PARRY SOUND - Joanne Swackhamer is still adjusting to the time difference.
Joanne Swackhamer, a local registered nurse, recently returned from a trip to the Philippines with the Red Cross Care Partners where she helped the locals with a wide rang of medical challenges.
The local nurse practitioner recently returned from a trip to the Philippines to provide medical support organized by Community Nursing Services. While overseas, her group saw roughly 3,000 people in a variety of municipalities in some of the poorest parts of the country.
She said the whole experience was incredible.
“The people were friendly and appreciative. We’re so fortunate here. We have a lot, and I think sometimes we take it for granted. It’s nice to be able to share with others and see other cultures. You come home and appreciate what you’ve got even more ... even if it is winter,” said Swackhamer.
As part of the team, Swackhamer helped the locals with everything from minor tooth issues to serious injuries. They saw close to 2,000 children and taught them about dental care with newly provided toothbrushes and floss.
While providing antibiotics, Swackhamer and her team would run into difficulties created by the impoverished conditions some of the patients lived in. For many in the Philippines, a doctor’s visit is something that has to be saved for, which can mean not enough money to afford the cost of pharmaceuticals after a diagnosis
“Pharmacies will actually sell one pill at a time,” said Swackhamer. “So they were taking some of these antibiotics and they’d have a burn or something and they would open the antibiotic and sprinkle the powder on it. So we see it and it’s like, what’s on this wound?”
Other medical processes they encountered which would not be considered best practices is the application of toothpaste to wounds to ward off infection.
A common medical problem they ran into was high blood pressure likely caused by the large amounts of salt in the local diet as a result of refrigeration not being commonly available to preserve foods.
Swackhamer said the highlight of the trip for her was an encounter with a deaf lady. Swackhamer, who knows American Sign Language, was asked to communicate with the woman and help her out with her prescriptions.
“I thought the other side of the world maybe they learn a different kind of sign language, but she learned it in Manilla. Only her and her husband are deaf, and it was really exciting to sign to somebody and have them understand. She said ‘oh I’m so glad. It’s been so long since anyone other than my husband has signed to me’. That was kind of thrilling,” Swackhamer said.
She said the people were incredibly grateful to receive aid and people would routinely bring the team food.