Saturday, December 22, 2018

Knoxville nurse spends Christmas in Ethiopia through Doctors Without Borders

Knoxville nurse Antigone Pantanizopoulos will be celebrating Christmas in March — because in December, she will still be in Ethiopia serving with Doctors Without Borders and Médecins Sans Frontières. 
A Médecins Sans Frontières doctor uses an ultrasound on an expectant mother to examine the health of the baby. (Photo: Courtesy of Philippe Carr/Médecins Sans Frontières)
Pantanizopoulos joined Doctors Without Borders and Médecins Sans Frontières this year, and has been working in Ethiopia since May. Doctors Without Borders and Médecins Sans Frontières work to provide medical and health care in foreign countries, specifically those affected by conflict. 
Pantanizopoulos has been a nurse since 2012. She worked in Baltimore for several years before moving back to Tennessee and working at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center. 
Pantanizopoulos will return home in March, and she said her family has promised to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas with her then. 
"I'm excited to eat some pumpkin pie," she said with a laugh. 

In Ethiopia, Pantanizopoulos works in outreach with a team that goes to four clinics in the Somali region each week. Pantanizopoulos said they focus on working with children under the age of 15 and pregnant women on pre- and post-natal care. 
Pantanizopoulos said she is the only American on the team, and "over 90 percent of the staff is from this region." She said MSF also provides training for the local staff. 
"It's a nice, big international group that I get to work with," Pantanizopoulos said. 
Pantanizopoulos said the biggest thing she has learned is how valuable water is. 
"I've learned that water is very, very precious," Pantanizopoulos said. "This area is a fairly dry area, and a very sandy, arid climate. Water is a huge issue in this area."

Pantanizopoulos said the area where the team is currently living went through a drought last year, which caused a lot of livestock in the area to die. Pantanizopoulos said the rainy season is about to end, but "it really didn't produce a lot."
Pantanizopoulos said this has caused her to rethink how she uses water and how she can use water better. 
"I've really thought about the showers I was taking back home and the way I would do dishes, because water is so precious," she said. 
Pantanizopoulos said clean water is a huge issue in the area, and "some of the water I've seen, I don't think I would wash my hands with," is the only water people have to drink. 

"We’re all human beings and we all deserve the same basic things and water is one of the most important basic things you could possible have," she said. "When I go back home I’ll be more aware of what I’ve taken for granted."
Pantanizopoulos encouraged everyone to volunteer and give back, and said there are many opportunities not just internationally, but locally as well. 
"I think that for people who are not interested in working internationally or being away from home for so long, there are local organizations," Pantanizopoulos said. "There's so much we can do locally. There's need locally."