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Employees explore Antigua before grand opening of pediatric intensive care unit

This week, a group of employees from Carolinas HealthCare System are in Guatemala for the official opening of the country’s most innovative, neonatal/pediatric intensive care unit.

Opening on March 16, the 36-bed National Regional Hospital of Escuintla will be the largest facility of its kind in Central America. It was created with support from the International Medical Outreach (IMO) program, a partnership between Carolinas HealthCare System and the Heineman Foundation.

Be part of the adventure

Follow the journey on our blog, The Daily Dose, or on social media as we show you the sights and sounds of Guatemala and share updates on the grand opening. Here’s a recap of our team’s first day in the city of Antigua.

Antigua building

Antigua, Guatemala – March 15, 2017

Antigua is a surprise.

With its deeply rutted cobblestone streets, block after block of two-story Spanish colonial buildings and church ruins, it seems decades removed from Guatemala City – the country’s capital – and centuries removed from more industrialized parts of the world.

Beyond that, a dormant volcano overlooks the town. Today, it’s shrouded in clouds and that adds to the mystique of being in a less-frequented part of Central America.

Distinctly Guatemalan

It’s a scene that’s familiar in many parts of the world: A bustling market filled with a variety of street vendors selling everything from mangoes to leather purses to boot-legged copies of movies still in theaters. But in Antigua, it’s distinctly Guatemalan.

The woman selling oranges from the west, bananas from the south and mangoes from the east is dressed in the distinct garb of the native tribes of the region. She’s also selling scarves and wraps – woven by women in her tribe – that burst with vibrant colors.

Behind the market, rows and rows of buses proudly display their complex and colorful paint schemes. Some have chrome trim that reflect and warp the colors like a fun-house mirror. Our guides tell us each bus company has a different color signature and some of them compete to see how flashy they can get.

Antigua buses

Finding familiarity in a foreign land

But Antigua also has some familiar hallmarks of Western culture; fast-food restaurants and American pizza chains seem to be particularly popular here. And, like back in the US, teenagers lean on walls outside, crowd around the door and look at their phones while holding slices of pizza.

Later today, we’ll visit the Hospital Regional de Escuintla to meet local hospital staff as they prepare to open the new NICU/PICU facility.

You can follow the journey on Carolinas HealthCare System’s Facebook and Twitter pages, as well as Levine Children’s Hospital’s Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages.