Working in hospital here in Trujillo has given me a unique opportunity to meet many people on a personal level, quickly. As such, I’ve been able to see a lot of vulnerability and honesty not typically afforded to a person you meet on the streets. In honor of Thanksgiving being last week, here are a few of the things I’ve learned not to take for granted through these short, meaningful encounters.
1. Your education.
I’ve always been very thankful for my education, but I was blissfully unaware of the extent to which my education has impacted my life. In the hospital, we have many patients who do not know their birthday and/or their age. By many patients, I mean 1-2 a day. A DAY. Sometimes, they give us their birthday and their age doesn’t match. Other times, they tell us plainly that they don’t know. I had the honor of telling one woman that she was only 48 years old (according to her ID card), not 60 as she had thought! This has some serious implications, both clinically and otherwise. If you don’t know your age, you don’t know what your risks for different diseases are, or how you should be caring for your body depending on which season of life you are in. Moreover, many of these people also don’t know their home address, how to read or write, or the last names of their children.
If you had the opportunity to finish elementary school — you’re blessed.
If you had the opportunity to finish middle school — you’re really blessed.
If you had the opportunity to finish high school — you’re very, very blessed.
If you had the opportunity to finish university — you’re now part of 6.7% of the world population that has this distinction.
Don’t take your education for granted. If you’re really stressed about finals, or a project, or a paper that’s coming up, think about how lucky you are to have that as your greatest concern. Think about what a great opportunity you have to learn and grow and become more equipped to serve God’s people.
2. Your health (& vaccines).
The first day I worked in the hospital, a woman came in with typhoid, and a baby with mumps. I’ve seen scabies, hepatitis, tropical diseases, and sicknesses I didn’t even know existed. In the United States, and in the developed countries, we are so sheltered from the horrendous ailments that people around the world are facing. At the risk of getting political, I’d say we are so sheltered from the atrocious diseases that plague the world, we have become more concerned about an unscientifically-based, globally rescinded correlation than the actual diseases themselves. When you can go to the emergency room for a broken bone and not have to worry about picking up typhoid, you can call it a good day. Please don’t take for granted how lucky we are to live in a place where the worst thing most people face in a year is the flu.
3. Clean water.
Man oh man. I had no idea how much clean water I required until I came here. You can’t drink the water here without risk of parasites, among other things. That means you can’t wash your fruit and veggies with normal water, and even if you find clean water to rinse them with, there’s still a risk that bacteria is hiding on the surface. If you know me you know I don’t particularly like salads — ok yes I hate them– but I’m actually excited to eat salad when I get home because my travel nurse forbade me from eating lettuce here!
Here’s the thing — 68% of the children tested in Trujillo had parasites, and 45.6% of those children had more than 1 parasite (See study here.) This affects their health, their ability to go to school, and their general well-being. It’s a big deal. Don’t take access to clean water for granted.
There are so many other things I could write about in this blog, but these are the three main ideas I wanted to tell you about. Despite these circumstances, the people here are so content. I have learned so much about being content with what you have, and I hope that I can bring that trait back to the US with me!
Other things you shouldn’t take for granted include: toilets that can flush toilet paper, physicians that use latex gloves during procedures, affordable peanut butter, air conditioning and heaters, taxis that are reliably safe, carpeted floors, and coffee that isn’t powder.