You Came All The Way From America Just For Me

by racypatty 7,987 Views | 15 Comments

An RN recounts her volunteer nursing experiences in India.

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    After 27 hours of travel I have arrived. It is very hot, there is no air conditioning and only warm bottled water to drink.

    On January 14th I had the amazing opportunity to travel to the jungles of southern India on a volunteer medical missions trip. I went as the nurse to help two doctors from our hospital here in Pennsylvania.

    We set up "medical camps" in tiny churches in the state of Kerala, India. During the 12 days we were there we saw hundreds of people. These people stood in the heat for hours waiting to be seen and never complained. After their exam it was my job to be the "pharmacist" and give out the medications that were ordered. We saw a lot of people who suffered from severe back pain from the hard manual labor they must do. By the time they got to my pharmacy they were thrilled to get a few magic pink pills :heartbeat(Ibuprofen).

    One of the ladies we saw, Mary, stands out in my mind. Mary is a middle-aged lady with severe asthma. She has had great difficulty breathing for several years. To make her condition worse, Mary works in a school kitchen. In India they cook over an open fire inside the building so she was always in a smokey room. Mary had an inhaler but was unable to properly use it because she couldn't take a deep enough breath. We were able to make her a temporary spacer out of a plastic cup. With the spacer and a few steroids, Mary was able to breath for the first time in many years. I can still see the tears streaming down her face as she kissed my hands over and over for helping her.:bowingpur

    While we were there we got to hold a clinic in the mission's home for abandoned children. These kids sat quietly on thin mats on the concrete floor for about two hours, taking turns being seen. They didn't hit the kid next to them and they didn't complain because it was past their dinner time. They didn't even carry on when the electric went off and we were in total darkness until they could get the temporary lighting on.

    We also did house calls for some of the people that were unable to get out to the clinics. Many of these homes were small shacks without running water and all the conveniences we have in our country. We saw frail elderly people that were very well cared for by their families even in those poor conditions. I have seen people in much worse condition come from skilled nursing facilities in the United States.

    In India you do not need a prescription to get medicine and it is very in-expensive compared to American standards. You can buy an inhaler for $7 but when you only make $7 a week you usually don't spend it on medicine.

    I think that the thing that sticks out most in my mind about my experience with nursing in a different culture is the gratefulness of the people we saw. In America
    there is such a sense of entittlement. We "owe" them medical care and they want it all right now! I wish that people who sit in the air conditioned ED waiting room, complaining of a terrible sore throat they have had for the last 2 weeks, while we care for an acute MI ahead of them could see these people standing for hours in 95 degree heat.

    Even though it was almost unbearably hot and I was totally exhausted I would not exchange the time I spent with the people of India. Since I have been home I have received messages that the people are saying things like "they came all the way from America just to see me." You never really know what you have until you visit a third world country and see how other people live.:spin:
    Last edit by NRSKarenRN on Jul 15, '12
    judybsn, Vito Andolini, NRSKarenRN, and 23 others like this.
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    racypatty joined Mar '07 - from 'PA'. Posts: 3 Likes: 27; Learn more about racypatty by visiting their allnursesPage


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    15 Comments so far...

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    They have a ton of nurses there, they just all seem to leave the country at the first chance they get. we have a huge population of nurses from kerala here in houston. whole units at methodist and other hospitals are run by keralian nurses.
    Last edit by horus2001 on Feb 21, '09 : Reason: dropped a preposition
  5. 1
    Quote from racypatty
    Even though it was almost unbearably hot and I was totally exhausted I would not exchange the time I spent with the people of India. Since I have been home I have received messages that the people are saying things like "they came all the way from America just to see me." You never really know what you have until you visit a third world country and see how other people live.:spin:
    FANTASTIC to read! thank you!
    MAISY, RN-ER likes this.
  6. 0
    Quote from horus2001
    They have a ton of nurses there, they just all seem to leave the country at the first chance they get. we have a huge population of nurses from kerala here in houston. whole units at methodist and other hospitals are run by keralian nurses.
    America is the best Country, I mean, if you were born in a 3rd world country, will you come here when you got the chance?
  7. 1
    India is one of the inddustrial powerhouses of the world economy. In the future India and the Peoples Republic of China will control the worlds economy.
    India produces far far more nurses and physicians than it can use internally. These are commonly from castes much higher than... say the dalit or untouchables. The caste system is a basic and fundemental reason for the abject poverty rampant throughout India... this caste system is incorporated into the dominant religion... Hindu.... this is a culture that has exsisted for several THOUSAND years....

