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Philippines 2017 – Changes

I am currently somewhere over Canada on the transcontinental flight home with my feet curled underneath me cramped in a small Economy seat in row 36. Fighting back the sleep that I so desperately want but that I so desperately must wait for in order to minimize jet lag, I begin to reflect back on the trip experience as a whole. I do not have all of the statistics in my head, but I know that we performed over 40 surgeries (most major) and donated thousands of dollars of supplies. Obviously those are the main reasons for the trip, but my mind can’t help but wander elsewhere, somewhere deeper within. It’s as if a part of me has changed – a part hidden inside that only I can access – a part that no one else might notice right now. But the interesting thing about deep parts of yourself is that they seem to affect the neighboring pieces, which can lead to a chain reaction. Now I’m not going so far as to say that four 6-hour flights + two 13-hour flights + two 2-hour flights + 5 operating days + hundreds of fresh bananas = completely new Emily. However, I think it would be foolish for any of us to come back and not believe that this trip affected each of us in a unique way.


 So how am I changed?  I guess that is the ongoing part that I may never be able to tease away from the other pieces of myself and say – that is the spot that I got from the Bohol Mission trip. I do know that I can see things from many more perspectives than I ever have in the past. I said this to several of my teammates yesterday, but I believe that it is very easy for us to get trapped in the rut of our normal lives and very difficult for us to even realize that we are trapped there. I know that I have completed 4 years of undergraduate education, 4 years of medical school education, and 4.4 years of otolaryngology residency and, with each passing year, it is easier for me to do my job and harder for me to see what I’m doing from any other perspective. On this trip, I was able to be friends, real friends, with the nurses in the OR, anesthesia, and PACU, and listen to their perspectives on everyday issues. I was able to see how teamwork and communication is vital to good outcomes and what can happen if those things fail. I also was able to think of medicine in less black and white terms. These patients have very different perspectives than the people that I am used to seeing walk into clinic in the US. Their background changes their best treatment options. Being brought up in the rigid US medical training system makes these small adjustments and seeing the full array of options for each patient difficult. I may not have any more facts in my head than when I left the US two weeks ago, but I do have more wisdom.


It is impossible to come back from this trip and not think – when can I do this again?  Because the change is welcome. I needed to be pushed out of the rut and to look around seeing the bigger picture. Another question that I struggle with now is – when can I work with these incredible people again?  Because that is who filled this group – incredible, incredible people. I did not know one person coming on this trip and I leave with a group of true friends. We have all touched each other and taught each other valuable lessons that we never would have been open to learning anywhere else. A moment that affected many of us was Monday morning with the raising of the Filipino flag and the reciting of the mission statements. I feel that this trip was exactly that – a reflection back and reaffirmation of our mission statements as health care workers – a reminder of what made us want to be a part of this profession in the first place. And then we break off as the Filipinos did at the end of the ceremony, traveling to our own parts of the world as the daddy shark song plays in the background, singing, dancing, smiling, excited, and honored to be one small piece of a profession that can change the world.