Hi all, long time no chat and I do apologize. BUT, I am back. I recently stumbled across this quote from none other than Mother Teresa as I was trying to find quotes for my newly implemented newsletter at the clinic and it made me realize how I feel.
“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”
For me this quote is so powerful and helps to visualize the representation for how I feel for the insecurities in this fellowship. Let me explain. First, as I have already mentioned in previous posts, this fellowship is amazing and among myself and all the other staff I feel as though I am making an impact in at least one person’s life. However, you wonder, because nine months seems so long, but I am already almost three months in. I realize as I plan out the next 6 months that nine months is not a long time at all. I begin to wonder “How much of an impact or good am I really doing, more importantly am I doing enough?” I want to do a great job with such a great impact without being needed after I leave the clinic. I want the impact I leave to last. Well, I think they are all just several drops that are added to the ocean and if they were not there then they will be missing from the world, and missing from someone’s life. Each drop is another that is added to make the stepping stones for another person to use.
- I am not very good at posting blogs in a routine manner as I receive a few messages from friends and family about when I am posting the next one. I struggle with criteria to write about, what should I put in, or rather not put in? The goal of this is to just lay it all out for you.
- I am obsessed with all the outdoor markets that Johannesburg has to offer, and I try to go to one as often as I can. I have made it a personal goal to go to all of them before I leave at least once.
- I’ve been way to scared about what they call ‘rain spiders.’ I had a late-night visitor about the size of my palm on my toilet bath mat and I was so scared I first screamed, then called my mother, and texted numerous people to get input on how to remove this spider from my flat. I will also confess I usually have my father do the spider killing at my house. It is my kryptonite if you will. Fast forward to the end of this story, it took me an hour to get him out, and he was mostly unharmed, but I think we are both equally traumatized.
- Sitting with a patient who has just found out that they were diagnosed with HIV doesn’t get easier. I’ve only been with a couple women and men when this has occurred, but there is one instance that sticks out in my mind. I was on the mobile clinic when a woman came in who looked elderly and frail only to find out that she was in her early 30’s. After a rapid HIV test came back positive, she became quiet and withdrawn from the conversation. She had tears in her eyes. The counselor stepped out of the room and I was left alone with the patient. I felt so uncomfortable. I am not great at comforting people in pain, and here I was stuck in my shame and all I could think was that nothing I could say would make her feel better and I can’t fix it. I put my head down and I wasn’t sure what to do. I’m not sure what made me do it, but I reached out to her and I held her hand. I offered a small smile, and said “I know this is hard, but there is care for you and it will be okay.” I am not sure if it would be okay, as I knew this woman’s life just became harder, but I did know that HIV is not a definite death sentence anymore. It can be managed just like a chronic disease similar to diabetes with treatment. The woman returned a soft smile, and the exchange was over just as quick as it began as she moved on to the next station.
I have many uncomfortable situations like these and I realize that while in the moment I may feel shame for various reasons, or may not know what to do, afterwards, I reflect on them in my journal or talk it out with a friend, and it has allowed me to get so much more out of these experiences than if I did not do that. I am thankful for these uncomfortable moments.
- I love coming to work and doing work that I feel inside is important and making a difference in their lives, and it is my drop in the ocean that I am contributing to. I won’t make a tsunami, but I am still adding to something that is needed.
What have I been up to?
- I have implemented a staff newsletter system to Witkoppen. It does not seem like much, but with communication struggling from various departments at the clinic, I am using it as a way to keep all departments informed, while also giving information to educate staff about the Gift of Hope’s programs, A FRESH Start and Sponsor a Mother and Child.
- In an effort to be more involved with management, I am to be a type of scribe to type up the problems/ideas/conclusions in the Senior Management Meetings.
- Reports and Success Stories. As part of my role as a Minerva Fellow I am to write a Report every three months and to analyze the data for the report in order to send to Lauren on the progress of the Gift of Hope. The success stories are stories written about patients that have overcome challenges and are now on the right track with the help of the programs provided by Gift of Hope.
- Campaigns: photos, videos, and interviews with patients.
- If you have a ball they will come. I have a soccer ball in the back of my car and so far I have played soccer in the parking lot with the parking guards after getting my groceries, played in the parking lot of the clinic with staff members, and have played soccer with the orphans and vulnerable children in the townships. If you have a soccer ball they will play and the rules are always understood.
- “You need to work here because you love your job and because you care about the patients.” I overheard this conversation at the clinic from a staff member to another. She also began to explain this statement. “These patients are needy and vulnerable. You have to visualize every time you talk to a patient about nutrition, or home life, or money how would you want to be spoken to in that situation if the table was flipped. It is the golden rule, that we hear since we are children, but when you are able to see the situation right in front of you it changes things a lot. It is so powerful when you see the inequality and I think this mindset allows me to connect with patients better. To be able to open your heart and time to patients is something that is absolutely amazing. As Brené Brown says, you need to sit on the same side of the table as them, not across the table. Power or positions of power changes how someone views you no matter your intensions. Therefore, I strive to be able to relate with patients, and to use the little bit of power that I have in order to benefit them.
- I love how I am seeing regulars at the clinic because I have now been here long enough that they remember seeing me at the clinic, and speaking with me at various points around the clinic. Perhaps the thing that makes me smile the most is when a child remembers me and has spotted me from across the room and they start making noise and waving at me in order to get my attention so I can come over and say ‘hi’ to them.
- There is a big difference in the healthcare systems in SA versus the US. SA might have infrastructure but they do not have the newest and latest updates, technology, treatments. SA is still developing, has more exposure to diseases that are not a worry in the US, and the clinics and hospitals are also set up differently. For example, there are government clinics that have long waiting lines or private that can have high fees. There are gaps in the health care given and within the system. It isn’t equal and patients do not always get the attention and care that they need.
That was a long-winded rant, so if you made it to the end, I just want to congratulate you on finishing 🙂