Loneliness, Milk in bags, 10 types of Corn
Week 3 in Ecuador.
There is a symbiotic relationship I think that most people take for granted myself included. It involves recognizing the difference between being surrounded by people and being seen by people.
This difference has been really integral to my being here in Ecuador. I am lonely. But as my very incredible and intelligent friend Simone told me “loneliness is part of the journey”. While I don’t like admitting it I am lonely but I have been thinking about Simone’s words everyday.
Culturally I am lonely I am here alone with no other students doing my own thing and not able to speak English. Yes I am quite literally alone. I have been working on exploring why exactly. I feel this as being culture shock. Such a broad statement culture shock.
This culture shock doesn’t stem from there being 10 different types of corn all with different names. It doesn’t come from milk in bags, the lack of washers and dryers, beggars, 17 year old mothers, or even a difference in religion. I am actually loosely ok with all of that.
My culture shock is derived from the absolute loneliness. The inconsideration for those around me and the inability to understand the meaning of privacy (specifically the lack of curtains and lack of support for mothers who are alone). The mothers laboring alone together I observed last week has really come to the realization that they are not seen. It drives me crazy not only because they are not seen for doing one of the most difficult things in a lifetime but also just on a general level people aren’t seen here. I am surrounded by people everyday. None of them actually see me and quite honestly I don’t see them either.
I am really trying to change that fact though. And as it turns out by actively seeing other people I feel a bit seen too. Simone’s words of it being part of the journey I couldn’t agree with more. It is part of the journey to see why I am alone and what is that bridge to being seen. I find it to be actually mandatory in the medical field. But I don’t believe others do.
The first evidence of not seeing was a patient this week. She was getting a hysterectomy and as one of the doctors moved the huge overhead lights she saw a reflection of her open abdomen. She began to scream and hit the doctor. While she couldn’t physically feel the pain (#epiduralsarekey) she made up the pain of such a traumatic event in her head. Instead of feeling physical pain she felt mental. The doctors ignored it and kept cutting saying there was no way she could see it despite her begging for them to move the reflection. Her hands were taped down and the was intebated. While she probably won’t remember this I will. I will also remember the complete disregard of the doctors for her pleas. Example one demonstrates the inability to see her distress and see that she needed help immediately not 5 minutes later when she started to hit.
Example two a patient was shivering and cold. One of the side effects of surgery bad circulation during. She was complaining of the cold. The other interns with me just kind of ignored her and stared over her at the operation. She continued to shiver and I reached out my more than warm hands to her clenched taped down fist. As I warmed up her hands the interns looked so displeased. They looked at me like I had gone insane. At first for 2 seconds I felt insecure. I was just warming up her ice-like fingers. But then as her fingers unclenched she held my hands until my hands were colder than hers. She stopped shivering and shaking and seemed more comfortable. In this example she was seen both mentally and physically, and heard. Not only that but through doing this I discovered this feeling of being seen as well.
By being seen I felt less lonely. The difference between these two examples personally is huge. I felt helpless to help the screaming women. Seeing others ignore her for a while upset me because I felt so alone in being witness to her pain. The second example I was able to help at least a bit. I was able to see her and I was seen.
Bottom line for these experiences is that by even offering some words to acknowledge the pain or just a hand it can make the distinction between human and machine. Between a patient feeling like an open living textbook procedure or a person going through a hard time. I thuroughly encourage holding someone’s hand. I have done it a few things and it seems to be a pretty universal sign of acknowledgement and respect. By engaging past the mandatory you can see people. Then you can be seen. TaDa symbiotic relationship. I enjoy being alone as it turns out and hey it actually makes it easier to see people.
I hope y’all enjoy your one type of corn lives, milk in cartons, washers and dryers. I am going to kick it here alone and learn to see people better. I hope you do to! I enjoy it. If you don’t feel seen I am happy to talk to anyone and try to see them best I can!
Thank you Simone for those insightful words.