India 2017 – The Look
It’s Monday! I will be honest with you if I was back in the states I might grumble a little about the start to another long work week. Email, voicemail, text messages, smoke signals it seems we are using any method of communication we can to do the work we do when we are not on a mission. When you are on a mission a Monday means there is excitement that now is the time patients get the care they have waited so long to receive. Months of planning, miles of travel, hundreds of communications back and forth with our host country and Monday is the day when the real work begins. A good Monday morning on a mission trip makes all of the difference – but how does anyone communicate with the patients to make sure things get up and moving?
Translators of course. We are very fortunate to have an incredible group of translators on each of our missions. They work side by side with our volunteers to translate critical medical information between doctor and patient. Our translators are the best and they do so much; I could end today’s post there and you could get back to your Monday morning email but there is more to this communication thing when you are on a mission.
Many of the patients have waited years for; 1. A diagnosis; 2. Someone to help do something about that diagnosis. When one of our medical team members share there is a solution for a kerosene burn that has caused years of pain, public ridicule and immobility of both your arms, I think the patient has to wonder how can this be. When our ENT has a plan to remove a growth the size of a large cantaloupe on the side of your neck you might be a little skeptical. Sure they hear the diagnosis and course of treatment through the translator but there is a connection starting right at that point. It’s non verbal. It is a connection not of two people from different worlds but of someone who can help someone in need. It is the expression on the patient’s face when they look back at their doctor. Relief, hope, gratitude I am not sure but I start wondering if it’s a look that my life will be different after this visit. Is this a chance for the patient to better care for his or her family or maybe get a job after years of hiding in their home. I wonder if the look is a reaction that things will be so much different, so much better.
It is just the first day of this mission I have already seen how our team is “communicating” with the people of India. A gentle touch to calm a scared child from our nursing staff, a comforting look to reassure an elderly man that he will receive the best care available from one of our anesthesiologists or one of our non-medical members sitting, without talking, and doing art with a patient waiting for their turn at surgery.
The week here in Bhopal will be filled with many encounters with someone that is receiving treatment from one of our volunteers and there won’t be a translator available right at that time. Communication will happen. It might not be spoken but that patient knows they are in amazingly capable and caring hands. It isn’t about speaking the same language to want to help someone, it is about wanting to do something for someone you don’t know for no other reason than you can.