I was born in Patzún, and I would say I had a good upbringing. I was studying and working a lot as a maid in someone’s house. I would leave school and work until 6 pm, and then come home and finish my homework. I eventually studied nursing in Chimaltenango for a year, and afterwards, I worked in a clinic in Guatemala City for 4 years. After that, I decided to go back to school and earn my bachillerato (baccalaureate) in the sciences for a year on a grant. During that time, I was also working as an in-home nurse for a patient with diabetes and Alzheimer’s, acting as a caretaker, giving medications, making meals, etc.
A bachillerato is necessary to enter university, which I would like to do someday. In 2 months, I will be starting inscripciones, which basically means taking entrance exams. Depending on how well I do on my exams, I will then matriculate and spend 8 years in university, taking classes on the weekends while I continue working as a nurse. I eventually want to study to become a laboratory technician or professional nurse. There are different phases in university education. After 3 years, I will be able to work as a professional nurse, which means I can act as a manager and be in charge of other nurses. After another 3 years, I will be a licensed nurse which means I can teach classes. I am still deciding what I would like to do in the future, whether I’d like to work more in a hospital or clinical setting as a professional nurse or work in a laboratory doing exams.
How long have you been working with Wuqu’ Kawoq (WK)?
For a year and one month.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to go running, especially in races. There is a 15 km race in my hometown of Patzún every year that I run.
What is your favorite place in Guatemala?
Xetulul. It is a theme park about 4 hours outside of Guatemala City that has so many rides. I love the roller coaster called Montaña Rusa (Russian Mountain) and the ferris wheels. They have the types of rides that you would normally find at the ferias (fairs that take place once a year in each pueblo), but on a grander scale.
What is your role within WK?
I work as a nurse, primarily doing house visits and giving education classes.
Which locations do you work?
Tecpán, Comalapa, Paya’, Santiago Sacatepéquez, and Santa Lucia.
Describe a typical week working.
On Mondays, I help in the clinic in Santiago Sacatepéquez with the diabetic patients there. On Tuesdays, I am usually in Santiago again visiting patients in their homes, getting an update on how they’re doing or giving them further education on how to control their diabetes. On Wednesdays and Thursdays, I am in Comalapa and Santa Lucia, also doing house visits with patients. Then on Fridays, I am in the office in Tecpán doing administrative work.
What do you like most about your work?
I love helping out in the clinics and visiting patients. I give education classes about the importance of diet and exercise in order to control their diabetes and ask afterwards if they have other questions, so I can help improve their understanding of their condition. After the classes, they start making beneficial changes in their lives. I think the intimacy of visiting patients in their houses allows them to be more honest and open with me. For example, patients will often tell one of the nurses who sees them in clinic that they are taking their medications, but when I speak with them in their homes, they tell me they haven’t because they may feel bad when they take their medications. Days in the clinic are often just consults and check-ups. When I meet with them, there is more time to talk, and with some patients, I am with them for 3 hours or even half a day. I’ll stay for as long as a patient needs. Sometimes, I can only see 2 or 3 patients a day, but I’m still working from 8 am until 5 or 6 pm.
Why do you think it is important to speak Kakchikel in education classes and clinics?
By speaking in Kakchikel, patients are much more comfortable around us and can give us more in-depth answers about how they’re feeling and how we can help them. While most patients can speak Spanish, it is not their native language. They are much more at ease talking in Kakchikel and knowing that we are treating them as equals.
What has been one of your favorite memories of working with WK?
My favorite memory would have to be learning about how to properly educate patients on ways to control their diabetes, such as making changes in their diet and understanding what types of activities raise their blood sugar and the importance of exercise. I didn’t know much about diabetes and how to control it beforehand. Before working with WK, I shadowed some of the workers to see the different types of work they do. I shadowed one of them to see complex care patients, another to see patients in the women’s health program, and another to see diabetic patients. Ultimately, I decided to focus on diabetes. The reality is that many patients do not have much knowledge about diabetes and what to do to manage it. It’s a combination of taking their medications, eliminating foods high in carbohydrates, fat, and sugar from their diet, and getting an adequate amount of exercise.
What has been a challenge in your work?
Sometimes, doing house visits can be a challenge. This is a problem especially in Santiago Sacatepéquez, because we want to visit patients but they often don’t want to meet with us or don’t have time. It is also hard to convince them how important it is to control their diabetes. For some, it can be difficult to making changes to their diet, such as eliminating tortillas or bread, since they are staple foods in Guatemala. Some patients don’t want to start taking insulin either because they don’t want to or they are scared of what the medication will do to them.
How would you like to see WK grow?
I would like to see it continue expanding so that we can continue helping more patients.
What would you like to say to all those who support WK?
I would like to say thank you for the support that you give to our patients. Because of you, we are able to give them the resources to better their lives.