I’ve been avoiding this post for a while because I’m not sure how I can properly summarize this trip and I don’t know what I can really say that will capture everything that this trip has done for me. Still, I feel like I owe this post a lot of time and love because this trip truly was so special to me and I ought to share that with others.
The part that always captures my heart the most whenever travelling to other countries and places is most definitely the people I have the privilege of meeting, and better yet, the people I’m lucky enough to get to share the experience with. One thing I’ve always noticed about mission trips and the simple act of volunteering is that it can bring people together and unite them amidst so many of our own differences. Within our team, we all went into the trip not knowing a single thing about each other. Yet after a week of so many eye opening experiences, there’s a special bond that you create with them because you get to share these experiences with individuals who share the same passion for service and giving back. And the doctors? Well, we’re worlds apart. Family structure, economic situation, upbringing, culture, education, political views…we’re very different people coming from very different parts of the world living very different lifestyles. But at the center of this week’s work and service, I found that we are all united by compassion for those in need of aid and strength and a shared desire to do everything in our power to make things better, para ayudar y amar el gente (se dice un doctor cuando se pregunté, “¿Por que quiere ser un cirujano?”).
Coming from the US and living in a very privileged area, it almost seems as if I lived in a dream world when I came to Nicaragua. There was nothing I had to worry about back home-I had 3 meals a day, a room all to myself, two loving parents, I went to great schools and received a solid education, I had the luxury of attending extracurriculars, and the last thing on my mind during my high school years was nothing even remotely close to a brain tumor or hemorrhage, instead I worried about which college I should go to and what color prom dress I should wear. Yet when I looked at some of the patients in the hospital or even just the nurses working for long hours in the ICU, I thought to myself, what different lives we lead. A patient who just got a portion of his brain tumor removed, a nurse not much older taking care of his intubation and helping him post-op in the ICU, and then there was me, a college student coming to visit and helping out in the hospital–all the same age, and yet we grew up so differently and our life experiences were so drastically divergent. It’s quite mind shattering, but these are the rare moments that make you realize that there’s still so much to see and learn out in the real world. It’s even more humbling to know that no matter where we’re from or how “privileged” we are, each and every one of us has our fair share of learned lessons, life experiences, struggles, weaknesses and battles.
One of the medical residents teaching us about a certain procedure regarding a brain surgery.
I think that prior to going to a developing nation like Nicaragua, my notion of “community service” was that of just being able to do good for the less privileged and make the world a better place. While I still hold this belief to be true, I think I also neglected the fact that things aren’t always so black and white, or so bad one second and suddenly all fine and dandy the next because of some service I was able to provide. I’d like to think that things improved because of something that I was able to do, but I also felt incredibly helpless to a certain extent at times. I felt very limited in my skills, communication, medical knowledge, and some things are just not in our power to fix. While working in a hospital, especially the ICU, you have to come to terms with the fact that people come and go. As an individual influenced largely by emotions, the powerlessness I felt while seeing a suffering and dying man in front of me was overwhelming and at times, unbearable, because I wanted so badly to save lives and fix things and improve the quality of life for everyone that sought help. I think the feeling that I felt at that point was a defining moment for me- I need to be able to do something, utilize my skills and knowledge to ameliorate the pain of this individual, do something. And I couldn’t, because I didn’t know how. But that feeling of wishing and willing that I could have done everything in my power to help this person was special because I know that this is a huge driving force behind some of my future aspirations–shaping the career I want for myself and treating patients in general–that I want to be the person that is able to do everything in her skills and power to leave a lasting impact on another person’s life, no matter how small, and that we all have the capacity to be those who make a change.
Last day at the hospital
First picture as a team (Day 1) at LAX
Final picture before heading back to the US on our last day together
Dearest Nicaragua, thank you for showing me so much love throughout this week-through the people, through the experiences, through the rough patches, and the beautiful moments. Thank you for showing me that if there’s one thing we can all afford, it’s to be happy and find joy in our simple love for life.
I’ve seen the sights of a serene world surrounding me on a peaceful boat ride in Lake Nicaragua, tasted the authentic fried plátanos con arroz y frijoles and some grilled carne asada, listened to the dreams and stories of so many unique individuals, and most of all, felt the life pumping through our hearts and bodies keeping us alive in every moment, and giving us the power to go forth and care for others and love. Now that is truly invaluable.
“He who devotes himself to service with a clear conscience, will day by day grasp the necessity for it in greater measure, and will continually grow richer in faith. The path of service can hardly be trodden by one who is not prepared to renounce self-interest, and to recognize the conditions of his birth. Consciously or unconsciously, every one of us does render some service or other. If we cultivate the habit of doing this service deliberately, our desire for service will steadily grow stronger, and will make not only for our own happiness but that of the world at large.” ~Mahatma Gandhi
Thanks for reading ♥