Just when I thought that all the snow has finally melted away, it started snowing again as I was heading off to my first ever medical mission trip to Ecuador. The excitement was through the roof. Before taking off, we had a weekend where we got to know others who were going to embark on this journey and we were asked what our expectations were - mine were: serve the people in Ecuador through medicine, share the love of God, take in as much of experience as possible. Little did I know that those expectations were going to be shattered and replaced with something even greater than what I can imagine.
Three-fourths of the way done with medical school, I still felt like I didn't have a lot to offer while going on this mission trip. If there's anything I learned in medical school, it's that I still don't know a lot. We were told that us students would basically be the front line seeing the patients and interacting with them as opposed to only shadowing - and that was exactly what went down. The first day we had clinic, a fellow student and I (both first years) took on patients and we basically looked like deer-in-the-headlights. It was a daunting task (don't worry, we were working very closely with residents and attendings who were guiding us along the way). Daunting because we have not done this before, yet very exhilarating because we were actually getting to put our learned skills to use.
Between our four clinic days, and even having a day where our translation source was limited we as a group saw countless patients who had illnesses that would have been easily preventable had they had the resources. Most common cause of headache: dehydration - "mas agua", we told them - but then clean water is not easily accessible. Some may argue that the medical help that we bring is only temporary, but the core of our trip was to bring the people we served in Ecuador more than just temporary care - we wanted to bring to them Hope.
Hope that there will be a better tomorrow, and hope that there is life to the fullest in Christ Jesus. We came to help equip the local churches and local leaders to better serve their communities. It was not just setting up the clinics, and leaving them with temporary medicine. Our hope was for these communities to flourish and be able to work together to better their quality of life.
It is opportunities such as this that enables me to see past the difficult days in medical school - to truly appreciate that not only can I serve those from the U.S. but also those who are in a different continent than I. That what I'm doing will actually be worth it.
P.S. On our last day of our trip, we got to explore the city of Los Banos and do touristy things - here’s a picture of our group: