Today was the day we were all waiting for! Our first day at the clinic! The 5:30 am wake-up call didn’t even phase me because I was too excited for what was in store for the day.
We drove in our rickety van over an hour, sometimes on a paved road and sometimes on a dirt path, to El Espinal, the location of our clinic (it was actually an elementary school).
It was a surreal feeling seeing nearly a hundred patients lined up outside the gates to the school this morning. Mothers, husbands, young people, children, and even accompanying dogs traveled from hours away by car, van, bus, horse, and foot to come see us.
My first rotation was at the triage station. With my friend Olivia (also from L.A., holla), we sat at a desk and met each patient(s) with eager smiles and greetings. Luckily, we both speak and understand pretty good Spanish, although our translator never failed to chime in when needed. To be honest, I was pretty nervous about using the sphygmomanometer because I didn’t take an EMT class as other students had before the trip. But after working with two or three patients, I became super comfortable and knew what to listen for (systolic is when the beating starts and diastolic is when the beating stops–it gets more complicated than that though:). What makes me even more appreciative besides gaining a useful technical skill was how patient each native was with me. If I needed to re-take his or her blood pressure to confirm the initial reading, he or she was ALWAYS encouraging me to do whatever I needed to do to feel confident about the job I was doing. I couldn’t have asked for a better first time experience.
I met one elderly couple at triage. The woman spoke first of her symptoms and then spoke in depth about her husband’s. It was amazing how well-versed she was with her husband’s conditions. When they looked at each other, I instantly felt the compassion because their relationship seemed to click based on one simple glance. This experience reminded me of a similar one I had back at home in L.A. at Huntington Hospital during a music therapy session. The husband had undergone invasive brain surgery and could not verbally communicate with his wife, but when I played “All I Ask of You” from The Phantom of the Opera (their first date with the original cast in London), he flashed her the warmest smile I’ve seen. I will never forget moments like these.
On a lighter and sillier note, I PROMISE to have neat handwriting as a physician because boy, deciphering the handwriting on the prescriptions during my pharmacy rotation was tough. Again, props Mama.
I left the clinic full of spirit despite the long day, energized by all that we had been able to accomplish in seeing approximately 270 patients. We had reflection time back at the compound, and what stuck with me the most was when one physician said, “When you’re with me, you’re going to be treated like doctors.” Reminded me of a Grey’s Anatomy episode that my friend Juan showed me (fans, I hope you know which one I’m talking about–the one with Cristina); some day, I am going to meet an amazing mentor (I’ve already had many, but perhaps in medical school I’ll have more amazing encounters) who will take me under his or her wing and recognize my skills, potential, and motivation–unremitting devotion to my craft–and when I become a physician, I want to be that mentor and give students that opportunity to do things they didn’t think were possible without all the years of medical training.
I guess that’s why I’m here now in Honduras though…because these kinds of opportunities really do exist.