Saturday, November 29, 2014

Snippets of my Thought Process (2): Scrubs and Self Esteem

Allison Draper

I'm sitting on yet another bus. This time, it's after my third and final day working in a rural mobile clinic in Nicaragua with Vida Volunteers. I spent the last three days working with local doctors taking diagnostics to aid in treatment. My scrubs are sweaty and sticky after the long day and I can feel my feet swelling as they hover over the ground. I felt many things during my time with Vida Volunteers, and thankfully, the only one I'm leaving with today is a feeling of gratefulness.  My first day went amazingly. I worked very well with my partners, had a great time and left the day feeling amazing about the job I had done. I had given my surveys in Spanish, and the patients had responded well. I listened to heartbeats, took temperature and blood pressure and reported back to the doctors the information I had collected. I was inspired, and confirmed that yet again that this is what I want to do with my life. I even had an administrator come up to me after the day and tell me that I looked like I was in my natural habitat that day. Then the second day came and everything felt… different. I noticed that the patients were not understanding me very often and having to ask for translations even when I spoke in Spanish. Then a doctor double checked my work and found a vital taken incorrectly. Mistakes, mistakes, mistakes. At the end of the day instead of complemented, I only felt disappointment. Then today, the third day, came along. The first patient sat down and I smiled and asked the first question in Spanish. She turned to the interpreter: "Qué dijo?" I was crushed yet again and switched to English. How could I not be able to communicate after this many Spanish lessons? "Otra vez, puedes hacerlo" my translator nudged and whispered to me.
I repeated the question: "Ah, no, no, nunca." I continued the rest of the survey in Spanish and then continued onto the vitals. I had trouble with the child's heartbeat and asked my partner for a second opinion. We presented the case to the doctor, who nodded, checked our work, prescribed medication and moved onto the next case as the patient got up and left. And then I realized it. The only difference between my first and second day was the way that I was viewing the situation. I made mistakes the first day, the second day, and then again just today but the first day I took them as a learning experience, the second day I took them as a failure, and today I asked for help. My Spanish was never perfect, and often I mispronounce words, but the first day I ignored my mistakes, the second day I let my them stop me from communicating and today I worked around my mistakes. Every day I made the same mistakes, I did the same job, but in one I let my self-esteem build me up, and in one I let it tear me down. I decided, today was going to be different. Today I was who I am: a student who was there to learn and help. The day completely turned around. When I talked to a mother in Spanish about her child's cough and provided her with the necessary medication, I felt not just satisfaction, but pure joy. I can't stop dengue or political corruption, but I offer an ear to listen, helpful information to educate, and prescription to heal. So now I am sitting on this bus. Feeling many things, but most importantly, feeling grateful for the chance to learn how to build myself up, instead of tear myself down.

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