Global Healthcare Hits Home and Takes Heart
Kelly Walker, a registered nurse from South Carolina, recently visited Save the Children's health programs in Guatemala.
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Kelly Walker is a registered nurse from South Carolina who recently visited Save the Children’s health and nutrition programs in Guatemala. She is a member of Association of Women’s Health, Obstetrics and Neonatal Nurses (AWOHNN) and is working with Save the Children to help raise awareness about the role of frontline health workers in the lives of mothers, newborns and children around the world.
As a perinatal registered nurse, I have a great deal of knowledge about global health issues in my head. But my recent trip to Guatemala with Save the Children put the families affected by these issues into my heart.
This was my first time in Guatemala, a beautiful but heartbreakingly poor country. In the rural villages where Save the Children works, families travel by dirt roads, fetch drinking water from streams and subsist on homegrown corn. Their homes are filled with love, but little else. Without electricity, appliances and heat, families huddle around wood-stoves – the heart of every home
It was in one of these homes that I met Juana and her newborn baby, Marlene. I was making house calls with a local health worker named Isabella. Watching Isabella care for Juana and Marlene, I was amazed at both the simplicity and efficiency of her work.
During the home visit, Isabella weighed Marlene, now a healthy 11 pounds, and gave her a well-baby check-up. To help ensure baby Marlene gets the nutrition she needs to grow and thrive, Isabella educated Juana on the importance of breastfeeding to build her baby’s immune system and avoid disease. Save the Children’s staff told me that counseling new mothers on breastfeeding is extremely important in villages like these where chronic malnutrition threatens children’s health and survival.
Malnutrition is often tied together with other illnesses. Most times, the illness is treated but the malnutrition continues – which means that another illness will surely present itself. A new report by Save the Children states that by the age of two, chronic malnutrition permanently stunts children’s physical growth and brain development and leaves them more vulnerable to disease. Read the Report
We continued to follow Isabella as she visited a number of local families and checked on the health and growth of the children. Throughout the day, the connection between Isabella’s role in her village and my job on a busy hospital floor became clear – both of us are health care givers, trusted advisers, and friends to offer support or a smile.
It was then I knew that I had to be a voice for babies like Marlene who deserve to grow-up free from the threat of malnutrition and preventable diseases and for health workers like Isabella so that they can continue to do their lifesaving work.
This March, I’m taking what I learned in Guatemala and I’m bringing it to Capitol Hill at Save the Children’s Advocacy Summit. And, in my heart, I’m bringing babies like Marlene and health care heroes like Isabella. They need me to be their voice in Washington, where I’ll speak out in support of these lifesaving programs. Won’t you join me and be their voice, too?
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