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Serendipity

By Misty Hemm, Nursing Student | June 08, 2015

I had been excited to come to Cambodia to serve the Khmer people since I found out I was selected to participate in Mercer on Mission. I jumped at the chance to be part of an interdisciplinary healthcare team, as this has been a topic that has weighed on me for some time. In healthcare environments, doctors, nurses, and pharmacists all work as a collaborative team to shape the best outcomes for patients. The ability to function as a cohesive team is vital to patient care, yet we do not learn together as students. I looked forward to an invaluable experience with everyone working together towards a common goal and each of us learning from one another.

 

While I worried if we could truly make a lasting impact in the lives of the people we would be serving, I welcomed the opportunity to try.  One of the most impactful and unexpected aspects of this trip was how willing the Khmer people were to share their stories with me. As the trip went on, I was able to learn a great deal about their cultural norms, and the shocking prevalence of mental illness, and this allowed to me to gain my patients’ trust while providing culturally competent care. Their stories were at times both heartbreaking and beautifully moving.  After being given the privilege of hearing many stories, it became apparent all of my patients shared a common thread – resiliency. It was thoroughly humbling for me to hear about some of the tragedies the Khmer people had gone through, and yet, they did not display one iota of bitterness. They were so joyful, and something as small as sitting and listening to them and holding their hand brought great joy to them. To stare down such horrors as the mass genocide and torture in the Khmer Rouge, the loss of children, not having the resources to get their very sick baby medical care, or not being able to feed their family, and still come out on the other side even stronger, was an awe-inspiring thing to witness.

 

One of the reasons I chose nursing was due to the fact that nurses are blessed with being able to bear witness to some of the most intimate moments in peoples lives. Every person you meet has a story to tell, and they are equally important regardless of race, socioeconomic background, religious beliefs, or inability to pay for medical care. This is not something I ever take for granted, and each patient I meet who allows me to be a part of his or her story is treasured.  I have never met a more genuinely gracious and uniquely special group of people such as the Khmer, and the things I have learned from them, I will carry with me with me forever. Additionally, I gained knowledge from the pharmacy and medical students I never could have learned in school, and I am thoroughly grateful for the entire experience.

 

A Humbling Experience

By Michele Kim, Pharmacy Student | June 05, 2015

Today my clinic group saw two patients in a row that were growing through relationship troubles. One woman in particular was married but her husband had left with her, married another woman and also took their youngest daughter. Initially, I never would have thought the lady was going through such a struggle because she had a beautiful smile and kept on laughing. However, as we kept on asking questions and were listening to her story, it turned it she was suppressing much of her emotions. We offered several times throughout our conversation if she would like some counseling or if she would like to talk to us about it but she refused. Afterwards, I asked our interpreter if infidelity was an issue in Cambodia and she said it was and many women do not seek counseling or talk about their feelings because they are worried that others may gossip and spread rumors. We assured her that there are ways to seek care and it would be confidential but she still declined. This patient truly touched my heart and made me realize how strong the people of Cambodia are.

 

Patience with patients

By Haresh Soorma, Medical Student and Professional Tuk-tuk Bargainer | June 03, 2015

When I first got news I was going to Cambodia I was ecstatic. The people, the culture, the tropical wonder of a foreign country! I drooled over googled images of stereotypical Cambodia places: the temples of Angkor, the markets in Siem Reap, the food in Kampot. Like a good western-centric raised, twenty-something year old, medical student I was also looking forward to delivering much needed medical care to the Khmai people. After all, we're trained in arguably (very arguably, to some) one of the best medical systems on the planet. I was excited to give back.

 

However, as I began to consider the trip, I began to worry. Delivering healthcare is complicated, and doing a good job of it, even more so. What can be done in two weeks? Sure, immediate concerns like infections, scrapes, and cuts can be fixed with some medications and stern doctorly advice. But what about chronic diseases, the things that really get you in the end, like heart disease, hypertension, diabetes (among others)? Many of these people have never seen a doctor before and these disease states are complex, requiring long term followup and good doctoring. Patients in America can barely be managed with these chronic disease, and we speak the same language as them! Now color me skeptical, because I know I sound like a cynic... but I was nervous. Treating chronic diseases with just two weeks of medications (our carrying capacity) and no long term follow-up (the nature of the situation) can do more harm than good. This third this year med student was nervous...were we actually going to make a positive imact on the patients we saw?

