Nick Bluhm is an 18-year-old high school senior who recently joined us on our week-long mission trip to Jinotega, Nicaragua. He has spent the last year collecting donations for Healing, Health, & Hope as a part of his Eagle Scout project. We asked him to share his experience, which we have published below:
For the last decade, I have been convinced that I wanted to be an engineer. Everything that I’ve done has been specifically geared toward that goal: I have participated in the Science Olympiad Team for the last six years, devoting my free time to competing in engineering-type events. I’ve specifically structured my classes in preparation for this career. Nothing has ever indicated to me that I might not enjoy being an engineer, but I am not so convinced that it is what I want to do with my life after spending a week in Nicaragua with this group of volunteers.
The opportunity to accompany a surgical team doesn’t come around often. For my Eagle Scout Project, I elected to help the organization Healing, Health, and Hope (HHH). They go to Central and Southern American countries and provide reconstructive surgeries for those who would otherwise not receive any medical care. The majority of their patients are children who have lived with their ailments for their entire lives, and receive few comforts. When HHH goes on their trips, they take with them toys, blankets, stuffed animals, and hygiene products to give to their patients, helping to make the hospital stay and recovery period a little easier. My project was to collect these supplies and purchase new luggage for them to transport their supplies. My project went very well and my contributions impressed HHH so much that they asked me to join them on their trip and actively participate in their organization. I, of course, couldn’t refuse the offer, so I spent the last week of this summer in Jinotega, Nicaragua working in surgery.
I don’t like using the phrase “life-changing,” as all events change our lives somehow, but I feel that it is the most apt way to describe my time in Nicaragua. I have never traveled much, and had never been on a plane before this trip, so this was incredibly enlightening for me. Sure, on TV and in books I have seen what these places look like, but nothing can capture what it’s like in real life. Seeing the country, and how other people live was certainly an informative experience; it made me value what I have much more. This, however, was more eye-opening than life-changing: I knew all of these things before seeing them myself, but seeing them drove the point home. What changed my life while in Nicaragua was working with the patients, almost exclusively young children.
Seeing what this medical team does, I’m not so sure that engineer is my only path. After spending time with one of our patients, I do know one thing for sure.
This patient was a three year old boy, who has a “giant nevus” on his back, which is essentially gigantic mole. Apart from being unsightly, a nevus has a far greater chance of becoming a malignant melanoma. Having one the size of his back isn’t very good for his odds. This basically means that this happy little boy, whom I’d watched smiling and playing for the last three days, might not have much longer. Because of my trip, I now know what I want to do with my life: seeing this terrible reality up-close and personal has made it clear that I want to do what I can to prevent this from happening to anyone else. I still don’t know how exactly to go about doing it – I could be a biomedical engineer, a doctor, or a surgeon. Whatever path, I want to help to make sure no one else goes through this.