossible to come). I will say that watching about 100 nurses take the practical exam, I'm pretty sure that I could resuscitate a baby if needed. I'd definitely pass the test.

So my role during the actual teaching was to take photos and videos of the process. I will put together a video which CT medical center and NICE will use to show the world what they are doing and hopefully inspire others to want to help. I also observed the teaching aspects of the course and provided strategies and recommendations on how to approach different portions of the course. My background in working with English Language Learners allowed me to help them try to get through to the nurses who did not speak English.

The Volunteers: In my short 25 years, I can honestly say I've never been more proud of someone. This is my mom's fourth time in India teaching. The tribal courses range from 10-15 hour days for about a week. The heat is unbearable, the bathrooms are holes in the ground and the mosquitoes snack on your blood all day. But the difference she's making is immeasurable. If they teach 40 nurses a day, those nurses then go back and teach their peers who teach their peers and the ripple effect begins while the mortality rate decreases. Even more commendable to this team is the fact that the doctors and nurses come here at their own expense. NICE does not have the money to cover flight costs and some meals. So the medical professionals volunteer their time and money to leave the luxury and comfort of their world to help those struggling in underdeveloped countries.

^^ My mom's carry-on

What exactly are they teaching? The medical professionals teach simple simple medical techniques, some of which are common sense to you and me. They teach them how to wash their hands and have sterile equipment on hand. This is not common sense to many nurses here, given the conditions they are working in, it's hard to consider cleanliness as a priority. They are teaching two global programs called Helping Babies Breathe and Helping Babies Survive. These programs are being taught all over the world, to developing countries. To ensure that the nurses have mastered the skills, the nurses are required to take a written exam and a practical exam before they receive certification.

Hospital Conditions: I'm no nurse, but I have been to the hospital both in Chile and the US and I can't even begin to describe how blessed we are. You can't fully grasp this concept until you can compare what you have to what others don't have. The government hospitals in India are heart-wrenching. The conditions are frightening, with equipment that is outdated, not working and unsanitary. At one point while visiting a government hospital, the generator gave out and all electricity was lost for about 30 seconds. Imagine the babies that are relying on that equipment to breathe. These kinds of things are exactly what the NICE foundation and their team are working to improve. The hospital windows were covered in dirt and mosquitoes buzzed around the NICU. Babies were sometimes 3 to an incubator. They don't have identification like hospital bracelets and the diapers they are wearing are 3 times their size. All of the equipment is re-used including needles. The labor room looked like it was straight out of a horror movie. The post-labor room had a hostel-type vibe, it was just a room filled with about 20 metal beds. All of the women stayed together in one room, no husbands or men to be found. The baby slept with the mom and was cared for by the mom. There are not enough nurses to care for the babies.

The purpose of the following photos is not to make you sad but to raise Global Awareness. Many of our "problems" are not problems. I'm on a mission to spread global awareness and hopefully inspire others to help.

^ ^ There were ants crawling near this baby's head

^ ^ Hospital records

^ ^ Hospital records

^ ^ 3 babies to a bed

The NICE foundation The NICE foundation is partnered with Connecticut's Children Medical Center where they bring over supplies such as mannequins, Ambu bags, stethoscopes, cord clamps and so much more. At the end of the course, they provide kits filled with the equipment needed to resuscitate a baby in the first few minutes of life. And they regularly re-stock and fix old equipment.

If you're a doctor or nurse and are interested in knowing how to get involved in the NICE Institute, please contact me or visit their website

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