In advance of World Heart Day (September 29), we welcome a guest piece from Hannah Jamsay, CEO and Executive Director of Uplift Internationale (UI) and an AHA Instructor. UI is a Denver, CO based non-profit specializing in bringing life-changing facial reconstructive surgeries to impoverished children in the Philippines.
Living in America warps your perception.
I don’t mean that in a bad way, more that we’re so blessed with abundance that many of the things we take for granted as common practice are – in other parts of the world – life changing revelations.
Over the last nine years, I’ve had the pleasure of volunteering for Uplift Internationale, and for which I have served as executive director since May of 2016. UI’s mission is to provide poor children in rural villages of the Philippines with life-changing surgeries such as cleft palate repair. A nurse by training, I’ve also served as a BLS Instructor and have led Hands-Only CPR awareness events and classes on behalf of the AHA for almost eight years. On UI’s most recent trip, I decided it would be cool to introduce CPR training alongside our surgical work. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the results blew me away.
Medical care, particularly in these rural communities, isn’t like here. Healthcare workers will wash and reuse several one-time-use, disposable pieces of medical equipment. Hospital patients are grouped into large rooms together, and it is incumbent on a patient’s loved ones to handle all of their personal care (bathroom, feeding, etc.) Upon arrival of my first mission, I found myself scrambling to find cots so that our post-operation children wouldn’t be spending their recovery on a dirty concrete floor.
Here, even some trained healthcare workers have never learned CPR.
When we arrived in the Philippines this past year, the locals were wary of us – as they usually are. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to work with Filipinos before, you know that this is a reserved (but extraordinarily appreciative) culture.
Who are these people and why are they wanting us to beat our hands on someone’s chest?!
However, it wasn’t long before I had sat down with enough families and health workers one-on-one to earn their trust. It’s amazing the goodwill a few toys and teddy bears can buy you. And that’s when we saw the amazing happen.
There is such a craving for good healthcare knowledge in these parts of the world that all it took was a spark, and suddenly we had the entire communal area full of willing participants in a Family & Friends®
Almost two dozen got on the floor and learned how to give chest compressions on the manikins, which had been donated by Colorado Advanced Life Support and Children’s Hospital Colorado. Many more eagerly observed. What was originally planned to be a short demonstration turned into an hours-long event where we reviewed different CPR techniques, chest compressions for infants, and first aid for universal emergencies such as choking.
At the end, when we donated the manikins to the village so that they could continue to practice and teach others what they had learned, leaders within this typically shy and timid culture couldn’t hold it in – they wept in joy and in gratitude.
It was such a small thing for us. But for them, it was the ability to save a life.
Editor’s note: Based on the success of this first experience, Uplift Internationale is now committed to teaching CPR as part of its work alongside performing facial surgeries for indigent children. Its next mission trip is scheduled for February 2018.