Goodbyes are never easy

This will be my last blog from this MSF mission as I am heading home, but this is hopefully only the beginning of my work at an international level.

This will be my last blog from this MSF mission as I am heading home, but this is hopefully only the beginning of my work at an international level. One month ago, I was so physically and emotionally drained, I would have accepted a quick ticket out of Aweil, but now that leaving is a reality those goodbyes are a lot harder than I anticipated.

When I first got to Aweil, I wasn't even sure the people wanted me there. I did not know the culture and I was not sure that they trusted my western medicine knowing they have their own traditional healers. Over time, I came to realize the people put their real faith in healing in the hands of god and they see doctors as the next step just below god. When I asked if they have questions or concerns about their child's care, the answer was always the same: "no questions because the doctor is the one to decide on the care of the child."

It was not until I had to say my goodbyes that I actually realized my impact in Aweil and its impact on me.  I am overwhelmed by the gratitude expressed by my staff and patients who were sad to see me go.  I also received so many kind words of support from my amazing expat team!

During my time in Aweil, I worked harder than I have ever worked at any other point in my career. When I first arrived, I questioned my abilities daily.  I was treating diseases I had only read about; malaria, tetanus, venomous snake bites, malnutrition. I had differentials that included brucellosis, shigellosis, leishmaniasis, cysticercosis. These diseases all have high morbidity and mortality and it terrified me that I could miss something due to my inexperience. I was an endocrinologist, a neurologist, an infectious disease doctor, a radiologist, a neonatologist. I was it. I read non stop. Some days I know I over treated because I just didn't have a definite diagnosis for my patient. 

Overtime, I became more confident as the successes far outweighed the failures. I started to recognize patterns in patient illnesses that led to poorer outcomes. I started to understand the people and the culture and was able to talk to families better about their child's prognosis. And the people got to know me better. I shared pictures of my life at home, my family, my loved ones and I learned about their family. Together we shed tears and shared laughter. We played games and I listened to their singing.  

They became my friends, my sisters and I theirs.

I did not work alone though, I had an amazing team of national staff, my nurses, nurse aids, nutritional assistants and medical assistants. The staff worked long hours in a hospital that was well over capacity with so much passion and pride. They loved to learn and were always eager to help.  I have so much respect for my staff.  

And, I do not even know where to start when it comes to my expat team, it truly is a team. None of us could function without the support of the other. I worked with some of the most selfless, amazing and generous people around. We come from all parts of the globe but each with the same common goal. I hope each of these people know how much I will miss and appreciate them!

Most people consider my time in Aweil to be truly altruistic but in the end I gained so much more from this experience than I could have ever provided. The greatest gift you can ever give to yourself is to give yourself!