Wednesday, March 8, 2017

An Open Heart and Mind

"Enter this journey with an open heart and open mind," Megan wrote me in the journal she gave me before leaving. I didn't realize how meaningful this would be until I finally had the opportunity to work in the clinic these last two days. I started my morning working with Dr. Richard examining patients. Right from the start I knew it would be a busy day because although he had only scheduled 10 patients for today, he was told he would also be seeing some of the 21 diabetic patients who come to the clinic every month for a checkup. It wasn't long before we realized we would not get through half of these patients before lunch time. The four patients we saw that morning had complex situations that needed more than a simple examination, whether it was for extreme anemia, high blood pressure or from simply being completely confused about which medication should be taken and at what times.

Señora Clara Luz, a woman in her late 70s, was waiting outside of the glasses station when I called for her to see Dr. Richard. "Como se siente oí?" I asked her. "Muy feliz." She told me she was happy because we were here to help her with her vision and pain she had been having for a while now. We began by observing and asking questions about her medical history and her current health problems. It was inspiring to see how Dr. Richard was so patient and empathetic with his patients, even though he did not speak the language. After his evaluation, he decided to prescribe a medication she would be taking every day along with the one she already had. She explained that she would not be able to afford taking this medication every day and that she was just getting by with the one she was already taking. Often times we forget about the obstacles these individuals face every day. We forget that they may not have transportation to the city in case they are in need of more specialized attention or how difficult it is to arrange a trip there. We forget that they may work every day and can't afford to take a day off to see a doctor, and we forget how emotional this can be not only for us, but for the patients themselves.

Señora Clara luz was only one out of the many cases with challenges that we encountered these last days. Challenges that go beyond the science. We come as advocates for these people, as Dr. Richard said, giving them tools for better health. However, the people we have seen have also helped us. They have helped us see through a different lens and appreciate things we often take for granted. They truly have helped me open my heart and mind and I can only hope that we can continue to grow as we all embark this journey together.

Natalie Castillo

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