As I am writing this, I am sitting in yet another airport trying to get home after spending a week in Cusco, Peru. Over the course of this trip, I have spent 5 days in airports and travelled thousands of miles to get from my home in Salt Lake City, UT to Cusco, Peru. When I was on my way out here, I had a flight get delayed by 4 hours, causing me to miss two of my connecting flights and spend two more days in the airport. It was a whole new world flying into South America…not many people speak English, and they approach you expecting to converse in Spanish. The language barrier and the stress of missing flights made me question whether the trip was really worth it…
Rule #1: Don’t get out of the boat
Rule #2: If you get out of the boat, be prepared to go all the way.
…I can say now, more than a week later that it was worth every mile, every penny and every encounter Spanish phrase that I fumbled.
Over the week, we were challenged in almost every way. Cultural boundaries were crossed, we were immersed in a lifestyle that was foreign to us, we saw extreme cases of medicine that you don’t see in America and through it all, we bonded with our fellow students and embraced the changes. We had to.
Rule #66: Roll with it. Shit happens; it’s a part of life.
….this and many other quick quips we were able to recite as Famous Dr. Rollin-isms.
I really wish Dr. Rollins had written down rules 1-66 for me, because I’m sure each one would be equally as relevant. We really did grow up on this trip and learned things about ourselves that we never knew. While I was here, we had a party for the mentally disabled and disfigured kids that lived at the Clinica San Juan Del Dios, right next-door to our hostel. I didn’t know how I was going to react or how I was going to connect with these kids…I mean, how was I supposed to deal with a child like that for 2 hours? Come to find out, I had too little faith in the sheer joy these kids brought. They may not have been able to feed themselves or even speak to me, but a high five is the same in every language and a crunch bar and a not wheels car will bring a smile to any small boy. Dr. Rollins says that if you want to be a good doctor, you gotta take care of them and give back. When we walked through those doors, it was overwhelming, the condition of these children. But as soon as I began to interact with them one-on-one and played with them and fed them dinner, I knew that we were speaking the same language. I am really considering a pediatric view of medicine after this week.
While we were in the jungle, we went on a little hike. After winding back and forth through the jungles of Madre Del Dios, we returned to the village where we held a clinic for over a hundred patients. I hung back a bit and just watched because I was not very confident in my Spanish skills. But Dr. Rollins saw that and immediately put me on the spot in triage. “Just figure out what’s wrong with them, not too difficult.” Me and one of the other boys went into a room and waited to triage patients. As soon as they started coming though it worked out and I was able to speak to them and find out what was wrong, even if they had to point and use their hands, we worked out the language barrier. I was even able to talk to a few about their families and such as we waited for the Doc. I wouldn’t have thought I could do that before that day.
I am so grateful for this opportunity. I have been working toward it for over a year now and stressing about it, but now that it’s come and gone, I got more from it than I could have imagined. It’s not just the medicine, although in this country you will see a whole new aspect of being a doctor that you miss in the USA, but its meeting people you otherwise wouldn’t have ever met, it’s assimilating into an uncomfortable environment, and it’s about experiencing a new worldview. I think I learned just as much off rotation than when I was following the doctors around the hospital. We were able to see one of the most beautiful places on earth and meet some of the best people, and being able to say that I’ve done all this by the age of 20 isn’t too shabby. I will never forget this place and plan on returning as soon as I can.
Class of 12/10/10 – 12/19/10