 

The first day clinic changed everything for me. I came to a realization that will change the way I interact with every patient I meet after leaving this beautiful chaos of a country: that by treating the immediate concerns of the patient (like the sore throats, scrapes, and cuts) you can actually get down to the good stuff, educating the person as to what they can do to improve their health and overall quality of life. In not so many words: education is sometimes so much more important than action.

 

Despite the fact that some of our chronic disease medications are in short supply & limited in variety, providing the patients with the enlightenment that they even suffer from these diseases (like the aforementioned HTN, diabetes and CHF) is the most important aspect of our trip. By beginning the first step in the education rocess we can ensure that patients are made aware of the serious nature of their disease and continue to receive the care they need after we leave. Indeed, many are willing to and capable of continuing to see local clinics once they understand what they suffer from. That, I believe, is what makes this all worth it.

 

Leadership without Language

By Tyler Wright, Medical Student | June 03, 2015

Sunday afternoon I had the chance to venture over to Blue Star Sport Club, Kampot Province’s only gym.  Housed in a large metal shed with distinct blue roofing and exposed to the elements, the owner has gathered up and placed inside a unique variety of free weights, exercise machines, and ping pong tables.  1,500 Cambodian Riel—approximately 37 cents USD—will grant you access for a single workout.  I paid my money, said hello to the owner who speaks not a word of English, and ventured over to the corner with odd shaped and unmatched free weights to get down to business.

 

I completed my first set of work intensely and in the zone not paying much attention to my surroundings. After I finished the set, I looked up and noticed that there were four or five young Khmer men aged probably 14-20 years old all standing around me, carefully watching.  I felt honored that they were watching me, as I was clearly the guest in their place to workout.  One young man attempted to talk to me, but my ability to speak Khmer does not extend much beyond saying “Hello my name is Tyler,” so he quickly realized we could not communicate with words. My smile, head nod, and thumbs up seemed to satisfy them, because after my second set, they all grabbed similar weights and began to copy me and do exactly what I did. I walked around to them, pointing to their elbows, knees, and backs making gestures to attempt to help them understand the correct technique.  Applauding them when they performed a movement correctly, they all seemed to get very excited and kept working harder and harder. After one of the Khmer gentlemen would complete a set, I would pretend to flex my arm, point to my bicep, and then to their arm while making a growling noise. This was my attempt at saying, “Good job, you are strong!”  Abysmal at first, their weight lifting technique markedly improved after 10-15 minutes of my Charlie Chaplin-esque coaching.

 

Not thinking too much of this experience at the time, it hit me when I attempted to leave the gym and they all chased after me to say goodbye and give a strong high-five—I led others without using language.  I did not need persuasive speech, sharp tones, or inspiring words. Instead, all I needed was evident passion and clear empathy. I learned at Blue Star Sport Club that Sunday afternoon the meaning of leadership by action and not by words. It is easy to tell a man what to do to make him better or ‘more healthy.’ It is much more difficult, yet much more rewarding, to show that man what to do to become better or ‘more healthy.’ I am without a doubt that this experience has helped shape me into a better future physician.

 

"I think that you have..."

By Lisa King, Medical Student | June 03, 2015

This is a phrase I find myself saying to patients that I see in clinic. When I first found out I was going to Mercer On Mission, I was thrilled and so excited to be a part of the team. However, I would be lying if the thought of acting as the provider to these patients wasn't at least a little daunting to me. Now on the eve of our last day of clinic, I can say that though I definitely have a long way to go as a future physician, this trip has bolstered my skills and given me confidence in my diagnostic capabilities.

