This post is raw. I just got to my host family’s home after leaving the hospital for the last time. I’m ripping the bandage off just like I had to do for a few patients in the past two months. I’ll start with this week and work my way to a summary of my journey here Nicaragua.
This week was a week to see the parts of the hospital that I hadn’t experienced before. I started the week off in the Emergency Room’s Gynecology and Obstetrics area, then spent a day each in Labor and Delivery, the Intensive Care Unit for new babies and surgery again. In each of them, there was little that I could do to help so I used the week as more of an educational week. Being in the room for a delivery of a baby was a brand new and exciting experience for me, for example. I also had some great conversations with people at the hospital. I always end up talking with some fellow med students, asking them where they are in their studies, what they’re thinking about specializing in, etc. The head doctor in the infant ICU was an interesting guy who talked my ear off about all the technology that they’re lacking and all the things that I could bring back from the States for them. Although it hurts me not to be able to provide for their every need here, these are the kind of conversations I have enjoyed having because the lack of supplies and technology are a main point in my capstone project.
I did get to provide for one need while I was here, however. The boss of the nurses in Pediatrics, the area where I spent about a month, mentioned to me recently about the lack of chairs for mothers and family members to sit in while they stay with their children. I checked my finances and, finding chairs for a good price in the local market, sponsored the purchase of 8 of them. Today, my last day, I delivered them and was greeted with smiles and thank yous from my nurse friends in Pediatrics.
Today also included my last English class. I turned the tables on my ever-generous English students today and gave them all a small refreshment at the beginning of class along with Certificates of Participation for the class and a small gifts I put together. My Spanish-English medical dictionary will also stay in the nursing office to help them translate and sort the donated packages of medical supplies that often come printed in English. It was tough to say goodbye to my new group of middle-aged female friends but I let them know that I hoped to return one day when I had some more medical knowledge and shared my gratitude for all they had given me over the past two months.
I’ll miss many things about the hospital and about Nicaragua in general. I’ll miss the vast amount of hands-on learning opportunities I had everyday; heading back to pre-med classes will probably feel like going backwards in my studies. I’ll miss teaching English and doing what doctors tell me. I’ll miss sitting and enjoying the breeze in Central Park after a long day at the hospital. I’ll miss stopping for at a pulperia (small store) to buy a fresco (homemade fruit juice) on my way home. I’ll miss the food. I’ll miss being able to walk or ride my bike anywhere I needed to go. I’ll miss the challenge of speaking Spanish everyday. I’ll miss the prices and the lack of consumerism. Most of all, I’ll miss all the friends I’ve made and the host family that has taken care of me all this time.
Looking back on my overall experience here, I can’t say that it opened my eyes about any great need. I knew there was need in the healthcare system and I wanted to find out exactly what it was. I can’t say that Nicaragua transformed my views of the world, although it definitely refreshed my ideas about injustice in the world and my desire to work towards a change. I can’t even say that my 10 and a half weeks was enough to fully immerse me in the culture. I’m still not comfortable in every situation here and my Spanish remains imperfect. But when I look back on this summer, I will be able to say that it was a defining experience in my medical career, that I was shocked by many differences between the hospital here versus those of the States, that I learned more than I ever thought possible, that I made and strengthened treasured relationships that I hope to continue, that I taught a useful skill to some nurses, that for one summer, I ate and lived and breathed like a Nicaraguan. It all adds up to an incomparable experience about which I have no regrets.
Today, as I walked out of the hospital, I looked down at the lab coat I was wearing and the stethoscope draped around my neck. I looked up at the bright blue sky and the Central American sun beating down on me. I looked around at the dusty street and then back at the green building that I had just exited for the last time (this year at least). Then I realized something: I had never taken a picture in front of the hospital that I called my place of employment for the last few months. I found someone on the other side of the street willing to indulge me. Here is the picture from my last day that looks like a picture of the first day. Yes, I was truly here at Hospital Escuela Oscar Danilo Rosales Aguillo in Leon, Nicaragua during the summer of 2014.