April 4, 2014 • 03:23:01 p.m.

Crystal Lake nursing student brings heart, supplies to Kenya

By JOAN OLIVER editorial@nwherald.com

Nursing student Melissa Harvey of Crystal Lake organizes the medical supplies she's taking to Kenya. Harvey is headed to Nairobi for an international nursing service project. She will be making her trip April 26 to May 10 and is required to bring 50 pounds of medical supplies with her. (Sarah Nader- snader@shawmedia.com)

A Crystal Lake nursing student will take her desire to help others to the other side of the globe this month.

Melissa Harvey, a 2006 Prairie Ridge graduate and a senior at Chamberlain College of Nursing in Addison, will travel to Nairobi, Kenya, for two weeks as part of the school’s International Nursing Service Project.

“I’m so excited,” Harvey said of the opportunity to provide health care and education to residents in the slums of the Kenyan capital.

Harvey, 26, found out in December she had been selected to be among the 32 people going on the trip, which runs from April 26 through May 10. The group will include Chamberlain nursing students, medical students from Ross University, and volunteer nurses and doctors.

The selection process was based on grade-point average, faculty recommendations and experiences, Harvey said.

In addition to the nursing degree she is pursuing, Harvey already has a bachelor’s degree in biology, which she received in December 2009 from Elmhurst College.

After graduating from Prairie Ridge, she spent two years playing volleyball and studying at Campbell University in Raleigh-Durham, N.C., before transferring to Elmhurst.

“I didn’t want to keep getting hurt,” she said of the injuries which cut short her volleyball career.

Although she didn’t pursue nursing right away, Harvey became interested in it years earlier when she saw the care nurses at Sherman Hospital in Elgin gave to her ailing grandmother.

“Nursing was always in the back of my head,” Harvey said.

Helping others also is something she learned from watching and working with her mother, Mary, who set up a soup kitchen at First United Methodist Church in Elgin.

“I got the volunteer aspect of me from my mom,” Harvey said.

At Chamberlain, Harvey is the director of volunteering for Kappa Alpha Rho, a service sorority on campus that encourages community involvement.

The group has worked with Ronald McDonald House Charities and made blankets for the neonatal intensive care unit at Central DuPage Hospital.

With the trip to Nairobi, Harvey not only will be able to assist others, but she also will be able to use what she’s learning.

“On this trip, I hope to not only practice my nursing skills, but to learn a lot and hopefully touch and change others’ lives,” Harvey said.

The students and medical staff on the trip will find out where they will work once they get to Nairobi, Harvey said. Two of the leaders from the school will go to the slums and see what needs to be done.

The group then will set up clinics and a pharmacy. To stock them, each participant is required to bring 50 pounds of supplies.

“People line up for care,” Harvey said.

Group members will do basic health assessments for the slum’s residents, she said, treating whatever they can. They also will make home visits.

Because the slums lack basic sanitation and garbage is burned openly, many residents suffer from respiratory issues, especially the children, Harvey said. They also come in to be treated for skin diseases, ear infections and malaria, in addition to HIV and AIDS.

The poor living conditions also lead to diarrhea and malnutrition, Harvey said.

“We’re expecting to see 2,000 patients,” she said.

Another part of the trip will be to offer education seminars.

Topics will include breast self-exams and basic body mechanics, Harvey said.

For example, many residents have severe migraine headaches from carrying water on their heads.

“This is basic stuff we take for granted,” Harvey said. “A lot have never had their blood pressure taken.”

Trips like this one can make a difference, she said.

One of Harvey’s instructors tells the story of a woman who lives in a slum with lepers. She had lost 50 pounds and didn’t want to live anymore, Harvey said.

The woman was given a two weeks’ supply of vitamins. When she came back to the clinic a few days later, her outlook had completely changed and she was so happy, Harvey said.

“Vitamins for two weeks,” she said. “That was it.”

The group will treat what it can, but it also will pay for the care of patients who require treatment at the hospital in Nairobi through a contingency fund.

Each participant is responsible for raising $3,200 to make the trip and get the necessary vaccinations. Any fundraising beyond that will go to the contingency fund, Harvey said.

When she leaves, Harvey plans to return with just the clothes on her back. She will donate whatever she takes in her suitcases.

In preparation for the trip, Harvey has been doing fundraising, filling out a lot of paperwork and getting a host of vaccinations for diseases such as yellow fever, typhoid, and hepatitis A.

The group will arrive in Kenya during the rainy season, so extra precautions will be taken to avoid contracting malaria.

Participants will stay in a hostel, and the hospital the group is working with will provide meals, Harvey said.

“A lot of cabbage and beans, vegetables, some chicken,” she said of the foreign food choices. “I’m going to keep my mind open; I’ll try it.”

One of Harvey’s friends, Alexis Cardelli, of Algonquin, made the trip to Kenya last September. She told Harvey that the children there were so hungry that she gave them her lunch every day.

In the future, Harvey plans to be a neonatal intensive care unit nurse or a nurse in another critical-care setting. She also plans to continue to go on medical missions.

“[My friend] had the time of her life,” Harvey said of Cardelli’s trip. “It was life-changing for sure.”

Now it’s Harvey’s turn.

“I’m so excited,” she said.

How to help

Although Melissa Harvey has raised the funds she needs to make the trip, she still is collecting donations that can be used in a contingency fund to pay for additional care for the residents she will encounter in Nairobi, Kenya. Additional supplies will be used for future trips.

Donations can be made online at https://www.youcaring.com/MelissaKenya2014 or checks can be sent to Melissa Harvey, 3902 Tecoma Drive, Crystal Lake, IL 60012.

Supplies also can be dropped off at that address or call 815-566-0750 and arrange to have them picked up.

Needed supplies:

• Vitamins (adult and children)

• Pain relievers (Tylenol, ibuprofen – adult and children)

• Antibiotics, oral (ampicillin, erythromycin, amoxicillin, etc.) for adults and children

• Ointments (Bacitracin, triple antibiotic, Neosporin, Polysporin)

• Ear/eye antibiotics

• Scabies/lice lotion/shampoo

• Skin ointments/creams (antifungals, anti-itch with and without steroids)

• Nonsterile gloves

• Sunglasses

• Reading glasses

• Gatorade / Pedialyte

• Toothbrushes and toothpaste

• Dressings / Band-Aids

• Tongue depressors

• Hand sanitizer

• Betadine scrub

• Hibiclens

• Accu-checks

• Stethoscope / otoscope / blood-pressure cuffs

• Pregnancy kits

• Pepcid

• Tums

• Benedryl / Claritin / Zyrtec

• EpiPens

• Robitussin

• Vaginal creams

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