 

These past few weeks in clinic have been an invaluable learning experience for me as a medical student. I have noticed my clinical skills improving with each day and my ability in reaching a diagnosis strengthened. I have seen some of the most interesting cases thus far in my medical experience and have even treated some ailments that I will likely never see again in my life. However , one of the greatest things I have learned from the Cambodian people outside of medical knowledge is how to listen to their story. This is something that Dr. Bina always reminds us to do before each clinic day and something I try to do with each patient that sits at my station. In hearing about their lives and experiences, it is striking the discrepancies between our culture and Cambodian culture. This is one of the poorest populations in the world, and with some of the population having experienced the Khmer Rouge, it's hard not to imagine the toll that such events can take on a person's mental and physical health.

 

One thing I have noticed especially in many of my patients is how happy they are to see us. Even if we cannot treat what is wrong with them and they walk away with only ibuprofen, they always are thankful for the care that we have provided them. Today in clinic, I had a patient that came in with a very common complaint we see - back pain. When she sat down, she was smiling ear to ear and scooted in closer to us so she could reach out and grasp our hands while greeting us. In going through the history and physical, she remained just as cheerful and cooperative. At the conclusion of the visit, she said thank you over and over to us and then pulled both myself and Brielle, one of our undergraduate students, in for a hug. It was a special moment and one that put a smile on my face for the rest of the day. For that, I say orkun (Khmer for thank you) to my special patient as well as the people of Cambodia for being the most gracious patients these past few weeks and for providing me with what has been a life-changing experience. Hopefully the learning I have gained on this trip will grant me the ability to make the leap from "I think you have" to just "you have."

 

A Learning Experience

By Brielle Scutt, Undergraduate Student | June 03, 2015

When any person talks about their experience with Mercer on Mission, they mention it being a "learning experience". So, when I was graced with the opportunity to go on this trip, I was eager to learn. I wouldn't wait to learn about the culture, the history, the people, and yes.. the food.

To my surprise, I have learned more than I could have ever expected. I have learned things about diseases, medicines, and treatments inside the clinic. I have learned things about the Khmer Rouge, the people, and the culture outside the clinic. I've learned from the patients, I've learned from my peers, and I've learned from the faculty. But most importantly, I've learned more about myself than I ever thought possible.

I know now what I want to do, how I want to treat others, and who I want to be. I have already noticed that I appreciate things a little bit more, care for people a little bit more, and think of the important things in life a little bit more often. This trip is helping me find the woman I want to be in life.

I want to thank the people who have pushed me and encouraged me be on this trip and helping me find myself, even if they were terrified to let me go to the other side of the world (Hi Mom, Dad, and Jeremy). I cannot believe tomorrow is the last day of clinics. I will definitely be leaving a piece of my heart here in Cambodia, but I cannot wait to see my family soon!

 

"Abdominal pain, headache and blurry vision"

By Ethan Gudger, Pharmacy Student | June 02, 2015

Our clinic this week is very hot and slightly cramped compared to our clinics last week but the backdrop of rice fields with tall palm trees and grazing cattle removes most of the added stress. We saw almost 400 patients at this location over the past 2 days and expect to see more tomorrow at the same place. Many patients present with many of the same problems, “abdominal pain, headaches and blurry vision,” and it’s almost so common I assume every patient has reported them as their top 3 problems to be addressed. But we have also seen patients presenting with a great variation in diseases and conditions, some of which we have been able to treat, such as minor infections, and some we have had to refer to local hospitals.

 

All of the patients on this trip have impacted my life, but a couple patients over the past 2 days have touched me and have particularly influenced my life during this trip. Today a young girl presented with scaring from severe burns on her body from the waste up and the skin had healed so tightly that her mobility was limited in her neck, one arm and some fingers. It was heartbreaking to see such a patient that we were unable to do much for, as she will require surgery to fix the inappropriately healed skin. Hopefully operation smile will take her as a patient and give her back some of the normality of childhood like she should be enjoying. I also saw a small boy yesterday that was complaining of tooth pain and upon opening his mouth he revealed a mouth full of half-decayed teeth that our toothbrushes and toothpaste do no good for. I wanted so badly to help him but there was little we could do other than help him manage his pain.

