Staci Bishop

Thursday, July 17, 2014

[REVIEW] Monique and the Mango Rains (Kris Holloway)

Monique and the Mango Rains
By: Kris Holloway
Preview Here
I was encouraged to read this book prior to going to Uganda. However, the timing didn't quite work out so I'm reading it 2 weeks after my return.

The story details the Peace Corp assignment of Kris Holloway starting in 1989 when she is assigned to a small village in Mali, West Africa. It is there that she works alongside Monique, a young midwife. Kris learns first hand the cultural, financial, and physical hardships that the people, particularly the women, face in Nampossela. She works tirelessly alongside Monique who serves the mothers and children of her village and neighboring villages. In addition, she has her own family responsibilities to take care of despite the lack of support from her husband.

Parts of the book were difficult to read as the oppression of women is strong. Overall, I really enjoyed learning more about African culture. It was also enlightening to see how things slowly but surely change and grow over time. Then again, there are some things that never change. The storyline flows easily and I had a hard time putting this book down. With only 208 pages, it's a quick read too.

As a doula, I appreciated the midwifery details but this was not the main focus of the book. The heart of the book was these two women, who come from very different backgrounds, and their developing friendship that ultimately tests the limits of miles and time. This book will make you laugh and cry as you see the struggles they face to bring health and healing to the village women and, ultimately, to themselves.

It's definitely a must read for someone doing humanitarian work in Africa or for a person who loves and appreciates the determination of women and the bond that ties us together.  I can see why it was recommended for me.

*Affiliate link included.

Monday, July 14, 2014

From Traumatized to Fulfulled

I don't talk a lot about my personal birth experience.

Sure, I complain about being pregnant because that was a process that was not kind to me in any shape, form, or fashion. I also tell plenty of stories about how my child flat out refused to sleep and I nearly had a nervous breakdown at 7 months old from sheer exhaustion. But, I skip the birth. Why?

It was and still is the most traumatic experience of my life.

Parts of it can still get me riled up but, for the most part, I've come to terms with tLG's birth story. It's really hard to explain with words the way her birth affected me and it's nearly impossible for someone else to understand unless they have experienced a traumatic birth themselves. It took me a year before I could even begin to process what happened, much less talk about it. For 365 days, I looked at my perfect baby and felt that she was ruined. I was broken and she was imperfect because of it. Trust me, there ain't no crazy like first time mom crazy especially when trauma is involved. Back then, if you would have told me I would become a doula, passionate about all things pregnancy, birth, and babies, I would have laughed. And probably cried too. I cried a lot back then.

By the time tLG was four I couldn't get enough of learning about pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. It was healing in a way. During those years I had become the go-to person in my circle of friends, and even acquaintances, for advice on these topics. That's when I first thought about pursing doula certification. I started the process but, after reading the first chapter of the first book on the recommended list, I was emotional and furious all over again. I wasn't ready. Even though my traumatic birth experience was the spark that started this whole journey, I knew I couldn't be a good doula while still carrying my own baggage. A year later I was finally able to read through the books without getting enraged and mourning my birth experience. I completed my certification and started attending births with a fresh and open perspective. I felt free! FINALLY!

If you would have told me I would go to Africa on a mission trip and put those doula skills to use, again, I would have laughed. Hysterically, this time. I don't do foreign lands.

In the US, doulas follow a scope of practice that limits us to emotional and physical support only. Doulas do not perform medical tasks. When we recognize warning signs or are presented with medical questions, we give our clients resources and refer them back to their care provider to discuss their options and finalize their decision. I take my scope of practice very seriously but that has not prevented me from continuing my training and knowledge to gain additional skills. Birth is sometimes unpredictable. I like to be prepared. It's my darn type A personality. I've never had to use these skills and I don't advertise them but they are are a nice little tool to own. Just in case.

Fast forward to June 2014 and I hopped on a plane to Uganda, Africa. There, I'm not bound by scope of practice. As a certified doula, I have more training than most of their TBAs (traditional birth attendants). Not only was I teaching comfort measures on a daily basis but I was answering questions about pregnancy and birth. It took me a day or so to settle in and realize that even though I was prevented from answering such medical questions in the US, I may be the only "care provider" these women have ever seen and will ever see during this pregnancy. Any sound knowledge was better than none at all and certainly better than what they may hear from the local witchdoctor.

On some days I worked alongside a midwife, other days I worked alongside a nurse, but occasionally it was just me and a translator. Most of the questions and symptoms we encountered were mild and easily resolved but if a question was outside of my knowledge bank, I encouraged them to go to the clinic or hospital. I was also doing basic examinations including blood pressure, fundal height, fetal positioning, and heart tones. I can't tell you how amazing it felt to be able to put my skills and knowledge to use. I didn't have to tuck it away and hide it anymore. Not only that, but it was appreciated by the on-the-ground medical workers who needed reinforcements. In addition, we were welcomed by the village women who sometimes don't have access to medical care either because of transportation or financial reasons.

