Thursday, March 4, 2010

Feeling Happy and Sad

I am not sure how to feel after these intense days at Tierra Nueva with the 'Canadian Medical Teams Abroad' group. Exhausted, exhilarated, headachy, overwhelmed, sad that it is all over, wishing I could have done more, wondering if I should go back and do an orthopedic residency (as was my original plan after internship) and questioning all the choices I made in my life and sad that I do not have the time to live it all over again.

Although my role was small and insignificant in relation to the work of the surgeons and the nurses and the physical therapists, I felt valued and appreciated. The patients repeatedly expressed their thanks, calling us angels again and again.

I spent some time with Pablo, who came for a total hip replacement. He was 32 years old and did not work, had never had a relationship because he was so embarrassed because of his physical deformity. He was excessively anxious, and so we talked at length while waiting for his operation. He came from Archidona, a town Eric and I had driven through in the dark on our way to Casa del Suizo last March. It was late and we were uncertain of which town we were in and stopped at a hotel and asked for dinner. We were told that dinner was provided only for guests, but later the owner relented and fed us some simple food. He confirmed that we were not yet in Tena, but in a small town before Tena. Pablo's mother invited me to visit her in Archidona, and asked me for my email address. Pablo described how he became so depressed about his physical limitations, that he tried to kill himself four years ago and spent several months in a psychaitric institution. He and his mother had waited for years for the operation, and both were happy to finally be here, but Pablo remained anxious and tachycardic. Nothing I could say appeared to make a difference, except that I kept talking until he was in the OR and prepped for surgery. I wish I could follow up and see how he does; he has so much hope.

I visited Gladyss, who had her surgery yesterday, was in some pain today, but was up and about on her crutches, making huge progress and eager to return home to take care of her special needs daughter. Mateo had his green cast covered with a red one so he looked like a Christmas tree. Many of the patients operated on yesterday were up and about, using walkers and crutches, demonstrating great resolve and perseverance, and appeared not to take too much analgesia. The patients inspired me as did all the staff.

I wonder how to return to normal life after such an experience. To feel vital and valued and appreciated is a rare thing (perhaps the CAMTA people are accustomed to it). I would like to volunteer next year!

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