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Cathy Hanson-Heath, New York, El Salvador

  • February 12, 2020
  • COVID Voices
Americares Staff

Americares Staff

My name is Cathy Hanson, and I am a registered nurse clinical nurse specialist. And I’ve been a nurse for — this is my 43rd year. I work at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and I was introduced to Global Smile Foundation from some colleagues that went on all of these missions every year, and I so wanted to be a part of the team.

I was chosen to come to El Salvador, and I was hooked from the very first day — just this comradery of all the staff that come from all over with this unbelievable talent. We’re like a family every year, to see everyone and come together in this week to really change lives. I remember walking into the clinic and seeing over 150 children and their parents, all with such hope in their eyes — maybe they would be chosen for their child to have surgery.

When you come, and you see you’re working in an environment that you’re so unfamiliar with and what a proud culture to see that the care that they deliver, they do 100 percent the best with what they have. So, when we bring things and we have donations here, it feels so good to be able to leave things in a respectful way.

Here, we have donated antibiotics that we’re mixing, we’re reconstituting, we’re labeling. We give out this antibiotic to every patient after they’ve had surgery. The pediatrician gives us a list of what the dosages are to make it easy for the mom and dad. And then they have enough to take home with them. So, we don’t have to worry that after they’ve had this big surgery, that they need to worry about the costs of getting an antibiotic. We can close that loop for them.

In our country and our environment, the recovery room always just is—you’re able to bring the parents in at the end of the case, so they could see the child right away. That’s not how it’s done here, and we are very respectful of that. And we try to work around that to show the mom the difference, because that is the most magical moment, sorry. When that mom sees their child in a whole new light and sees them as pretty or handsome, because it is astonishing the difference in that one split second or that surgery, what happens. And that’s pretty exciting.

I am a nurse. I’m a nurse really, to my core. I carry that in every aspect of my life, it’s part of who I am, it makes me who I am.

Cathy Hanson-Heath
Volunteer Nurse, Global Smile Foundation
CNSC at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center