Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Night Shifts

So this week I'm on "nights". Here at McLaren Bay Region, on the PCIM night shift, very little happens...especially for those in the role of medical student. So my nights have consisted of 1-2 hour Facetime chats with my family at home, discussing the cabbage soup diet and calorie counting. I've also started some presentations on hyponatremia and acid base disorders. And, Chicago Fire is a great new show if anyone's looking.

And I started a new book called Undaunted. It's written by Christine Caine. She and her husband started The A21 Campaign. Their organization works to prevent trafficing, protect the trafficed, prosecute the trafficers, and to partner with others to accomplish these goals. The trafficing mainly for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor. Anyone remember the movie Taken?

Some quick facts from their website: the average victim is 12 years old, currently it's estimated that 27 million are enslaved, and only 1-2% of all victims are ever rescued.

I've only made it through the first couple of chapters. But sitting here without work to do is very uncomfortable when I think about 12 year old boys and girls, especially those I know personally, in situations I can't even begin to fathom. The website has 21 ways to get involved. Write a letter, Save your pennies, Get social, Get informed, Intern or volunteer, Be a Billboard, Send stuff, Pray, Request a speaker, Remember the 21st, Read their stories... Click here for more...

Sometimes I tell myself not to get involved. Sometimes I tell myself that I'm too busy. Sometimes I tell myself that if I get involved in every good cause I hear about then it'll be too much and I'll be spread to thin...Sometimes I tell myself I am doing enough already. Sometimes I tell myself I won't make a difference. Sometimes I actually try to do something.

So I think I smell another pancake dinner (my favorite fundraiser) in the near future. We can talk about it. We can write letters. We can collect things to send to victims. We can do something.

I wonder what nights are like for the millions enslaved. And then I remember the words of Christ, "In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, for I have overcome the world."

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Opposite of Baby Steps

In the past month or two it feels like I've taken a step that resembles the steps Neil Armstrong took on the moon. Steps where you decide to let your foot leave the ground and then you hang in a weightless, mid-stride moment. Awaiting the moment your foot finally meets the ground again is a little unsettling, but mostly just because it's new. But, taking that step feels so good.

Perhaps I shouldn't compare deciding to pursue pediatrics to taking steps on the moon. For whatever reason, it's the visual that came to mind. Over break I began the first step to residency applications, that is, I set up my audition rotations at pediatric hospitals in the Air Force. I'll be spending a month in Bethesda, Maryland at the Walter Reed Medical Center doing adolescent medicine. Then, I'll spend a month in San Antonio, TX at the Brook Army Medical Center with 2 weeks of pediatric infectious disease and 2 weeks of pediatric hematology/oncology. That sounds incredibly dull and businessy--but I'M SO EXCITED!! I think it might feel better than walking on the moon...sorry Neil. Perhaps medicine is my proverbial moon.

Over Christmas break I suddenly realized that I needed to set up these rotations. Which I'd been avoiding so as to avoid making the "final" decision between peds and family medicine. And I handled it like I handle most things--at the last minute. Right before I left for Haiti. Oh yeah, I went to Haiti! More on that later... As for the rotations, it has all worked out beautifully. As it always does. I feel so blessed. Especially when the Lord gives me conformation that this is part of the journey for which I was created. For example, I'll show you how this happened in just the last 24 hours.

Last night I spent some time with a 21 year old lady in the hospital. I have learned I find great joy in taking care of young ladies. By the way, I like the word lady. I don't think I'd call her a woman, but calling her a lady imparts the respect for which she and other females over the age of 16 are due. Or at least the respect I wish every single girl could have for herself.

In summary, she comes from a difficult home, one of drug use and abuse, has been in prison for the better part of the past year, and has been smoking, binge drinking, and experimenting with drugs since 14. She has a history of major depression and suicidal tendencies. She came into the hospital with a blood alcohol content of 0.43. That's really high. Levels over 0.40 have been associated with death from the toxicity. Yet, when I spoke with her last night, after some detox meds and R&R, I learned again that the person you read about in a chart should never be the end of the story. What I appreciated about her was that her vision of what she wants her life to look like is not dead. She hates the way she is and wants to change. Perhaps the beauty of our encounter is that I'm new enough at this that I'm naive enough to believer her. That's what a lot of people would tell me. But Christ doesn't give up on people. Of that I'm convinced. So I'm choosing to believer her. Obviously wanting something and then actually doing it are two different things. But, upon asking her about her goals she told me she wants to leave the city, start fresh, get her GED, go to college, major in zoology, move to Africa, work with children and animals, and, I quote, " ministry there." Woah. Big things. Awesome things.

The temptation then is to be more than the medical student on her case, the temptation to adopt her as a sister and take her into my home, is strong. I am learning to surrender each day, moment by moment, to God, to be ready for Him to use me. Because right now as a medical student, as a short term volunteer in Haiti, and as a physician in the future, I'm unable to be the social worker, pastor, nurse, case manager, dietitian, motivational speaker, confidant, teacher, friend, and health provider. But, I know that God can orchestrate that for her, and maybe if I'm lucky, I can play a small part.

I want to do big things. Big things really quickly. Like my new friend, it's frustrating when those big things seem so far away. Even impossible. At times, those desires turn into disappointments due to their unrealistic expectations or distant reality. I refuse, though, to let go of those desires. I pray she does, too.

 Instead, the less daunting approach and equally rewarding I think, is the approach Mother Theresa encourages:
Do not think that love in order to be genuine has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired. Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies. Do small things, with great love.