This Wednesday, July 5th, we went to Paquip, a village within the municipality of Tecpán. After more than an hour crisscrossing the roads and the tracks, which divide the mountains, we arrived at the “Centro de Salud,” the municipal health center. It is a public building that includes a few doctors, a pharmacy and various cabinets.
We entered the building whose walls are of a pallor common to that of many hospitals. We advanced to the central hall where about thirty women, mostly Maya (given their traditional clothes), sat and waited patiently for their appointment. We were surprised to see only women who were either alone or accompanied by their children, in a mixed health center.
We then met Sandy, the Wuqu’Kawoq nurse we had interviewed yesterday. She comes once a month to the Paquip health center to animate family planning. During the rest of her time, she travels the roads of the region to achieve this mission in other villages. Sandy, 25, explains that she chose this job to improve access to health for her community members, especially women. She also defines her identity as “Maya Kaqchikel”.
Throughout the morning, appointments followed one another, without any moment of respite for the young nurse whose optimism and the patient mingle to best accommodate her patients. She explains that she works mainly on two aspects of women’s health in the context of family planning. The first is the prevention and detection of certain diseases, including cervical cancer, which is one of the most deadly cancers among Guatemalan women because of their many pregnancies. The second is the awareness of the use of contraceptives; the most common methods in Guatemala are the injection, the implant, the IUD and the pill. She also explains that if we mainly see women in the health center, it is often that husbands and families are not aware that the latter use contraceptives: “ellas tienen that esconderse” (they have to hide).
It is no less than a dozen patients that Sandy, assisted by a second nurse from Wuqu’Kawoq, received, listened and consulted during this morning. All this was done for free, to give everyone the opportunity to come to the center and see his rights respected (access to health and contreception). We attended a few consultations in this room furnished with a bed, desk and counter on which Sandy has installed the few pieces of medical equipment she needs.
The first person to enter the office was a 21-year-old woman. Like many women here, she carries her baby on her back with a large, thick, colorful cloth. The consultation is done in Kaqchikel, like all of those who will follow. The patient comes for a follow-up visit after implant placement 7 weeks ago. Sandy touched her arm, checked that the implant has not moved and also gave her the results of the Pap smear – to detect the presence of cancer of the cervix. All was well for this patient, who told she came to the center without anyone around her knowing.
The second patient was about thirty years old and explained to us, in Spanish, that she came to have her contraceptive implant removed because of the side effects that it caused. The conversation then resumed in Kaqchikel. Sandy and the patient got up and headed for the bed, covered by a white cloth and lit by the light of a window. A pale curtain ensures the privacy of the place. After injecting an anesthesia into the patient’s arm, Sandy began the operation. The scalpel opened the skin of the young woman on more than five centimeters for almost twenty minutes, to finally take out the contraceptive implant.
The third patient we saw came to be prescribed the pill, a form of contraception not widely used in Guatemala. She was 16 and came to family planning without her parents’ knowledge. Sandy took the time to explain in detail how the pill works and the effects it will have on her body. We admire this young nurse of 25 years, so devoted to his convictions.
The last woman who entered the room is 26 years old, she was accompanied by her husband who stays outside to take care of their baby during the consultation. This was the first couple we see in the health center. This was the first woman we met who comes without hiding her husband. With the help of a large needle, Sandy placed a contraceptive implant under the skin of her right arm.
Now we are back in Tecpán, to make our last interview of the day with Michel, a doctor at Wuqu’Kawoq. They are only 3 men working for the organization and Michel admits his admiration for the work done by Wuqu’Kawoq women.
* Celebrating a healthy future!