Nurse wants to help clinic get access to water

The nurse team, from left: Nurse Agnes; Amy Sullivan, RN; Ashley VanBrunt, RN; Margaret Orn, RN, DN; Nurse Florence; Tyler VanBrunt, RN; Nurse Fatay; Glenda Gottfred, RN; and Tanya Spoon, ARNP.  - Glenda Gottfred / Contributed
The nurse team, from left: Nurse Agnes; Amy Sullivan, RN; Ashley VanBrunt, RN; Margaret Orn, RN, DN; Nurse Florence; Tyler VanBrunt, RN; Nurse Fatay; Glenda Gottfred, RN; and Tanya Spoon, ARNP.
— image credit: Glenda Gottfred / Contributed

POULSBO — Glenda Gottfred’s “passion for the future” is to bring running water to a tiny medical clinic in Sierra Leone.

One sunny day last month in Sierra Leone, Gottfred, a Poulsbo resident, delivered some letters that she brought in her suitcase from people with the Children of the Nations’ Village Sponsorship Program. She sat down with some of the recipients to help them to write letters back to their sponsors in America.

She remembered her visit to one little mud-brick home with a dirt floor. She had a letter to deliver to a little boy who lives there. Next to the family bed was a picture of his sponsor and every letter that the sponsor had sent to him.

As Gottfred looked at that evidence of a cherished tie to someone across the globe, she realized, “I can make a difference somewhere else, even though I can’t be there all the time.”

Gottfred was part of a team of nurses that served a mission at the clinic in Sierra Leone in January. The team consisted of three nurses and a nurse practitioner from Kitsap County and a husband/wife team from Portland.

The clinic is part of a complex run by Silverdale-based Children of the Nations. The complex includes an orphanage for 105 children and a school for hundreds of children from surrounding villages. The school is named after the late Mallory Jansen, daughter of Dr. Perry and Brenda Jansen from Silverdale. Dr. Jansen now serves at an HIV/AIDS clinic in Malawi. Even though many locals cannot read or write, their children are learning English at the Mallory Jansen Memorial School.

Sierra Leone is a lush, tropical country on the west coast of Africa. But malaria and malnutrition are rampant. And after 10 years of war the previous decade, there are many orphaned children.

The local team of nurses worked in Banta, which is about five hours from Freetown by car (in the dry season).

Tanya Spoon, the team’s leader, oversees the clinic and has made five trips to Sierra Leone over the years. It is her desire to improve the clinic’s standards. So, Tyler and Ashley Van Brunt of Portland spent three months last year at the clinic, observing the conditions of the clinic and the practices of the four resident nurses. Based on the Van Brunts’ findings, the team, under the direction of Spoon, developed new standards of care and standards of service for the Children of the Nations clinic. The purpose of this recent trip was to teach those standards to the resident nurses.

The team gave lectures on a variety of subjects which covered basic nursing education. Gottfred taught IV therapy and pain control. She said they taught about three days a week and worked alongside the nurses the rest of the week to help them implement their new training. The clinic has three cots and a covered outdoor waiting area.

“It was hard because there is no running water,” Gottfred said. “There was only electricity from 7 to 10 at night when we ran the generator.”

Gottfred related how she and the other nurses wore headlamps to see when they assisted a delivery at 2 a.m. one morning. She is proud to have helped to deliver two babies during her time in Sierra Leo

ne, something she has never had the chance to do before as an oncology nurse.

“[We treated] lots of babies with malaria and various people with injuries,” she said. The clinic sees about 40 patients a day and helps deliver one or two babies a week. The average age for pregnant women is 15 in Sierra Leone; the clinic runs prenatal checks on Fridays.

Gottfred said the resident nurses sing songs to the ladies at the prenatal checks to instruct them on how to keep their drinking water clean. The villagers speak Mende, but they don’t know how to read it and they don’t know English. “You can’t just hand them a pamphlet,” she said. So, the songs help the moms to remember information on how to keep their families healthy.

Good hygiene practices are not only an issue for the patients, but were one of the main focuses of instruction for the clinic nurses. Gottfred said her team needed to reinforce many things we take for granted, such as not re-using needles and not washing hands in a common bucket.

The types of conditions that the nurses experience at the clinic are the same as those of the villagers.

*      *      *

Serving as a nurse on a mission trip is something that has always been on Glenda Gottfred’s “bucket list.” She said it just wasn’t possible before when her children were younger.

She and other team members from Children of the Nations raised the funds for their transportation to and from Sierra Leone. They also raised money to purchase supplies for the clinic and new scrubs for the nurses there.

Besides working to develop new standards of care and service at the clinic, team members helped to clean, paint and organize the clinic.

The most rewarding part of the experience for Gottfred was seeing that the resident nurses felt empowered, felt that people cared about them and the clinic, and were showing signs of implementing what they were taught.

She said the person who got her involved with Children of the Nations was her walking buddy, Margaret Orn.

When asked if she’ll go back, Gottfred replied, “The journey [from Sierra Leone] was the hard part. It took 45 hours of car, ferry, and plane to get home. If it wasn’t for that, I’d be back in a heartbeat.” Then she added, on a lighter note, “Those Third World-country ferries are scary.”

As for the rest of the team, Amy Sullivan and Orn have returned home. But Spoon and Tyler and Ashley Van Brunt are on their way to a surgery clinic in Malawi to implement the same standards of care and service, then they’ll go to Uganda.



Above: Glenda Gottfred, RN, holds a baby she helped to deliver at a clinic in Sierra Leone. She is an oncology nurse, and said this was a wonderful new experience for her.

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