 

I have been on many medical mission trips before but I have spent most of my time in the pharmacy where I was not able to hear as many patients’ stories about why they are ailing. But this trip has been eye opening to the need that is present and the impact that even showing someone I care can have on these people. This trip has only furthered my desire to serve people in America and around the globe to help share what I know to help improve others lives’, even if it is only a little bit.

 

Perspective

By Seni Ajibade, Medical Student | June 02, 2015

Sometimes I wake up at 3 am, in part because I can't sleep most nights but also because it's one of few times I can think in silence. There's a lot that becomes more apparent in the stillness. The first is how tired I am most days. Most days are physically and mentally draining. The second is how powerless I feel at the end of the day.

When we first got here, I assumed most of the diagnoses would be easy and for the most part they have been. But still I end up thinking about the hard calls I've had to make on this trip. Don't get me wrong, we get plenty of guidance from Drs. Bina and Scheetz. But one day they won't be there. I will have to be the attending making these calls. So this has been a good experience in learning to cope with the ambiguity of it all.

At the end of the day there's a lot to learn and to teach. I have enjoyed talking to the different groups of students and the Interpretors. There's so much to look forward to and the beauty of the places we've been makes it worth the difficult cases. I've seen things I doubt I will ever see in the US. I've had adventures I probably wouldn't have done otherwise and when I look back on this trip I think that's probably what I'll remember.

 

"Now I'm going to listen to your heart and lungs..."

By Catherine Roe, Medical Student | June 01, 2015

It never occurred to me that I would need to tell a patient something like my blog title. In the United States I simply say, "Now I'm going to take a listen," and then proceed with the physical exam. I have had enough patients here in Cambodia look confused by my stethoscope that I've started telling every patient its use. I had to take a moment when I realized why my preface of "taking a listen" was not descriptive enough for them to understand. The truth is that I have no way of knowing how many times these patients have even seen a stethoscope before, or received any medical care at all. That reality is striking, convicting, and powerful, and it's something myself and my teammates have been living during our time here.

Today we set up our clinic in what has been called The Blue Church in the middle of a field. We parked the bus a short distance away and walked past cows to set up our clinic. This setting provides an accurate depiction of what we're doing here. We set up a clinic in a field, demonstrating how we are reaching into the lives of these people where they live and trying to make some sort of difference in the process. I couldn't help but think as I was rolling a suitcase filled with shampoo and toothpaste through the dirt how different the access to medical care is between here and the United States.

The distinction between our worlds is not always so vast, though. I was involved in the treatment of a farmer today who reminded me of my grandfather. My grandfather was a soybean farmer who lived in South Carolina. I looked down at the hands of this farmer and saw my grandfather's hands, a weathered and worn look showing years of hard work. In that moment, I wanted to know so much about his story. Where did he live? What did he farm? I also found myself curious as to how he was affected by the Khmer Rouge, which is a horrible collective history and pain these people share. I found out that he is a rice farmer who works not far from our clinic. I told him my grandfather was a farmer, and I hoped that he would sell a lot of rice this year.

What has really affected me about Mercer on Mission is the connections between the things I've just written. Though we are worlds apart, my world and the world of this hardworking farmer collided in the clinic today and I was finding similarities instead of differences. There is also a profound connection between giving medical care and listening to the patient's story. I have found through this mission that those are always connected. I've had professors say that if you listen to a patient's history, they will tell you what's wrong with them. That has happened with every patient of mine here, and it's sometimes almost as if they are telling me their diagnosis. The realization of that lesson is only one example of the outstanding opportunity my classmates and I have been afforded to learn together and learn from these patients in a setting that both shows us what we already know and how much we have yet to learn. In so many ways, I have found this experience shaping the doctor I hope I will become. That shaping includes how I approach patients with phrases such as, "Now I'm going to listen to your heart and lungs." The greatest change, however, is not how I will now preface the physical exam but in how I first approach a patient. Whether mental or verbal, after Cambodia I will start with, "Now I'm going to listen to your story."

