Family Nurse Practitioner Shelly Walsman was a veteran to mission trips before joining a Samaritan’s Purse group of travelers earlier in the year. She had previously participated in mission trips to Haiti, Guatamala and Jamaica as well as Appalachia and Oklahoma, but her most recent experience was perhaps the most unique to date.
Founded in 1970, Samaritan’s Purse is a nondenominational evangelical Christian organization providing spiritual and physical aid to hurting people around the world, whether they are victims of war, poverty, natural disasters, disease, or famine. Heading up the First Christian Church mission team, Walsman was invited to join a DART (Disaster Assistance Relief Team) headed to an expansive COVID tent hospital in Antelope Valley, California.
The need for the tent hospital arose as case skyrocketed in the area last February. “It was a remote area, and they got hit hard… both in terms of community residents and hospital staff,” she says. “They had so many cases coming in that they were lining hallways and oxygen supplies were getting low.”
Serving as the nurse practitioner hospitalist working nightshift, Walsman found herself monitoring non-ICU patients. The patients had a unique view of the accommodations, says Walsman. “Most of them were relieved to be in the tent hospital because that meant their condition was not too serious, and the staff was right there with them,” she recalls. “Once we had all of our protective gear on, we were allowed to go patient-to-patient without changing gear as long as we sanitized hands.”
Walsman’s next trip is a return to Guatamala in January. She describes it as a three-fold mission. “One group is building a house in three days while another group is going to the school and working with students. I will work with midwives, teaching them safe practices that go along with their culture and identifying when a mom and a baby might be in trouble and need further medical help.”