It seems like I haven’t been able to just sit down and relax for the longest time, and I can’t tell you how good it feels to just be sitting here on my bed typing this right now. Well, as you may or may not know, I was in Nicaragua for a medical mission trip earlier this month and I haven’t been able to just sit down and write about all my experiences because I’ve been so incredibly busy. So now, I’m taking the opportunity to just sit down and talk about all that has happened during that one exceptionally special week of my life. Guess I better get right to it.
The perfect storm. That’s how I would describe the start of my trip-everything that could have wrong basically went wrong. Yet strangely we were able to deal with all of the situations just fine and we pulled through. So this is a brief rundown of how my morning looked:
- Drove to team leader’s house at 3 am
- Arrived at LAX with our team at 4 am
- Checked in around 5:30 am
- Went to terminal and waited for boarding for around 2 hours
- Got on plane, found out there was maintenance issue, got off plane
- Waited for another hour or so
- Found out before boarding that the delay caused us to miss only connecting flight
- Flight switched to next day (me and friend got separated from rest of team, put on separate flight)
- Got ride back to car (at team leader’s house) and found out that I was just about to get towed
- Drove back home
- Repeat process for the next morning
- Finally arrived in Managua
- Found out luggage was left in Miami
Okay, well if you haven’t caught the drift by now, I’m sure you can tell that up to this point, the trip was already really hectic and it was hard to not get frustrated with everything else that was going on. Still, just to finally be in Nicaragua was probably the biggest relief at the end of the day and that was the one thing I was most thankful for in that moment. When we arrived in Managua, the rest of our team members had already worked the first hospital shift for that day and faced a lot of difficulties on their own, so all around we were just really frustrated with everything that had happened up to this point. Anyways, nothing felt better than to be sitting in Nicaragua, in one piece, and joined with the rest of our team members.
Fast forward a bit. After getting settled and finally getting some sleep, we woke up early the next morning to start our 24 hour shift. Insane, right?! I was completely drained emotionally and physically, but at this point, my mentality was, Throw anything you want my way, I can handle anything now kind of attitude.
Immediately upon stepping foot into the hospital, I was just hit with completely new and different sights, sounds, smells…I’ve volunteered in a hospital throughout high school and I’ve never been exposed to some of the things I saw at the public hospital we were volunteering at. Going on trips like these are usually almost always accompanied by some type of cultural shock-I know I’m privileged enough to live with some of the luxuries I have, and being able to go to an impoverished country where they hardly have access to the basic necessities is eye-opening, really. Even having gone to other rural areas that are less developed in the past, it’s always the same thing every time-new things to take in, see and learn.
Within the first few hours of my shift, I accomplished a lot of “firsts”-seeing a public hospital in Nicaragua, watching my first open brain surgery, sitting in on all the doctors reviewing all the patients/procedures, interacting with brain surgeons, talking to residents, conversing with some of the patients and family members in Spanish and watched a CT scan. And that’s not even all. The rest of the day consisted of watching other surgeries, learning to take vitals, one on one patient interaction, assisting the nurses, and completing other tasks normally done within a hospital.
Being able to see the life of a brain surgeon in Nicaragua was completely mind shattering, but I gained so much respect for the work that these doctors do and the care that they are able to provide for their patients, simply because all of them just had such a genuine desire to take care of these patients. Their one goal was just to help treat these patients and give them the help that they needed. I never really was able to witness this in hospitals in the US to the extent that I was able to see in Nicaragua, and I’ve realized that it’s such an incredibly difficult career to take on. Many of these surgeons do up to 3 or 4 surgeries in a day, depending on how long each surgery takes-but it’s not uncommon for them to just pull 24 hour shifts and go out and back into the surgery room for additional surgeries.
By the time it was around 3 am, I was already half-dead; meanwhile, one of the surgeons we had worked with earlier was in the operation room for another surgery. How hardworking they are. We ended up falling asleep for a couple of hours on the beds in one of the doctors’ rooms, and to think that I didn’t do half as much of the work that the brain surgeons do on a day to day basis just made me feel so much sincere admiration and awe for the time that the doctors devote to their work. I think saying that I have a lot to learn from these doctors would be an understatement, because they were truly a significant factor in making this trip so special and dear to my heart.
A quote that adequately sums up how I feel about the doctors we had the privilege of learning from:
Non nobis solum nati sumus. (We are not born for ourselves alone.)
~Marcus Tullius Cicero