In twelve years, 1600 participants, 54 international trips, Youthlinc team members have had some mosquito bites, diarrhea, one case of dehydration requiring IV fluids, and one injury requiring stitches on a shin. We are very careful to provide ‘traveling healthy’ advice to our participants, including a required Travel Clinic at the University of Utah Medical Center for recommended vaccinations. We don’t allow our teams to participate in activities more dangerous than lifting cinder blocks and hammering nails. Even though our partner villages are remote, we are always close to a first line medical clinic.
So, when Centerville resident and team mentor, Jenny Jones, had a pile of lumber fall on her in a freak accident– equivalent to being in the wrong place at the wrong time– on our recent Peru service trip, we had our first test of the medical emergency measures we’ve had in place since Youthlinc started.
It is our policy that no team travels without an American medical professional, and that doctor or nurse has a stocked first aid bag with him or her. We have excellent in-country coordinators, Rotarians who are community leaders, and can provide priority service to our team members as needed. We have a great relationship with the University of Utah Medical Center, and we called on our friends there to consult, share CAT scans, with Peruvian doctors as soon as the second day after Jenny’s injury. And also unlike many international service organizations, we provide emergency medical insurance (providing major medical and evacuation) to each of our participants.
Let’s hear the story from Jennifer herself:
I had friends who had gone to Kenya and Peru and done humanitarian work, and for years, I have wanted to go on an international humanitarian trip. A good friend of mine had gone to Peru with Youthlinc and had told me enough about it that I was hooked. I applied to be a mentor for the 2011 Peru group last Fall. They needed another mentor so I was able to get my younger brother to come along as well.
There was so much prep work to be ready to go! The teams met each month, and I was over the Education Committee. Besides preparing lessons to teach, we were able to gather so many items to take to the village of Palmeras, even extra for other villages. We worked hard to complete 130 school bags so each of the children would have one.
The first ten days of our trip were incredible. I completely fell in love with the people of Peru, the workers at Heliconia Lodge, our guides, the people of Palmeras, and our Youthlinc crew. I thoroughly enjoyed working hard in the village whether I was painting, throwing frisbees, getting lessons coordinated, carrying wood, laying concrete. I was wet 24 hours a day and it was perfect! The Amazon River was beautiful and we were well taken care of.
Ten days into the trip I was working with some students on the footbridge project, which was part of a Rotary International Grant through Utah Rotary Clubs. We were moving wood planks and setting them up so they could dry. As I went by the structure containing the planks, a post holding up the wood gave way and the wood planks tumbled on me.
I never lost consciousness. I was taken by ‘human’ stretcher to a boat and then to a small, but modern, local medical clinic where I received excellent care in attending to my head wound first. I was given a neck brace and ten staples for a head wound. I was laid carefully on a medical stretcher and put in a boat to Iquitos. I was then in the hospital for five days. The Youthlinc in country coordinator, Carlos Acosta, was amazing. He made sure that Vladimir (a translator) was able to be with me the whole time for interpreting. Carlos took really good care of my brother Nathan, allowing him to stay at no charge in a local hotel, so that Nathan was able to be with me as well. Carlos, or other Rotarians from the Iquitos Club, visited me every day to make sure things were going well. Our team doctor, Melissa Kunkel, was right there to discuss care, treatment and x-rays with the Peruvian doctor, Dr. Sanchez. They treated me very well in the hospital and were cautious about everything.
They feared I may have fractured my third vertebrae (C3) and kept me immobile.
The nurses and staff at the Iquitos hospital were excellent to work with. I received calls from the international travel insurance group that Youthlinc uses, and they were able to get me on an air-ambulance flight out on Saturday night. I was attached to a stretcher and flown to the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City. The people in Iquitos were with me right up until I got on the airplane. My brother Nathan was also able to fly with us. While at the University of Utah Medical Center Hospital for four days it was determined that my vertebrae was not fractured. YAY! No more neck brace! I broke my scapula, three ribs, fractured my right clavicle (that has since healed), and fractured my skull that is healing just great and the staples have been removed. I am at my parents’ house for a couple weeks to heal.
The Youthlinc team has been incredible. I have received emails, messages, and a really amazing card. The villagers in Palmeras held a special prayer for me at Closing Ceremonies and I continue to receive inquiries on how I am doing.
Although not everything went planned, going to Peru was the best thing that has happened to me. and I would do it again for the amazing experience that it is. Youthlinc was incredible in communicating with my parents and in keeping tabs on what I needed. I know that many prayers were offered on my behalf and a lot of miracles made it so that I am okay and should be good as new in no time.
Thank you to everyone who had a hand in this experience. I love you all.