In late October, one of our very own clinical engineering technologists, Felicity Chevron MacKay, went on a special trip: she joined a volunteer task force made up of nurses, physicians, and other healthcare professionals committed to delivering and improving healthcare in Guatemala. ACCES was glad to offer some financial support in the form of a $300 donation for Felicity and the Refugee International volunteer group’s mission. Felicity was more than happy to share her story with us once she returned from her mission.

It all started about a year ago, in November 2017. After looking through coworkers pictures of previous experiences on biomedical mission trips, and loving to travel to new places, I knew this was something I would want to do someday. That someday was October 20th 2018.

With a team of 41 other volunteers, I arrived in a small community west of Guatemala City called San Raymundo. Most volunteers were healthcare providers such as nurses, doctors, and surgeons to help operate one of the biggest clinics Refuge International has ever had.

My time there consisted of a variety of tasks to keep the operating room and clinic running smoothly. Most of my time was spent cleaning and sterilizing instruments needed for surgeries throughout the day. This was a very important job as we had only limited amounts of instruments on hand for specific surgeries. Other times, I played an important role in troubleshooting and repairing medical equipment as I was the only biomedical engineering technologist on site. While there, I repaired common devices like ECG monitors and an I-stat blood analyzer. Although these may seem like simple repairs, it was critical in this situation as the facility only had a few of these devices. If one were to break down, it would mean the clinic would not be able to run blood tests or ECGs.

While on the last full day of surgeries, the anesthesia machine was not working. This was a critical device to be fixed because failure of the device would mean patients getting surgery would need to get spinal anesthesia rather than a general anesthesia. This would have caused longer recovery times as well as more pain for the patients. After lots of troubleshooting, and with the device being very old, I got the machine working so that the anesthesia tech could read the amount of oxygen the patient was getting. This experience alone was very rewarding as I am not familiar with working on this type of device.

At the end of the week we did a total of 60 surgical cases, 476 clinic visits, and 570 prescriptions were given out. This was one of Refuge International’s biggest clinics to date. I met so many great people and learned a lot of new things while volunteering in San Raymundo. From helping patients in the recovery room, repairing equipment to help the facility run smoother, and watching a precious baby come into this world, this is one experience I will never forget.

- Felicity Chevron MacKay (Glace Bay, NS)

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