“This is the kind of experience that will ruin your life.” Our pediatrician Laurie Pramuk made this humorous, but entirely accurate, statement one of the last nights we were in Guatemala. It took me a second to understand what she meant, but as comprehension washed over me, I realized she was right. In the past six days I had experienced something that would stick with me for the rest of my life, whether I wanted it to or not.
Though we only spent a week in the clinic at Patanatic, we got to experience many aspects of daily life for the local people. We prayed with them, visited their homes, sat in on their town meeting, worked with them, healed them, and just got to know them. Their lives were harsh and meager, yet they struck me as some of the most genuine, kind, and grateful people I had ever met. I’ll never forget the women and men who were literally in tears as I prayed with them, following their visits with the doctors. I wish I could live my life with the same passion and faith. Aside from being full of emotion and energy, their prayers were full of one word in particular: gracias. It felt great to know that people were thanking God for our help.
In addition to learning about real gratitude and faith, this trip taught me what it really means to be a healer, and I thank all four of our medical professionals for that. The people of Patanatic received more respectful and high-quality medical care than many Americans receive. Our doctors and nurses took time to carefully explain all of their diagnoses and proposed treatments. They treated their patients like they were equal human beings. In my opinion this is one of the most important aspects of being a doctor. There is nothing worse than a doctor who gives you a prescription and sends you on your way with no explanation of the diagnosis. Every patient deserves this basic respect and dignity. I plan on carrying this idea with me throughout my medical career.
In closing, the most important thing I learned from this trip is that the medical field, and life in general, is about the relationships we make. I am grateful for this experience because I learned how rewarding these relationships can be. There is nothing as special as healing someone else and learning from their life at the same time. For this reason, I cannot wait to begin my medical career.