I am away at the moment in Fiji with Open Heart International. The organization has been traveling overseas to many countries providing services including cardiac surgery, burns and women’s health. This is my first trip with the team and it has been a really incredible time.
One of the things I’ve found myself saying a lot is ‘we don’t do that at home!’. We don’t have mice and geckos on the ward, we don’t reuse items that are meant to be disposable (like oxygen masks and nasal prongs and plastic gowns). Our parents sleep on a rollout bed with linen next to their kids in hospital at home. Here, they sleep on a hard wooden bench about 4ft long. There’s been a lot of things that we do not do nor do we see at home.
The local villagers did an ask around and came to visit the children and their families I the ward after their open heart surgery. They gave each family $250 (Fijian) to help while their child is sick. We don’t do that at home.
The local blood bank has a bus that is run by an ex-pat volunteer. When the locals donate blood, they test them for a wide range of things including kidney function and HIV for free. People here can’t afford the blood tests so they get it for free for donating blood. We don’t do that at home.
When doctors train here, they earn a very low wage. Partly because they have to pay back the government for their studies. But when they have finally paid that back, the doctors send the bulk of their earnings back to their whole villages. Most of us don’t do that.
We operated on a six year old girl today and her mother left the anesthetic room in tears, worried for her little girl. But her operation went smoothly and she was awake in ICU not long after. Her mother, with tears in her eyes, hugged me so tight. It was all I could do not to cry myself! Some people say thank you at home but that soulful, deep and genuine gratitude. We barely acknowledge each other sometimes. Little or big, thankfulness is something we struggle with at home.
This trip was about changing lives. Operating on men, women and children who will now hopefully go on to lead productive lives in their community, who will grow up big and strong, or who will see their own kids grow up. But really, they change us too. They make us feel the warmth of the local welcoming and gratitude and we will take that back home. Maybe it will be some small thing that we will show gratitude to somebody else for, like the guy who makes your morning coffee. Or maybe something big like your surgeon. But no doubt about it, there’s a lot of things I’ve seen in this little country that we don’t do at home. But boy do I wish we did.