 

Calling

By Valerie Sands, Medical Student | May 28, 2015

Today was our first day of clinic at a new location, a beautifully kept church compound not far from where we are staying. I think the new environment energized us and set up went smoothly. We had a lovely, well-paced morning with each of us being able to take a little extra time to hear our patient’s stories. One of my patients was a gentleman who was missing his left eye, left ear and left leg. His left eyelid was neatly stitched closed. He retained some hearing in his left ear. He had a prosthesis on his left leg, which I didn’t even notice until I placed my hand on his knee and felt the hard plastic underneath.

 

During the many years of war, land mines were planted all over the country. Innocent people during peacetime still suffer. There has been a lot of work done to dismantle the land mines in Cambodia, but my translator tells me that there are still some left in some more remote, mountainous areas especially along Cambodia’s borders. As a result of landmines, Cambodia has over 25,000 amputees one of the highest per capita in the world. HALO Trust as well as government organizations are working to dismantle mines in the 21 districts where most accidents occur. I love it when I hear of people and organizations that see a need and take action to meet it. We each have a purpose and/or gifts that uniquely qualify us to meet certain needs in this world.

 

This afternoon we met a family who is doing just that. They have three children with cerebral palsy and have started a rehabilitation center in Kampot for children with CP. Today they brought the children in for well child visits. When we had some down time, I went outside to visit them. I picked one and started toward her, but as I walked that way, I felt a hand reach up and pull me down. A little boy threw up his arms and reached for my neck wanting to be picked up. I picked up him and spun him around a few times and he laughed and smiled with glee. He loved to stand on his own two feet and to walk up and down the steps. The man who runs the rehab center stated that the child could not even stand and could barely move when he first came to the center. Knowing this made his smiles and his eagerness to walk around with me supporting him under his arms so much more meaningful (even though he tried to rip off my name tag and grab my face!) I am so touched by this man and his family who spend their lives taking care of and working to improve the lives of children with cerebral palsy and by the children who take joy in simple things like taking a step. It is a job that sounds romantic but in reality means carrying a heavy child in the scorching hot sun and summoning an infinite amount of patience to deal with behavioral issues.

 

It is so encouraging to meet people that are working to improve the lives of the people of Cambodia and to hear of organizations that are making a difference. We are blessed to come alongside them for a short time. Each of us has been given a unique skill set to meet specific needs in this world, so let's continue on our path and encourage others on theirs.

 

Growing Pains

By Melody Bowen, Medical Student | May 28, 2015

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.

 

Sweet Smiles!!!

By Juliana Betancur, Nursing Student | May 28, 2015

When I started planning for this journey months ago, I knew it was going to be a good experience because I was going to be able to give back to the community and help those in need. However, this has been more enriching than I could have ever imagined. I feel that I have learned a lot from my fellow colleagues; every single person in this group has something different to contribute, a different method to interact with the patients and to treat them.

 

When we started clinical I was so nervous because I was wondering: how am I going to be a nurse if I am not a nurse yet? As the clinical days have passed by I have become more confident about my nursing skills and I feel that I have significantly contributed to the care of the patients. Even though every day during this mission trip has been very special, today I felt I performed as a real nurse because I was able to provide care for a group of patient with cerebral palsy. As soon as the children arrived I did not hesitate to go to the waiting area to receive them with a warm smile and some stickers. All the children were so sweet and seemed very happy despite their adverse situation. As I was taking the children’s vital signs, I was looking at their happy faces and I realized that the key to good patient care is providing my patients with a smile and a warm touch.

 

The sky is the limit

By Shivam Patel, Undergraduate Student | May 27, 2015

From the team prayer in the morning until packing up supplies in the afternoon, my day was filled with excitement. After I saw a greater amount of patients waiting for our arrival, I knew it was going to be a special day.

