I’m writing today’s post from the skies over Miami as we fly home to Utah. It seems surreal to be typing on a computer in a climate controlled plane with clean water, Wi-Fi and snacks. Alas, I’ve been tracked down to write the post though and can’t escape my duty this time…..
We were told months before in our planning meetings that a highlight of the trip would be home visits. I definitely looked forward to this as I had enjoyed making home visits in my former practice. What started out as a quick walk from the clinic to visit a well know patient in the community turned into a humbling experience. As we walked through a narrow alley of mud, potholes, rusted corrugated metal and drying laundry, I was prepped with the woman’s medical history. Apparently this was to be a quick visit for diabetes follow-up care. Upon stepping into her 2 room home though, we realized the situation had changed drastically. A frail ill appearing woman lay in bed, struggling to breath, too weak to sit up unassisted and in severe pain. As the team went to work, checking vital signs and working with the translator to obtain her history, I became acutely aware of how unprepared I was for this situation. I stood in front of her staring intently wondering how on earth to help heal her. I was completely frozen as I realized that behind me stood a room full of her family members hoping for a miracle. It may have been the loneliest and most helpless moment I’ve experienced as a physician, but as uncomfortable as it was, I’m so grateful to have gone through it. In that moment I had to recognize and acknowledge that despite years of training and experience, I am not the Great Physician. Over 4 days, 5 return visits, “the whole kitchen sink” of medications, and multiple prayers, I watched in awe as God performed a miracle in that room and humbled me over and over again. On our last visit I got to see the remarkable woman known so well to the team smiling, laughing, and a little bit sassy to boot as she barked orders at her daughters to make us comfortable in her home. (Check out her video interview once it’s uploaded!) Because of that I consider the home visit experience as both the high and the low of my Guatemala trip.
What struck me about my time in Guatemala is that nothing seemed convenient or easy. Life in general seemed hard and unnecessarily difficult. Most of us when traveling to a third world country have similar feelings of how grateful we are for life back home, how privileged we are, etc. etc. We can’t help but realize how trivial some of our daily complaints / gripes are in comparison to the struggles of the people we meet. I’ll be back in the office tomorrow morning and life will go on with first world convenience. With a few clicks of a mouse I’ll be able to order any test or medicine I deem necessary for my patients. But I do hope that I will humble myself to recognize and acknowledge the One who is the source of all healing, peace, and comfort with every encounter I have.
This post written by Leigh Anna in February, 2018 and originally posted at https://healingnations.net/not-great-physician/2018/02/