Growing Pains

Today was mentally, spiritually, and physically exhausting. Each day in the clinic I work with a nursing, pharmacy, or undergraduate student and a Cambodian medical school student translator. The role of the Cambodian student is to translate my questions to the patient and then their exact response to me. The translators are medical students in their final year of school and they are familiar with the common diseases in Cambodia. I am sure it is aggravating for them to be instructed not to chime in and ask the patients questions of their own. Lets face it, Medical students, English or Cambodian, like to be the leader and in charge of a situation. However, the translator I worked with today took more liberty in his translational role and engaged the patient in long conversations without offering a translation. I was only told bits and pieces of the patient’s story. As I sat and watched their conversation I found myself growing disheartened that I was being excluded from the patient’s medical care.

My final patient of the day was an older man with a weathered face and furrowed brow. He sat in the chair before me and pulled out a bag of several medications, including many psychiatric medications. I asked the man why he came to the clinic and what I could do to help him. My question sent he and the translator into a long dialogue, all the while the patient was growing more and more apparently anxious. I only gathered that the patient has trouble sleeping and suffers from anxiety. After 5 or so minutes of observing their interaction, the translator took the patient by the arm and hurried him out of the clinic, without any notice. I quickly followed and what happened next was a chaotic mess. A group of villagers and Cambodian medical students huddled around the patient, now slumped in a chair, sweaty and very ill appearing. Everyone was shouting. I kept directing questions to the patient but could not get a translator to ask my questions. I tried desperately to gather more information. I was standing in the middle of the group of Cambodians, directly in front of the patient, yet I felt completely invisible. I have never felt so helpless.

It was not enjoyable or easy being the outsider today. I hope that I will learn from this experience and be generous with my attention and friendships and will be welcoming to all. I want to be known as someone who is inclusive of both those similar and different from myself. This experience also exposed a part of my personality that I had never fully realized. I have always been a very social person; I love to talk to anyone and everyone. When I am at the grocery store I make conversation with the cashier, in the elevator I talk with the other people, walking down halls I speak to people in passing. However, not until I was thrown into a foreign experience such as today, did I realize how much encouragement and joy I gain from connecting with people, especially through conversation.

I am so thankful for this opportunity and the challenges it presents. Hardship and struggle promotes change and growth and I have faith that these growing pains will ultimately help form me into more loving and compassionate individual. 

Melody Bowen- medical student

1 comment | Add a New Comment
1. Audreu | May 29, 2015 at 02:51 PM EDT

So real and heart felt!

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