Several of my friends and family have said that seeing pictures of me in Uganda brought smiles to their faces and tears to their eyes. Even I look at these pictures and see the glow on my face. I was in my element and loving every second of it. I never in a million years would have guessed that measuring, palpating, and dopplering (ha!) bellies would be in my skill set and that I would enjoy doing it. I love talking pregnancy, birth, and babies to no end.
In Uganda, it is estimated that our team helped educate over 1000 women and worked with at least 150 in a clinical setting in the span of 10 days. Crazy, huh? What's even crazier is trying to wrap my mind around the fact that the most traumatic event of my life spurred me on to complete the most fulfilling thing I've ever done. On a different continent, no less.

And now that I'm home, I'm wondering, what in the world is next? Clearly I'm no good at predicting where this passion is taking me. I guess I'll do what I've always done.... approach it with with a fresh and open perspective.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

nYn in Uganda | Declining Travel Vaccines

I recently traveled to Uganda, Africa for 2 weeks with Mercy for Mamas. Due to my personal convictions about health and wellness I elected not to receive any vaccinations or malaria prophylaxis. Below you will find the natural remedy protocol that I used during my time there.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. The protocol listed below has not been evaluated by a medical doctor or natropath. This is simply the regimen I came up with after doing some research on my own.

For starters, let's discuss Yellow Fever. In retrospect, and after more research, I do not think it is required. Per the CDC, a Yellow Fever Vaccine is only required for entry into Uganda if you are coming from a country with a risk of Yellow Fever. The US is not on this list and I was traveling directly from the States.

What about re-entry? Again, per the CDC, the US has no vaccine requirements for entry.

I obtained a Yellow Fever card and exemption letter from a local travel doctor but, in the end, I don't think it was necessary. I was never asked for mine.

Other recommended vaccines include Typhoid, Hepatitis A & B, Diphtheria, Tetanus, Polio, Rabies, and Meningitis. Mefloquine or doxycycline are also recommended for malaria prophylaxis. To see the full list of CDC recommended travel vaccines, click here. For help finding a travel doctor, click here.

I personally looked at the 3 biggest threats (Malaria, Typhoid, Yellow Fever) and took steps to prevent those illnesses. I started this regimen about a week before I left and continued them a week after I returned home.

Immune Boosters - Echinacea, Astragalus, Goldenroot. I took 1 dropper full each morning and evening. I use Herbs for Kids because the taste is so much more pleasant. Probiotic. I took 1 capsule morning and evening. I specifically chose this one because it did not need to be refrigerated. Lavender. I placed this on my pillow every night not only to help with sleep but to fight bacteria. Elderberry. I took 1 lozenge morning and evening. Lemon. I put 2 drops in my water bottle each day. These are all for overall wellness to boost my immune system to fight off bacteria, viruses, and parasites.
Typoid Prevention - Coloidal Silver. I took 1 dropper full every morning and evening. This was mainly to protect against Typhoid or any other bacteria. I also made sure to consume only bottled water, no ice, and well cooked foods. I used boiled water for brushing my teeth. 

Malaria Prevention - Black Walnut and Wormwood. I took 1 dropper full morning and evening. This tastes terrible (no Herbs for Kids available in this blend) but these are some of the best herbs available for fighting parasites. 

Yellow Fever Prevention - Vitamin C. I took 2 tablets once a day. Great for fighting viruses.
Mosquito Bite Prevention - Mosquitos are carriers for both Yellow Fever and Malaria. I used my nYn Bug Spray which contains Lemon Eucalyptus (different from Lemon and Eucalyptus) throughout the day and made sure to sleep under a mosquito net each evening. I was also taking MSM, 1 capsule twice a day. It contains sulphur and repels mosquitos. 

I didn't get 1 mosquito bite. Another member of my team had more than 50 bites. Poor girl. :( Granted, something was biting me but it wasn't a mosquito. We think it was some sort of ant. I simply put a little tea tree oil on the few bites and they healed right up.  

Treatment - I also carried several things with me to treat disease should I become ill. Activated Charcoal, for stomach upset. Capsicum, to control internal bleeding, particularly with Yellow Fever and Malaria. Homeopathic phosphorus, treats Typhoid, Yellow Fever & Malaria. Quinine is also a known treatment for Malaria. My travel doctor also sent me with a prescription for an antibiotic and an antifungal, just as a precaution, but I didn't need either.

I also carried a wide variety of essential oils with me in addition to the ones mentioned above including peppermint, grapefruit, ginger, frankincense, rosemary, bergamont and eucalyptus. Just in case. 

I am very pleased to report that I did not have any issues on the trip. Some others on my team experienced nausea, vomiting and diarrhea that, thankfully, either resolved on its own or was treated with antibiotics. 

I hope that this guide may help someone else who is preparing to go to Uganda (or another country) but is unsure about the standard medical protocol for international travel. 

*Note: This post contains affiliate links.