Saturday, July 26, 2014

the i-don't-knows

i have answered "i don't know" no less than 286 times this month when asked details about moving.

some have been logistical questions that finally have answers:
where will you be living?
monterey hills (east of downtown LA)
have you packed?
finally, yes.
what will you be doing?
it's an HIV corrections fellowship.
i'll be at LA County Hospital's HIV clinic, the LA county jail, and a clinic on Skid Row.
yes, Skid Row is a real place.
yes, I said the jail.
yes, my mom is nervous.
will you miss pittsburgh?

a lot of questions are more complex, and i don't have answers. i have no idea what to expect. i don't know what it will be like working in a jail. i don't know what my patients will be like or how i will fill my days. i know data and statistics about hiv and jail and homelessness, but i don't know anyone's stories yet so i feel at a loss.

the good news is, i've done a lot of things before where i haven't known anything other than facts:

i moved to swaziland knowing only the perinatal hiv rate (42.6%) and the number of orphans (100,000 of a national population of one million). what i found were amazing friends like zandi and jabu who taught me what it is to hope.

i worked in alaska for a month at a native alaskan hospital. i knew rates of alcoholism and domestic violence were horribly high, but it wasn't until bruised women shared with me their stories did i start to understand.

so now i start this next adventure with all of my not-knowing, and am waiting for the stories to begin.

"instructions for living a life:
pay attention.
be astonished.
tell about it."
-mary oliver

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

the end of residency

over and over, i'm breathing out thankfulness.
i made it.

3 years ago, i was assigned five patients.
i didn't know how to enter orders in the computer.
my white coat was still white.
i thought i would only do this for a year.
instead, i fell in love with taking care of patients and decided to stay.

i couldn't leave the place of listening to human stories in exchange for shaping global health policy. i know policy touches communities, but i needed to touch the person in front of me. at the time, it seemed like a huge decision to give up hopkins for a general hospital in a post-industrial city. but i knew i had to stay.

being healthly intern  year was grace; without that year of health, i would have left clinical medicine and entered the world of public health.

it has been anything but easy. four hospital admissions. countless infections. monthly infusions. my sister over and over reminded me "just keep swimming."

so i kept swimming, upstream like the salmon, and i've ended up at beautiful over and over: working in alaska for a month. watching a friend get married in india. listening and being humbled by the patients who trust me with their stories.

and the same prayer i have breathed out countless times over the past three years, whispered under my breath in airplanes taking off over delhi and sitka, to cries from hospital beds when planes left without me:

blessed are you, o lord, who has kept us alive and sustained us,
who has brought us whole to this moment.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

residency in iPhone photos

This is where I have spent the last 3 years:
The views from the hospital aren't that bad:

I spent most my time trying to figure out which pager was beeping and waiting on people to return my pages:

I survived off of cafeteria food and graham crackers stolen from nurse's stations:
I looked at way too many of these:
I rarely saw the call room (note the unused bed):
I made sure the important orders got in first:
Only once did I ever see the emergency room empty:
There were early morning signouts, greasy post-call breakfasts, and rare chances to sit in the resident lounge:

I had lots of opportunites to wear Indian clothes:
I tried my hardest to avoid being a patient: 
And got to I spend a month working in Alaska:

It's been an amazing, exhausting, humbling, tiring, but beautiful 3 years.
Now I'm turning in my pager and my badge because I'm done!
a million thanks and then some to my family and friends
for all the love that has carried me through these past 3 years.