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Nurse sets off on international mission: “We’re all under the same sky”

Oct 22, 2019, 13:41 PM
Skagit Valley Hospital nurse travels on mission trip to South America.

Nurse Miriam Witt on Mission TripMiriam Witt, a Registered Nurse at Skagit Valley Hospital’s Orthopedic and Surgical Care unit, spent a week this summer in South America on the border of Colombia and Venezuela where thousands of Venezuelan refugees are suffering.

Since 2015, more than 3.7 million people have left Venezuela and an estimated 1 million have found refuge in the relative safety of Colombia where they arrive struggling with malnutrition, no access to clean water and a lack of medical care. Before leaving, Witt said she heard the situation called “the largest humanitarian crisis in the Western hemisphere” which motivated her to participate in the refugee relief effort with the international organization Third Wave Volunteers.

Upon her return, Witt was struck by the hospitality of Colombia and the efforts to help people who arrive with little or nothing.

“My impression of the situation was bitter sweet. The border had just been opened between Venezuela and Colombia. I saw thousands of Venezuelans leaving their home country with limited belongings; so many people that cars had difficulty driving on the road. It wasn’t war stricken. It wasn’t a natural disaster. It was heartbreaking,” she said. “I was amazed at how welcoming the Colombian people were to the refugees and to me. They have welcomed the Venezuelans in with open arms in their hospitals, roads to walk on and overall kindness; inspiring is an understatement.”

Witt is familiar with the challenges of international service having made two trips to Nepal after major earthquakes in 2015 and spending a stint along the border between Syria and Jordan in the Middle East where violence and civil war ravaged the land and the people.

Miriam with children using stethoscopeOn this trip, her role was to work as a nurse with local Colombian doctors.

“With a translator, I was able to take a brief history of each patient, assess and obtain vital signs,” she said. “When I was done seeing patients in the clinic setting, I was able to clean dishes for meals we provided and provide foot care for the refugees who were walking days on end.”

The team was able to provide meals, clean water and foot washing stations wherever they were offering medical care.

“That is so important to me,” she said. “As a nurse, it is difficult to provide care if basic human needs haven’t been met yet.”

Witt shared a highlight of her trip as a day spent working with an indigenous community, the Yukpa, who live between the border of Colombia and Venezuela:

“They are people of the land; existing here before man made borders. This group of people was rejected by the Venezuelan government with the political turmoil that is currently unfolding. The Colombian government isn’t caring for them because they speak a dialect different than Spanish and they are undocumented. These beautiful people desperately need medical attention after being rejected by both governments. We were told not to enter their territory until the chief told us it was OK; cannibalism was still prevalent among these people. We were told tuberculosis and leprosy was still an ongoing issue in this area. Our group explained that we had doctors and nurses as well as medicine. We were let in. I slowly stepped down the steep dirt hill and saw a very sick community. We set up our clinic and got to work. We needed two translators - one from the native dialect to Spanish and another who could translate from Spanish to English. I heard stories of hungry children, parasites, grief from losing a husband and I saw burns on little kids. At the end of our day, the chief came over and handed me a necklace made of shells. Another woman came up to me and put a straw hat on my head that she made to protect my face from the sun. How could it be that a group of people, who monetarily had nothing, had everything to give? Every trip I go on, I am reminded that life is so much more than money and stuff. I want service, love and human connection to continue to be the core of the way I live my life.”

International service is a calling that Witt continues to feel and respond to.

There are similarities, she said, in her role as a nurse in an international setting and in a modern hospital in Mount Vernon.

“That is the beauty of nursing,” she said. “We can meet people where they are at and take care of them.”

A native of Mount Vernon, Witt attended Skagit Valley College and received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Washington. She is a clinical nursing instructor at SVC and will start a master’s program this fall.

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Last post : 11/18/2019

Nurse sets off on international mission: “We’re all under the same sky”

Oct 22, 2019, 13:41 PM
Skagit Valley Hospital nurse travels on mission trip to South America.

Nurse Miriam Witt on Mission TripMiriam Witt, a Registered Nurse at Skagit Valley Hospital’s Orthopedic and Surgical Care unit, spent a week this summer in South America on the border of Colombia and Venezuela where thousands of Venezuelan refugees are suffering.

Since 2015, more than 3.7 million people have left Venezuela and an estimated 1 million have found refuge in the relative safety of Colombia where they arrive struggling with malnutrition, no access to clean water and a lack of medical care. Before leaving, Witt said she heard the situation called “the largest humanitarian crisis in the Western hemisphere” which motivated her to participate in the refugee relief effort with the international organization Third Wave Volunteers.

Upon her return, Witt was struck by the hospitality of Colombia and the efforts to help people who arrive with little or nothing.

“My impression of the situation was bitter sweet. The border had just been opened between Venezuela and Colombia. I saw thousands of Venezuelans leaving their home country with limited belongings; so many people that cars had difficulty driving on the road. It wasn’t war stricken. It wasn’t a natural disaster. It was heartbreaking,” she said. “I was amazed at how welcoming the Colombian people were to the refugees and to me. They have welcomed the Venezuelans in with open arms in their hospitals, roads to walk on and overall kindness; inspiring is an understatement.”

Witt is familiar with the challenges of international service having made two trips to Nepal after major earthquakes in 2015 and spending a stint along the border between Syria and Jordan in the Middle East where violence and civil war ravaged the land and the people.

Miriam with children using stethoscopeOn this trip, her role was to work as a nurse with local Colombian doctors.

“With a translator, I was able to take a brief history of each patient, assess and obtain vital signs,” she said. “When I was done seeing patients in the clinic setting, I was able to clean dishes for meals we provided and provide foot care for the refugees who were walking days on end.”

The team was able to provide meals, clean water and foot washing stations wherever they were offering medical care.

“That is so important to me,” she said. “As a nurse, it is difficult to provide care if basic human needs haven’t been met yet.”

Witt shared a highlight of her trip as a day spent working with an indigenous community, the Yukpa, who live between the border of Colombia and Venezuela:

“They are people of the land; existing here before man made borders. This group of people was rejected by the Venezuelan government with the political turmoil that is currently unfolding. The Colombian government isn’t caring for them because they speak a dialect different than Spanish and they are undocumented. These beautiful people desperately need medical attention after being rejected by both governments. We were told not to enter their territory until the chief told us it was OK; cannibalism was still prevalent among these people. We were told tuberculosis and leprosy was still an ongoing issue in this area. Our group explained that we had doctors and nurses as well as medicine. We were let in. I slowly stepped down the steep dirt hill and saw a very sick community. We set up our clinic and got to work. We needed two translators - one from the native dialect to Spanish and another who could translate from Spanish to English. I heard stories of hungry children, parasites, grief from losing a husband and I saw burns on little kids. At the end of our day, the chief came over and handed me a necklace made of shells. Another woman came up to me and put a straw hat on my head that she made to protect my face from the sun. How could it be that a group of people, who monetarily had nothing, had everything to give? Every trip I go on, I am reminded that life is so much more than money and stuff. I want service, love and human connection to continue to be the core of the way I live my life.”

International service is a calling that Witt continues to feel and respond to.

There are similarities, she said, in her role as a nurse in an international setting and in a modern hospital in Mount Vernon.

“That is the beauty of nursing,” she said. “We can meet people where they are at and take care of them.”

A native of Mount Vernon, Witt attended Skagit Valley College and received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Washington. She is a clinical nursing instructor at SVC and will start a master’s program this fall.