Today was our first day working at Beit Cure Hospital. I had an amazing time there, and I cannot wait to go back again tomorrow. For my morning rotation, I was in the Children’s Ward. I started off talking with a little boy who was having surgery done on his leg. I later found out after looking through the patient files that he was having surgery to remove a dead bone from his left leg. I asked my roommates what causes bone to die because it seemed so strange that a 7 year old boy needed surgery to remove bone that has died from his leg. After talking with him for a little bit, I walked around the ward and observed some of the doctors and nurses. I observed a girl who had hydrocephalus, and it was quite emotional for me. Before coming on this trip, we learned about hydrocephalus, but now I actually had to put what I learned in the classroom to a real-life person. She was having the shunt to help drain the fluid placed in the afternoon.
For the rest of my time at the ward, I played with a little girl. She was absolutely adorable. She had a left club foot, but she didn’t let that stop her from anything! She ran better than most kids her age, and she even had this car she rode around on, using her feet to push her forward. We blew bubbles together (and finished all the bubbles!) and we just walked around outside with her car. When she got tired I was able to just hold her and I sang her some childhood songs I knew, such as “Row Row Row Your Boat” and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” It’s such a special experience to be able to spend time with kids like her. She truly warmed my heart and I believe she’s an inspiration for everyone with a physical disability. She laughed, ran, played, everything you would expect from a typical 4 year old girl. I think I’ve always had a stereotype about physical disabilities and I just assumed that it would impede them from being ‘normal.’ But that’s not the case at all. Every day I have been surprised here in Zambia by just how determined and inspirational the kids we work with are. We also learned about club foot before coming on this trip, but getting to play with her really put a personal connection onto what I had learned. I was able to learn from her, and add what I learned to my personal knowledge of what I now know to be true about children with physical disabilities; they don’t define disability the same way we do. We think of a disability as prohibiting us from something, whereas they see it as just another trait to their individual selves, something that is possible to overcome, and in no way can stop them from being a kid.
I also had an opportunity to observe the physiotherapist in the morning. For some reason I thought the kids would have been older, and therefore more cooperative with the physiotherapist because they want to improve their mobility. However, the two patients I was able to see were both quite young, around 3 years old, and it was one of the most difficult things to witness. They just cried, screamed, and winced from pain the entire session. I understand that physiotherapy would hurt because you’re trying to stretch out the muscles and help the body move better, but seeing those kids going through so much pain was not something I expected. I can’t imagine how the physiotherapist would have felt having to hold a screaming the child the entire session, knowing that the child is in so much pain.
For lunch we got to have a traditional Zambian meal. I had nshima with lemon herb rice, but they also had beans and cabbage, which I unfortunately didn’t have. It was nice being able to have a traditional meal at the hospital with the other staff. After lunch I was on kitchen duty, which was a ton of fun! I got to meet Elijah and Abel, who showed me how to serve the food, and then afterwards I washed all the dishes. They showed me where everything was in the kitchen, and they told me stories about themselves. One interesting aspect I heard from Abel was that he really wants to go to America. This surprised me at first because we had a conversation earlier about his job, and he told me how much he loved it at Beit Cure and in Zambia. So I asked him why he would want to go to America and he said that it was ‘everybody’s dream’ to go to America. Even when I asked what he would want to do there he just said he would do anything. I thought about why so many people feel driven to go to America, but I could definitely understand. Especailly for those Zambians who grew up in poverty and lived a difficult life, America seems like the perfect place to go, as the ‘American dream’ is something that people across the world strive for. I didn’t know how to feel at the time, but as I reflect on it I just feel sad. If you’re in a place that makes you truly happy, then I can’t imagine why you would want to leave. But for so many of these people, they want out so that they can give a better life for their family. Comparing my life back in America to here, I feel very spoiled, and I didn’t even come from a wealthy family. We take the things we have for granted, not realizing that there are a countless number of people who would give anything for just the opportunity to have the things that we do.
After we finished up in the kitchen, our afternoon shift was over, and it was time to head back to the Zebra Guest House. Beit Cure has definitely been an incredible and eye-opening experience, not only for me, but everyone in our group. I look forward to what is to come tomorrow and end this trip on a great, smiling note!