A week ago, I returned from my twelfth trip to Haiti. One would think that it would be easier to transition back after so many times, that it would be “old hat” so to speak. But, for some reason, this trip has been harder than usual. It’s a week later and I am long to be back with the Haitian people who I love.
I think the starkest contrast is at work. In the U.S., I work in a primary care walk-in clinic which is very similar to the clinic we work at in Haiti. Two weeks ago, in Haiti, I rationed the use of my otoscope (to look in ears) because the battery only lasts so long and electricity is unreliable to recharge it. I made do removing a foreign body from an eye when I couldn’t find a sterile cotton swab to do the job. I often walked into the pharmacy to see what we had on the shelves to determine what I could prescribe for various ailments. Last week, back in the U.S., I had everything at my fingertips. I opened cabinets that were fully stocked for whatever situation might arise. My otoscope was not only reliably powered but high definition! My biggest worry with prescribing antibiotics was what pharmacy the patient wanted their script electronically sent to – I had my choice of medications. How does one reconcile these two work environments?
Don’t get me wrong – I love my job here in the U.S. But somehow I find myself longing for places like Haiti. Places where I see my patients in churches with the rain pounding so hard on the tin roof that I have to shout to be heard. Places where I smack the mosquitoes away as I try to listen to someone’s heart. Places where children smile at the white lady who keeps coming back to see them. Places where a touch, a kind word, a smile makes all the difference in the world. Places where medicine seems so much simpler and I have to dust off my clinical exam skills because it’s all I have to make a diagnosis.
As I sit here tonight, I’m reminded to take what I’ve experienced and learn from it. I cannot reconcile these worlds. I don’t understand why people are born into such contrasting environments. But I can do my part to make a difference. I can be grateful for every opportunity to go to places like Haiti. My life has been changed by these trips. I no longer take things like toilet paper or clean water for granted. I smile a little more often as I’m reminded what a difference that makes no matter where one is. I sit here tonight longing to be back on the mission field. But, instead of moping around, I will use this longing to motivate me to make the next trip even better, to provide more care, to touch more lives, to push the limits of what we’ve accomplished thus far and continue moving forward. Recently I ran across a quote by William Borden that I really liked and which I will leave you with tonight – “No reserves. No retreats. No regrets.”
Till next time,