 

Before today, if someone were to tell me to take a patient's blood pressure, I would say something along the lines of "I don't think my reading would be accurate" or "I don't really know how to". That was, until this morning, I got assigned the role of taking vital signs (blood pressure, body temp, heart rate) on our busiest day thus far! The moment I heard this, I thought about the saying that a child will learn to swim by himself if he is thrown straight into the pool. Instead of switching positions with someone, I decided to accept the challenge and face my fear. As the day progressed, I got better and better, and towards the end, I was so into it that I was not ready for the clinic day to end!

 

I can confidently say that today I grew as a person and became more positive in my clinical skills, which would not be possible if I did not step up to the challenge. Sometimes we have to be pushed to our limits so we can get out of our comfort zone: which is exactly what happened to me. A moment like this  is valuable and it is a milestone I will always remember.

 

Clinic Day 2

By Audrey Jernigan, Medical Student | May 26, 2015

I am proud of myself for many things, but my greatest accomplishment today is learning to work with my interpreter. We are both opinionated, female, third year medical students, neither of us surpassing five foot two inches tall. In orientation I learned that I am suppose to speak to my patient and that she is suppose to translate each phrase for me just as I said it. It turns out, things are a bit more complex than that, for one thing she has a brain. Yesterday I felt frustrated by how rarely I felt included in the conversation. I acted like the boss, telling her what to say, and then just writing my own orders. I was trying to use her like a tool, when really she is so much more. By the end of today however we were calling ourselves “the machine.” The most important thing we learned was that we can trust each other. We have finally found an equal balance where we share the responsibility of our patient. We are both efficient and have learned to anticipate each other’s actions. For common problems she knows what questions I am going to ask and she asks them for me. Once she has given me all this information I may ask more questions or she may have more and then we can discuss our next steps. We take turns sharing our knowledge base with each other. I find I know a lot more about cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other diseases that are more common in America and that she knows more about the diseases that are common in Cambodia. As the day moved on our ability to work as a team went from being my biggest hindrance to my best weapon. I could not treat a single patient without her, and together we are becoming so much better than we could be apart. I hope she will continue to teach me and that I will find some way to show my appreciation. I am so thankful for this new friendship and pleased we have over a week of clinic work still ahead of us.

 

Orgoon, Orgoon, Orgoon

By Millie Smith, Undergraduate Student | May 25, 2015

Well folks the first day of clinic is in the books and let me tell you, nothing prepares you for this kind of work. At the beginning of the day there was a lot of nervous energy because of all the months of planning and preparation that went into this day. As scary as it may have seemed, never have a felt so much fulfillment or happiness in all of my education. From the look I received from the tanned face of the first patient I saw I knew that I was hooked on this service thing.

 

Patients came in with chief complaints ranging from muscle pain to seizures but the first word they said to us as they sat in their chair to be treated was "Orgoon" or thank you in Khmer. As I listened to their past medical histories and their stories many said that they had never been to a doctor before or that we were the only healthcare they received each year. Woah. How lucky am I that every time I feel that I am not well I can go to someone that has both the answers to my questions and the capability to fix my health problems. It gave me a whole new understanding as to just how important our role as healthcare providers is for these patients. When we turn them loose they may not be seen again for a very long time.

 

How lucky am I that I get to be a part of the team that makes these people feel well and cared for? All I can say to these people is "Orgoon". Thank you for letting us into your lives so that as we teach you how to live a healthy life, while you in turn teach us how to have a full heart.

 

First Day of Clinical

By Christal Leitch, Nursing Student | May 25, 2015

Today was our first day of clinical and I had to make major sacrifices in order to participate in this once of a life time experience. Despite missing my son's elementary school graduation which is once in a life time; I also had a once in a life time experience in Cambodia today. Serving the Khmer people today was very rewarding; it was everything I anticipated and more. Even though it was only the first day I have learned a lot from my peers and the Khmer people. I think they are very resilient people and despite their complaints, sicknesses and ailments they greeted us with similes and although we were not able to help everyone, they were very grateful for the care we provided for them despite the little time we spent with them. Clinical today was worth the sacrifice!

