Day 6: Connecting as People

Posted on: 03/07/2019

Author: Marian Janes

2:06PM: It’s our last day at Las Obras for our fourth and final day of surgeries. Spirits are high, and the team only has a handful of surgeries left before packing up and preparing to head home. As this final day starts to come to a close, I’ve started to talk more with our team members about their experience. A lot of them draw comparisons between the experience they have here to the experiences they have at home.

Back home, the process is done on such a larger scale where, in a way, it is streamlined and concise. Just as we have done with so many other processes, we have people with specialized skills whose role centers solely around those skills. One doctor provides the diagnosis, a surgeon performs surgery, a nurse cares for him or her beforehand, and a nurse provides care afterwards. It’s simple, it’s efficient, and it works. We’re all seen at our schedule time and seen somewhere close to where we live. We get the care we need as soon as we need it. Through this though, the relationship shared is different. The job defines the person, and the diagnosis defines the case. The patient’s story is transcribed by someone else, and we read about it on a screen or clipboard. As we all narrow on the details, sometimes we can forget about the whole.

Going into surgery can be scary. The process can be overwhelming and long and traveling far from home for surgery adds such a level of unfamiliarity and risk to the entire experience. Here, during our time at Las Obras though, there is a closeness between the team and the patients that wouldn’t exist in the same way back at home. There is a closeness that brings the humanity back into these relationships and combats each patients’ nerves, worries or fears with kindness, compassion and understanding.

This team though takes patients and cares for them in ways that are so different than the way they do at home. On triage day, our patients get to meet everyone – their doctors, nurses, everyone, and along every step of the way, they are greeted and welcomed by familiar faces.

Even before triaging the patients, we prayed together, embracing one another, hugging and shaking hands. Doctors had the chance to meet their patients’ families before they operated on them. That same doctor gets to greet the family afterwards as well and shares results and findings. Then, again that same doctor sees the patient too after the operation in the PACU and in the ward. Nurses back home don’t always have the same opportunity to follow up with their patients after a procedure is done or after they leave the PACU.

The other day, I heard one of the doctors explaining ‘scrubbing in’ to a student nurse. With any procedure, there is always concern of contamination. What the doctor emphasized alongside this though is that it is okay to touch the patient. The only way to make a difference is to do so. Sometimes, we can fear interaction. We can fear opening our hearts and being vulnerable. Being out of your comfort zone is scary. Being away from home can be scary - to work in a new environment or to trust people you don’t know to change your life. We’re navigating new places, new people, and new languages.

Despite all of this, we’re here and so are our patients. We’re here as people, and we're here for each another.