Saturday, March 25, 2017

Where I Feel Called

Friday was undoubtably the most tiring and mentally and physically challenging day of clinic for me. Chapernas is a small village about 30 minutes from the coast in western Guatemala. As we drove into Chapernas we knew it would be different from Choacorral. The dirt roads, open air houses, and the type of illnesses varied vastly from Choacorral. Walking off the bus into 90 degree weather was not only a physical shock but when looking around i was shaken to the core. The two large buildings were basically just huge rooms that we took over and set up our stations at. We walked in the main building and it was packed with people waiting to be seen by our medical staff. However, when we turned the corner God blessed us with another pair of intelligent hands and a caring heart. Nurse Brad came into our lives as a surprise. He is an American nurse that does mission medical work in Guatemala and visits this site twice a week. He was just as surprised to see us as we were to see him. We worked seamlessly together to serve this huge population of people who needed medical care. I worked in triage all day. Hearing people's stories, investigating their health issues, and using nursing skills is my favorite part of triage. The fast paced atmosphere was especially difficult in this clinic. The heat paired with the amount of people and the acuity of the patients made the day especially hard. Working with Maddie and Xye was incredible. Our Spanish skills and nursing backgrounds prevailed and we were essentially done triaging by lunch time. However the most difficult things to witness was nurse Stephanie having to turn away patients. There were just so many people and not enough time or resources to see all of them. This was devastating but it shows how much continued efforts are needed.

My time in Guatemala has taught me more than I could have hoped. On Friday I learned, or perhaps rencountered, the fact that I, as one person, have the ability to change the world. If I changed or positively effected one persons life in the little town of Chapernus I did good. My last patient of the day was a old woman who had diabetes and was leaking, for lack of a better term, from her legs because of all of the edema and fluid retention. She had extremely low blood pressure but her blood sugar was only 175 without taking her medicine for her sugar for a number of days. This was not a problem of diabetes this was congestive heart failure. However, what I learned from this woman was not about her diagnoses, it was about the smile she had on her face when strangers were talking a foreign language surrounding her. It was about how her family advocated for her needs and care. It was about how her daughter was doing the best she could with what she had and was full of gratitude for our being there. My time in Guatemala was not about saving the people. These people do not need to be saved. They are strong, compassionate, loving , hospitable, grateful, and rich in life and love. They are different from the people I am normally familiar with, but that doesn't make them any less worthy of love and care. They need to be walked with not changed. Guatemala has officially broken and ruined me in the best way possible. This beautiful country and its people have changed the way I view health care and have possibly changed where I feel called in this world. They have taught me to love and wear my heart on my sleeve, that it is okay to ask for help, that vulnerability is not a weakness, and that it is more important to be rich in faith, hope, love, and community than in anything else. I am so grateful.

Melinda Birky

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