    Sooooooo... with the push for muticultural understanding.. how do we accept a system of class ( caste) that causes the suffering and death of so many people in a country with some of the wealthiest people on the plant?

    Multicultural understanding is the acceptance of another culture WITHOUT judgment... considering what you saw in India.. how can you accept this without passing judgment on the cuture than propagates its and has done so for hundreds of years?
    Fiona59 likes this.
  8. 0
    [quote=cessnadriver;3467618]India is one of the inddustrial powerhouses of the world economy. In the future India and the Peoples Republic of China will control the worlds economy.
    India produces far far more nurses and physicians than it can use internally. These are commonly from castes much higher than... say the dalit or untouchables. The caste system is a basic and fundemental reason for the abject poverty rampant throughout India... this caste system is incorporated into the dominant religion... Hindu.... this is a culture that has exsisted for several THOUSAND years....

    Sooooooo... with the push for muticultural understanding.. how do we accept a system of class ( caste) that causes the suffering and death of so many people in a country with some of the wealthiest people on the plant?

    Multicultural understanding is the acceptance of another culture WITHOUT judgment... considering what you saw in India.. how can you accept this without passing judgment on the cuture than propagates its and has done so for hundreds of years?[/quote] <---did you mean thousand??

    multicultural understanding is code for being forced to accept things we don't like for the sake of a minority of individuals who wish to keep their cultures and belief alive in our society as they move here. as the dominant culture we can take things from other groups we like but we are not going to change our wholesale beliefs for the sake of getting along. certain groups would love for us to impliment shira law but would we just for the sake of multicultural understanding give up our core beliefs in democracy and freedom?

    for the indians, the use of the caste system worked for a very long time. the invasion of islam into indian changed the society and created a new population of those no longer bound to the caste system but rather an islamic society. we don't have to accept it, we don't have to like it. what was done by the caste system is not inline with our ideas and values, why would i have to accept it. i personally think it is crap to do that to another human but i am not hindu nor can i change their world views but they are not going to change my mind.


    in fact, after the first generation, they stop being indians and become ABCDs (american born confused desis). look at bobby jindal as an example. he is indian in origin but is as american as anyone is.

    speaking of misunderstanding. the caste system has been in existance for several thousand of years (indian culture is one of the oldest in the world). the hindu religion is the one with the caste problems. there are number of other religons in india from a large population of sikhs and christians to a population of muslims that outnumbers neighboring pakistan. there are also jains, parsis, jews and splinter groups of islam there along with the government in exile and followers of the dali lama. is it perfect? no. are there problems between hindus and muslims? yes and they can become quite explosive as demonstrated by the attacks in mumbai, attacks in kashmir and general rioting every once in a while (think the mass killing between muslims and hindus in 1947).

    as far as economic powerhouses, that remains to be seen. with a huge population growth, aging populations (in china), economic riots (they try to suppress in the news from china), religous feuding between various groups, both countries face serious challenges.

    these production of doctors and nurses you mentioned is a bit deceptive too. what it takes to become a doctor or nurse in the US is not the same as a nurse or doctor in India. it is similar to the use of the word engineer. the media often reports that india produces more engineers in one year than we do. but how we use the word engineer here is different than there use of the word engineer. so how do they define what a doctor or nurse is?
  9. 0
    Quote from horus2001
    They have a ton of nurses there, they just all seem to leave the country at the first chance they get. we have a huge population of nurses from kerala here in houston. whole units at methodist and other hospitals are run by keralian nurses.
    I have read several posts on here about the poor treatment of Indian nurses. The last I remember was about hunger strikes they were staging in protest. Perhaps that is why they leave?
  10. 0
    I appreciate that you shared your experience. Those people have been born into a life of hardship and suffering that they had no choice in. To extend compassion and help to those people is selfless and very admirable. This experience will impact your life and I am sure you are already aware of it. Someday, I hope to be able to have an opportunity to help others less fortunate and have a similar experience. It is sad to say, but there are people in serious need all over the world. Selfless and compassionate nurses are not that common. I would love to know of any programs like your mission trip that nurses can volunteer for. God Bless.
  11. 0
    I can't wait to be a nurse and go on charity trips like this! Thanks for posting this - you prove that nurses are angels in disguise. :angel2:
  12. 0
    Beautiful story. We can impact lives one at a time. We are called to do what we can and when we answer that call God will bless us beyond measure. Thank you for sharing.


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