I've cried twice since beginning this journey. The first time was saying goodbye to my father before going through security. I think it was when I finally grasped that I would be leaving. The second time was this morning after Skyping with a friend from Boston. Recounting the details as I described the conditions of the hospital forced me to confront my thoughts on what exactly I was doing here. Fortunately the challenging morning turned into one of the most rewarding days yet.
Today was the first official day meeting with the nursing students and physicians at the public hospital. I tried to pull my thoughts and focus together on the car ride through the city. This is not an easy task with the massive crowds pouring into the streets while post war-like buildings surround the background. Once arriving at the hospital I took a deep breath, reviewed my intentions and jumped out ready to go again.
Laura and I were brought into an office to meet with two physicians who are working closely with the bone marrow transplant initiative. One of the physicians had been to MGH and worked closely on the bone marrow transplant floor. Their humility, knowledge and compassion for the patients they were treating astounded me. They gave us a brief tour of an oncology ward and explained how difficult it is to know how to treat a patent's condition but the frustration that follows when the resources available don't allow that type of care. He then explained that many cases turn towards a palliative care approach (end of life care) when in wealthier countries this would not happen. He introduced us to a young patient who was in that exact situation; heartbreaking.
We met the ten nursing students in a conference room that was assembled in a classroom fashion. The nurses here are each assigned to one ward and care for all the patients in it. Each student introduced themselves briefly (in English) with a bit of information on their nursing background. Most of them have been in the nursing field for >10years and have extensive knowledge in their specialty. All of them were married with families. You could feel their excitement and enthusiasm with each question they asked. They loved our Bengali clothes and my poor attempts to speak in their native languages. English is a new language to the students and yet their understanding was phenomenal.
Throughout our meeting various physicians came to meet us including the "principal" of the hospital. Each physician was kinder and more welcoming than the next. One quote that stood out from the principal was him expressing his gratitude to us for being here but then he said, "I do feel that no matter who you are or where you are we are all connected as people." This sentence speaks volume to the perseverance of the Bengali people.
One of the nurses I met with told me that "working in the public hospital is very hard but makes her heart happy." She also said they feed every patient for free since no one is ever turned away. They are able to make do with the most dire circumstances. Even while in class, the nurses are still responsible for their ward. I was told there are far fewer nurses than physicians. They have the strong belief that nursing is the key to success in their patient outcomes, for a developing nation they are intellectually very advanced. Namaste.