 

 “The more you offer yourself to make life better for someone, the more you empty yourself of the load of destiny you carry into the world. Serve till you empty all.”

_ Israelmore Ayivor- Leaders Watchwords

 

Min ba ha ya hay ahway?

By Tonia S. Holloway, Nursing Student | May 24, 2015

"What are you here for today?"

 

After all the packing, prepping and studying we are more than anxious to finally get in the field! Tomorrow we go to our first clinic and there is a mixture of excitement, anxiety and a little bit of fear in the air. I have been looking forward to this day and now that it's time I must admit I am nervous. I know we are going to be seeing a lot of patients during the next few weeks and for some patients we are going to be the only form of healthcare that they have ever reached out to.

 

I think my biggest fear is not being able to help people. I have been told that some of our patients travel from very far away to get treatment from the "American Healthcare Team" and I just pray that we can live up to their expectations. In the US I  am just a nursing student. I don't say that to make my role sound mediocre. I mean that honestly. In the world of healthcare in the US, if I am shadowing an RN in the hospital and I miss something critical in a patient, since I am still learning there are many people above me to check the patient. Here, I am some people's only hope and in their eyes, student nurse and nurse are the same exact thing.

 

Although that puts on more pressure, it makes me even more glad that I have such a great team with me. From the interpreters in Cambodia to the supportive administation I know that we will all make it through and we will make a difference. Let's get this party started! :)

 

Clinic Prep Day

By Laura Hall, Pharmacy Student | May 24, 2015

This morning a group of students got to experience our first Khmer Methodist church service. I had no idea what to expect before arriving but it was so much more than I had imagined. As soon as the bus pulled up to the church I was blown away by how big, beautiful, and inviting it was. The service started out with several songs and even though I had no idea what they were singing, I felt like it was just as moving as if I knew every word. For the sermon the pastor prepared a PowerPoint presentation with everything he was saying in English. He went out of his way just to make us feel welcome and to keep us engaged with what he was preaching. After the service was finished everyone made a circle and prayed for the clinics that we will be holding there this Thursday and Friday. It's awesome to know that we have people both at home and here in Cambodia praying that we will accomplish great things during our clinic days!

 

After lunch we went into full work mode. Every supply and medication that we brought for the 2 weeks of clinic was spread out on tables outside by the dock. It looked like we had our own mini pharmacy set up and running. To say that things started out a little chaotic would be an understatement, but I was so impressed with how everyone came together to get the task accomplished. After 6 hours we finally finished counting around 40,000 Ibuprofen, 15,000 Tylenol,18,000 vitamins, and many many more. I never heard one person complain and everyone was eager to help out in any way that we asked. I'm not sure if they confused the chaos with fun, but we even had a group of Bungalow staff members helping us count. They had very limited english so it was a good opportunity for us to practice our language skills and I loved that they wanted to be a part of the team for the day. We truly have an amazing group and I know we are going to work together to help change the lives of people we see at the clinics!

 

Meeting Chum Mey

By Brielle Scutt, Undergraduate Student | May 23, 2015

During our first couple of days in Cambodia, we have learned so much about the Khmer culture. We have tasted their food, walked their streets, admired their palaces and pagodas, and seen a glimpse of their history. The summation of all of these things are helping us to see each patient through their eyes and through their story. One of the most powerful and emotional things that we have seen so far was taking a walk through their history and the background of the nation during the reign of the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge is the name of the Communist Party that was in place when Pol Pot led Cambodia in the late seventies. Throughout Pol Pot's reign, Cambodia suffered through a holocaust that killed nearly a quarter of the population in Cambodia.

 

One of the main concentration camps during this time was nicknamed S-21. When we were visiting S-21, we saw the rooms that victims were held in, listened to stories of their torture, and even got to meet one of the seven adult survivors from S-21, Chum Mey. Chum Mey was able to survive because of his skills as a mechanic. He was assigned to repair the typewriters that were used to document the confessions of victims by the Khmer Rouge.

