Anngilyn Dombrowski: Trip to Guatemala

Anngiyln Dombrowksi wearing a red clown nose.
Photo by Asila Taalib

Anngilyn Dombrowski is a third semester nursing student at Henry Ford College and active volunteer. In 2013, Anngilyn decided to transfer to Henry Ford College from Grand Valley State University. She chose to transfer to HFC’s nursing program so she could be close to home. Dombrowski currently volunteers for Paws With A Cause, an organization dedicated to training dogs into becoming service animals for children with disabilities such as autism, seizures, and physical disabilities. She is the Downriver Ambassador for Operation No’s Gratitude that creates care packages for members serving the military, their families, and veterans, and a volunteer for number Twenty-Two Kill, which is an online database for those that suffer from mental disorders such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD) to find people all across the country to lean on through calling or texting in their time of need.. Anngilyn is interested in helping to address the mental health of veterans, since she knows close friends and relative who suffer from PTSD. During her nursing career, Anngilyn would like to pursue the field of mental health, after she completes the nursing program. Anngilyn Dombrowski will graduate the nursing program this year in December.

Watching the film “Patch Adams” inspired Dombrowski to research Patch Adams and discover the website, where she stumbled upon the opportunity of traveling to Guatemala. According to Dombrowski, Dr. Hunter “Patch” Adams is a physician who’s passion is to change the medical relationship between the patient and physician. Patch Adams dresses in colorful and goofy costume in an effort to make people laugh and bring joy to a hurting world. Adams created two hospitals, known as The Gesundheit Institute, which provides free medical care. One of the hospitals located in West Virginia, where three-hundred volunteer nurses and doctors contributed to help facilitate the institute. The Gesundheit Institute did not receive any funding, until fourteen years into the project. Patch Adams is now an hired speaking at various lectures to raise money for the institute.

During her trip to Guatemala, Anngilyn was able to recognize the difference of treatment and care presented between Guatemala and the United States. Dombrowski noticed the medical attention in Guatemala was not as remotely as adequate or as clean to what she is used to seeing here in the United States, such as the lack of medications and hospital facilities available for patients in Guatemala. In one psychiatric facility, a woman was tied to a plastic lawn chair as a way to prevent her from causing harm to herself or others in lieu of much needed treatment. Dombrowski also observed a little girl who was experiencing severe seizures whenever she attempted to walk, tied to a bound tire in the ground, and left unattended. Personal observations such as these made Dombrowski want to introduce the Patch Adams approach to care and love to those in need.

From morning until night, Dombrowski would dress in her clown costume in preparation to bring joy, happiness, and laughter to patients, who suffered extreme illnesses such as cancer, mental illness, infectious diseases, surgical pains and much more. While attending the Ronald McDonald House, Dombrowski encountered a young girl who was not able to play due to cancer causing in her left leg, leading toward amputation. Dombrowski picked the little girl up and carried her, so that the little girl could “run around” and play tag. Techniques such as music, laughter, and therapeutic touch all help distract patients from their pain.

In Guatemala, Dombrowski experienced communal living, witnessing the support and unity exchanged throughout the living space. Patch Adams creates an environment where security and unity abounds.

Dombrowski has seen that Guatemala is in desperate need of help from the United States, in order to get the tools, supplies, and treatment needed to help patients on a better road to recovery. She believes that the United States is able to donate healthcare worker time and basic medical supplies to hospitals in Guatemala, she continues “We are one world”.

Based on her experience in Guatemala, Dombrowski hopes that Americans can begin to humble themselves to not only volunteer for individuals in other countries, but to recognize that other countries such as Guatemala are not as privileged to experience the same treatment, care and luxury as individuals in America receive each day. As she continues to pursue her nursing career, Dombrowski keeps in mind, “how can I be present with my patient?” Dombrowski believes that holistic care is based on being present and aware at all times, she mentions that being empathetic toward the patient, laughing and hurting together is crucial to meet the patient's’ needs.

Currently, Dombrowski is planning a fundraiser to raise approximately fifty- thousand dollars to the Backyard School in Guatemala, an effort to provide a safe haven for children and single, abused mothers living in poor conditions. The founder of the Backyard School realized the need for an environment for children to feel safe and protected area, while able to receive care and assistance such as helping with school work, along with providing food for mothers and siblings in need.

If you would like to learn more about her fundraiser for the Backyard School or would like to participate, you can email Anngilyn Dombrowski at:

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