The Run Down - The RunVermont Blog

Boston Hopeful Lili – Giving Back in Rwanda

by Jess Cover on March 7, 2014 · 0 comments

in Boston Hopeful(2014)

Dear running community! I know I am supposed to be writing about running, but I’ll be honest and tell you that I unexpectedly have not had the energy or time to run in Rwanda. Fear not, training will be back in full force when I return. In the meantime, this is what I’ve been up to. Blog Image

I have been in Rwanda for just under 2 weeks with TeamHeart taking care of heart surgery patients who require new valves due to rheumatic heart disease. Read more about TeamHeart here.

These patients are very young, age 15-30s because their heart valves were damaged as children. At times I feel like I am in a pediatric ward as the patients are so young and small. For reference, I am 5’6 and 127 lbs. I am able to pick up and lift my 16 year old patient up in bed by myself, without help. Because they are very young, some need a lot of mothering during the nights.

So before leaving for Rwanda I was juggling my masters program, working full time, marathon training and well, life. Sounds familiar to most of you I’m sure. When I arrived here almost 2 weeks ago I was exhausted, trying to quickly adjust to African life and learn the pace and ways of the African healthcare system. In the first 2 days I found myself missing my home routine, RUNNING, and feeling “normal.”

Since I started taking my anti-malaria pills, Malarone, I have felt slightly buzzed, spaced, and dizzy. This is apparently common and our group kindly refers to this as “Malarone fog.” I am someone who hates to take medicine, I hate feeling “off” and I believe most of the drugs out there these days are so toxic.
That said, I hear malaria isn’t fun, so I have been a compliant patient.

At first I found myself feeling nervous for the language barriers and an immense amount of pressure to be the best nurse possible. I wasn’t sure what the Rwandan nurses’ expectations of us were, or really what the group’s expectations would be like. Most of all I worried how I would measure up as a nurse in comparison to nurses from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and from UCSF among others.

After a few days of adjustment I found myself gradually thinking of home less and less. As the patients moved from ICU to the intermediate unit where I am working it became apparent how grateful they all were. I have found my connections to these patients to be so intimate that I don’t know where to store all of the emotions I feel. And the great thing about nursing is how much we really do know. Since arriving I have realized how much I do know, especially without computers to double check our work, without reference books readily available. And hey I do remember how to do more math than I thought!

I can say without hesitation that I am 100% fulfilled working here each day. I arrive to work with a smile on my face and it is still there when I go to bed. It doesn’t matter that me and other group members got bronchitis and had to take antibiotics (other drugs I hate taking, but boy do they work), it doesn’t matter that its 80 degrees with high humidity and no AC in the hospital because the work we’re doing is so rewarding. I have to drink at least 3L of water per day to feel hydrated and my scrubs are wet with sweat at each days end, and I love it.

I have 2 days of work left before heading home to the US and after only 2 weeks I’m not sure how I will adjust back to American life. It will be hard to leave these wonderful people and I can only hope that I’ve taught them even a fraction of what they’ve taught me. There is so much I want to share and write about but there is just not enough space!

I look forward to resuming my training when I come back. And I really do miss Burlington. This “break” from training and US life has made me re-evaluate some of my career aspirations and has given me time to think sans television/internet/life distractions.



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