 

Hearing his story and feeling a glimpse of his pain was something I will never forget. Speaking little english, he talked in Khmer while our tour guide translated; however, this did not dilute the impact he made on us. Being able to her the inflections of his voice and seeing his hand motions as he talked about the horrible torture they endured, I felt as if I was getting more of the story just by watching him and looking into his eyes than listening to the translator. Chum Mey touched my heart and opened my eyes all in a 20 minute conversation that wasn't even in a language I could fully understand.

 

After purchasing and reading a little bit of his book "Survivor", he discusses how he felt as though he must have done something great in a past life to make him worthy of survival. This sparked my interest because, in the culture I am from, people often think overcoming an obstacle that could be life of death means that you are destined to do something great in this life that you are currently living instead of having done something great in a past life.

 

Also, in his book he quotes a Khmer saying that has helped him with forgiveness and compassion for the people who tormented him throughout the Khmer Rouge. The saying when translated reads, "If a mad dog bites you, don't bite it back. If you do, it means you are mad, too." Reading this after hearing the horrendous things he had to go through has changed my perspective on forgiveness and overall made me incredibly grateful for the life and opportunities I have been given.

 

I cannot thank Chum Mey enough for his powerful life lesson.

 

Journey up the Mountain

By Ali Kamran, Medical Student | May 23, 2015

Susaday to all,

 

Today was one of those days that when you think back about a trip, a memory is triggered in your mind and you just smile. We first had the tremendous opportunity of visiting the Sanja Kill Memorial Hospital in Kampot. It was a facility that really stands out because it's a beautiful hospital. There are open halls, windows that overlook the mountains, state of the art technology. I was surprised to see this since we are working in one of the poorest provinces in one of the poorest countries. Visiting the hospital you would never think you're in a 3rd world country. It makes one feel good though that the Kill family was able to construct such a facility to help these individuals here.

 

Next came The Mountain. There is one word to describe this experience: NONE. There are no words that I can think of that can describe the beauty atop the mountain. The wind was blowing, the sun was shining, the awed expressions on everyone's face, the calmness in the air. It was one of those majestic moments that I will forever remember. The physical beauty of this land is immense. I truly am lost for words as I try to describe what it felt like to be so far up looking down at the land with Vietnam on one side and Thailand on the other. Needless to say it was a picture perfect moment. Today was an amazing day that we are all very thankful for.

 

Little Bit of Sleep, Whole Lot of Adventure: MOM CAMBODIA

By Morgan Akridge and Millie Smith, Undergraduate Students | May 22, 2015

Joom-reeup-suah, family and friends:

 

After about 24 hours of plane rides, no sleep, and lots of movies, we finally made it to Pnohm Penh, Cambodia! We received our visas and passed through immigration with no troubles. After collecting our bags, we stepped out into the humid, hot Cambodian night air for the very first time. We loaded our baggage and took our bright pink bus to our hotel with our tour guide, Wanty. Over the next two days, we enjoyed our beautiful hotel and swimming pool. However, it was difficult to get used to the heat and humidity of Cambodia. We ventured out into the city, led by our tour guide, and explored the royal palace, a Cambodian museum, and temples. We learned so much about the Cambodian culture. Many of us were surprised, rather shocked, at the busy roads and lack of lanes. Motorcycles filled the street and the tight spaces between cars. "Tuk tuk" rides were also a fun experience. We travelled to and from different markets, flexing our bartering skills. On Thursday, we also toured the Killing Fields and learned about the brutal regime of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. It was an emotional experience that opened many of our eyes, and hearts, to the Cambodian people and its survivors.

 

After a 4 hour bus ride, we are now at the Natural Bungalows in Kampot, Cambodia. While traveling, we were able to see the rural parts of Cambodia. White, skinny cows were scattered throughout the countryside while people worked in the fields. Children played in the grass and watched our bus pass by with wonder in their eyes. Upon arrival, we found that the Natural Bungalows has a beautiful mountain and riverfront view. The rooms are beautiful and the staff is so kind. We are preparing for clinics to begin Monday and are so excited to serve the Khmer people.