Mission Among the Mayans
Graduation for Darcy Swagger '08 and Jenna Thureen '08 meant they could immediately begin pursing their passions – nursing and a medical mission abroad.
"All along during our education we knew we wanted to practice our nursing skills together in another country," says Thureen.
"We were inspired by our professors who told us about their volunteer work and how meaningful it was to them, both personally and professionally," adds Swagger.
Both work in Minneapolis – Thureen in the neuroscience department at the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Fairview, and Swagger as a medical surgical nurse at Fairview Southdale Hospital.
They accrued enough vacation time by the end of January to join a well-established volunteer medical team from the Twin Cities that brings health care to native people in Guatemala.
"Darcy and Jenna are our most recent success stories," says Dr. Polly Kloster, nursing department chair. "A large percentage of our nursing students have an interest in mission. It reflects on the kind of students we attract here."
Swagger and Thureen traveled to Guatemala on their own dimes, worked 14-hour days for nearly two weeks and enjoyed every minute of it.
"It was everything we had hoped for and more," says Swagger.
"We were the youngest in the group by far," says Thureen. "I think we surprised them with our competence and cheery attitudes despite the long hours."
They worked in postoperative care, helping patients recover from hernia repairs and hysterectomies. Their primary tasks were to control pain and to prevent infections in recovery rooms that fell short of American standards for hygiene and equipment.
"We had to be creative with the resources available to us," says Swagger. "We developed some new non-technology skills that we don’t use in our regular jobs."
One solution they came up with was placing a black garbage bag behind patients’ heads and shoulders and moving them into the bright outdoor sun to warm them after surgery.
Thureen enjoyed the independence they were given. "We were given complete freedom to do our own nursing and our confidence grew immediately. Everyone had a job to do," she says.
Both nurses want to go on another mission as soon as they can.
"We learned so much," says Swagger. "Some things we can use back here, like the creativity we had to come up with every day."
Their reward was making people healthy again.
"The people were so grateful for our help," says Thureen. "They expressed their appreciation to us over and over. Nursing is such an appealing career for us because we can travel and serve at the same time. It’s one of the gifts we were given at Concordia."
Story: Sheldon Green / Photos: Submitted