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Nursing Student Cares for India’s Rural Poor

Posted On October 2, 2014
Categories Alumni Spotlight

The following is an account of Sierra Ruth Freeman, class of 2014, nursing, whose summer breaks have been anything but a break. Maneuvering around her school schedule, she travels to India with limited funding and few guarantees of a safety net. Driven by her passion for improving global health, she works tirelessly to impact infants, adolescents and adult villagers who are at-risk. She is an example of the remarkable students of Georgia State.

Sierra Ruth at the Orphanage

Sierra Ruth at the Orphanage

I started traveling to India in May of 2012. Some friends and I originally planned to stay for two months, but after seeing the need and opportunity to help I took the next semester off and stayed for an additional three months. Since, I have spent nine months of the last two years living there. I generally leave the day after finals and return two or three days before the next semester starts.

 

I work in Perunkaranai, a remote village with a population of around five hundred. The orphanage there contains thirty-six children who are HIV positive and who have watched many of their loved ones die. Losing parents, friends and loved ones to a disease they themselves carry is tragic, but I wafreeman3s deeply impacted by the way the children still love so deeply. I received news that a few babies in the village recently died from illnesses easily treatable in the US. There is so much to be done.

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There is an overwhelming need for quality medical care in Peerkankaranai, especially for children. The hospitals and health care facilities are in poor condition and medical staff is scarce. Some of their biggest issues are infection control and the issues surrounding polypharmacy. Most of the children have been on a strict HAART regimen from a very young age, and their side-effects are visible.

freeman2One of the reasons for extending my stay was the relationships I had built, particularly with the older girls. With the help of a RN friend, we are implementing health education, basic first-aid, wound care, infection-prevention and pediatric nutrition. I have done everything from cleaning wounds, to consoling children after they have lost a parent, to witnessing suicide attempts, to cleaning lice out of little girls’ hair for hours. There really is never a moment to rest, but I love it. The trip in July was my fourth in two years for a combined nine months of living in India.

Village First Aid Teaching session

Village First Aid Teaching session

My trips to India are 100% funded by part-time work, but the best kind of support is making professional connections with alumni who have experience in Global Health and specifically HIV/AIDS care and education. I am ALWAYS looking for advice from others who have traveled this path before. I am humbly aware that I am not the first or last person to enter this kind of work.

There are no specific faculty advising or coordinating my trips, but every professor, clinical instructor, and aid has been 100 percent accommodating in helping me carry out this work while also earning my degree. My instructors at Georgia State have been thoughtful and conscious of my demanding schedule, and have been willing to entertain all of my questions relating to pediatric HIV, antiretroviral therapy, and malnutrition. I have also received generous letters of recommendation from faculty.

Medical Camp

Medical Camp

After I graduate this Fall 2014 and complete the NCLEX, my hope is to move to the village permanently. There are a few NGOs that I am networking with in hopes of finding a permanent position somewhere in the rural areas of Southern India. As a lot of the kids are starting to age out of the orphanage and need additional housing. I intend to offer them the support they need, as well as the best nursing care I can offer.

By Sierra Ruth Freeman, Nursing Class of 2014

If you are interested in learning more about Sierra’s work contact her at sierrafreeman92@gmail.com

Sierra Ruth Freeman