September 19, 2012
TC3 sending medical scrubs to Nicaragua
Nursing students, professor collect donations from local hospitals for country
DRYDEN — Linda Pasto decided years ago to improve other people’s lives as much as she could.
Her fellow nursing faculty at Tompkins Cortland Community College provided her with her latest opportunity.
The nursing professor has been collecting medical scrubs to send to Nicaragua in January, when fellow professors Paula Moore and Milagros Cartagena-Cook make their annual two-week trip to the village of Puerto Cabezas.
The TC3 faculty bring nursing students to the Central American country to help in medical facilities, treating people from the region for a range of medical ailments.
Pasto decided to collect scrubs — the cloth tops and pants worn by nurses, lab technicians, X-ray technicians, doctors and others — after watching a presentation by the students and hearing how desperate the hospital is for sterile, new equipment.
That includes scrubs, which are used again and again instead of replaced with new scrubs.
Pasto has collected 80 tops from Cortland Regional Medical Center and 40 sets of tops and pants from Cayuga Medical Center.
That is three times the number of scrubs she hoped for, when she asked the two medical centers for help during the summer. She coordinates the students’ clinical experiences during the academic year.
The scrubs — colored red, blue, yellow, pink and green — lie in a stack in her office. More will come in, as students collect them.
Two second-year students, Teresa Lynn of Ithaca and Corey Stevens of Brooktondale, said they saw first-hand why the scrubs are needed, during their trip at winter break. Patients with open wounds and surgical incisions face a high risk in the tropical hospital, a risk increased by a lack of clean and sterile supplies.
Lynn said they saw a doctor taping together scrub pants in an operating room. He told the students and Cartagena-Cook that he had no choice, there were not enough scrubs in enough sizes.
Stevens said she chose scrubs from a wadded pile on a shelf and was told to put hers back after wearing them, instead of washing and sterilizing them.
Moore has been bringing TC3 nursing students to Nicaragua for several years, to help out and to show them the challenges of medical care in that part of the world. She has been joined recently by Cartagena-Cook, who is from Puerto Rico and has added communication in Spanish to the skills she brings to the trip.
Lynn and Stevens discussed their trip on campus during a presentation in the spring. Pasto had been looking for a project to honor her son Tim, an Army captain who was on deployment to Afghanistan. She decided to ask for scrubs.
Tim Pasto is the oldest of her four children. He grew up in Lansing, attended TC3 for one year, then graduated from Cornell University. He joined the Army National Guard after 9/11.
For his first deployment to Afghanistan, his mother collected 2,200 pounds of children’s clothing to ship to him, for children in the area where he was stationed.
Linda Pasto said she began doing things for others more often after losing her colon seven years ago to Crohn’s Disease. She was in a coma for a while.
“I feel I survived for a reason,” she said Tuesday. “I need to make a difference every day.”
Her husband, Ed, travels to Guatemala every year to build houses or stoves, since poor people there sometimes have stoves with poor ventilation, leading to medical problems. She does not join him because, without a colon, she feels vulnerable in regions that do not have strong levels of cleanliness.
The couple has another son and two daughters. Tim Pasto returned from his deployment over the summer, is currently stationed in Mississippi and teaches in Cornell’s ROTC program when he is home.
His mother said collecting the scrubs is just one way she can help the hospital that Moore and the students will visit in January.
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