I woke up early this morning with two thoughts. It’s finally June, and today is our first day in the clinics.
It had finally come. After all those days preparing to live in Peru, in addition to hours of practicing Spanish and training, it was finally time to ask mothers if they would like to give the Alma Sana vaccine-reminder bracelet a try.
Today was particularly special for our director Lauren, the brain and heart behind it all. Four years ago, she ventured to Peru for the Cornell Global Health Minor, and worked alongside nurses to locate mothers who had not returned for their babies’ vaccinations. The experience inspired her to create a bracelet that would track and remind mothers of their niño’s required immunizations.
A few years later, after graduating from Cornell, winning various invention competitions, and applying for countless grants, she founded the Alma Sana Inc. we know today. And today, her health intervention became a reality. As you can imagine, it was an incredible moment for Lauren to see her innovation be placed upon a baby’s ankle.
Her passion for the project—to possibly save babies’ lives with a bracelet—has been contagious from the beginning. To see someone start from an idea, and progress to a full-on pilot study funded by Bill Gates, is extremely inspirational. It has been and will continue to be an unbelievable blessing to be part of Alma Sana’s success.
With this said, today, all of us interns headed out to our respective clinics with eager anticipation and no expectations. Our goal for the first day of recruitment was to have ten mothers take bracelets and join the study.
Any anxiety I had was washed away after seeing Lauren’s earnest spirit and the sweet smiles of mothers and their infants. While watching Lauren begin to describe the bracelet to one mother, and another intern doing the same as well, I was pumped to pitch the project myself. My main concern was not appearing to a mother as an foreigner pushing a change onto her life, but rather as someone hoping to empower her responsibility of her baby’s health.
A fellow intern expressed similar thoughts to me after we completed the day. When I asked how she felt upon approaching her first mother, she shared, “I was kind of nervous about how [the mother] was going to accept me—my biggest fear is imposing on their lives. But, as I began to explain the bracelet, I conversed with her with ease and tried to connect with her as a fellow human being."
The same feelings overwhelmed me as I initiated conversation with a mother for the first time. She had a beautiful baby boy, two months old. At first, when I introduced myself, she looked startled and confused. I immediately became conscious of how strange or intimidating I might have appeared, as a gringa with a white medical top and clipboard. Yet, as I presented about the bracelet, she gradually and genuinely became intrigued, and amazingly, warmed up. It was so encouraging that she remained receptive and patient as I explained in bumpy Spanish the purpose of the bracelet.
AND after all the enrollment procedures were done… what a moment it was when I perforated the vaccine symbols on the baby’s blue bracelet, and then slid it past wiggling toes onto his ankle. The mother left smiling, and my heart was soaring.
Now, the child will wear that tiny pulsera for six months. He should return in August for his four-month vaccinations, and our most dear hope, one that was solidified today, is that the pulserita will help his mother remember to do just that.