Dominican Republic Serving Others and Being Rejuvenated by God Over Spring Break

My trip to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic became the best spring break I could have hoped for. I never imagined all the doors God would open along this process. When I first heard about the trip, it aligned perfectly with our spring break, but it was already closed for registration, so I thought it wasn't even possible to go. Boy, was I wrong! I had the help of 2 outstanding members of our local CMDA (Christian Medical and Dental Association) chapter to cheer me along and help me find the connections I needed to make this trip happen. Another hurdle I had was finding a way to pay for the trip, which turned out to not be a hurdle at all. I reached out to local CMDA members and shared my desire to attend this trip on social media, and I was fully funded in 4 DAYS. I am still shocked about how much and how quickly God provided for me to go on this mission.

As the trip approached, I became nervous. Was I capable of sharing God with people in the way He wants? Would I be able to communicate with them in a meaningful way through a translator? As a planner, I was already out of my comfort zone going on this trip without much information about what to expect. I always joke (but in all seriousness) that God loves to help me jump out of my comfort boat. I prayed to lean on his plan and not my own and peace that I would follow the path he was laying out for me.

Once I arrived, it was time to get to know the team and help prepare for the week. I had missed the clinic site visit due to delayed flights, so my first interaction with our team was with our "pill packing party." Everyone besides the team leader and the physicians (as they had another planning meeting) worked to pre-pack common medications into individual packs that we would be giving out to the patients. From this first encounter, I could tell this team the Lord had brought together would be a blessed fellowship with people in all walks of their lives. Each meal, bus ride, and group discussion we had just further connected us.

Our first 3 days were at a site called Pica Pica which was brought together at a local outdoor church. The people from the church were so excited to see our team again as this is a common location that GHO attends. As we arrived on the bus, we could see many people already waiting for us. The first day was really going with the flow, and I saw where and how we were needed as students. I started my day shadowing two of our physicians, one family medicine doctor, and one dermatologist. I was able to help with physical exams and learn as the physicians walked through their thoughts on the best way to help each person with the resources we had available. In the afternoon, I helped in the triage area, where we took vitals and spoke with each person about how we could help them. We also prayed with everyone willing as they moved through the different areas to share the love of God with them. During our first 3 days at this site, I continued to rotate between triage and helping the physicians.

On Tuesday, I was with Dr. Kaitlyn when we saw the patient that stood out to me the most on this trip. He was a 2-year-old boy diagnosed with transposition of the great vessels with atrial and ventricular septal defects and pulmonary stenosis. (For those not in the medical field, the vessels that are supposed to take the blood from his heart to his lungs and the vessels that are supposed to take blood from his heart to his body have been switched while he was developing. The fact that he was even alive at 2 years old was due to the other defects he has that allow mixing of oxygenated and deoxygenated blood.) He was a little cyanotic (blue lips) and had clubbing of his fingernails (a sign of chronic low oxygen saturation). Despite the significant health issues he had going on, he was a happy and sweet little boy. It was amazing to see him still be able to play (even if just for a little while) with some of the other children. As we spent time with him, it kept resonating with me that his being alive was a miracle. Given this condition is something most medical students won't see during their training, Dr. Kaitlyn had me get the other students. He was such a good sport letting me hold him to have so many of us listen to his heart. When I put him down, he played with the bottom of my stethoscope, so I held out the earpieces to him and said: "Escucha" ("listen" in Spanish). He let me put the earpieces in his ears, and he immediately put the stethoscope on my chest. I have included a picture of him here at this moment that someone captured for me. I was able to see God in these moments. Despite the medical severity of his situation and that we would likely die in the next several months, God had gotten him to 2 years old and to us. Our team reached out to any contacts we had to try and get him surgery in the United States through any program we knew of. At this time, we have had a hospital respond and ask for his and his family's information as they tried to initiate this process! I will continue to pray for him and his family in this process and for God's hand in this. I'd love it if you were willing to join in that.

In the last 2 days, we moved to another location, working to become an established clinic, but still needed a doctor. We followed the same flow, but I also was able to help out in the pharmacy to distribute medications and help counsel patients on how to take them. This second site was in an area that we were told was less confident and comfortable with us being there, but seeing how many patients were there on the first day gave me hope. We continued to love the people that came and did whatever we could to help. On the last day, even though we had fewer patients overall, many who came mentioned they were told by others that we were there and wanted to check out what we were doing. I know that this was God's way of allowing us to reach more people, even if they didn't have a specific reason they needed to address.

One of my favorite things not related to the people we supported was the team I served with. Every morning and night on the bus, there was constant chatter and laughter as we all shared stories and our life experiences with one another. As a medical student, I am used to being the one around with the least medical knowledge in these circumstances. I appreciated the range of individuals we had which allowed me to have something to share with the students that are worried about the path to medicine or the process to get into medical school. As someone God has blessed to overcome many hurdles that have brought me to this stage in my education, I am happy to share those triumphs with others who are worried too. At the end of the week, our totals were 1217 patients seen, 1603 medications given out, 126 pairs of glasses, and 95 new believers!

Overall, God blessed me and allowed me to bless others with my time on this trip. Each day was long, but somehow didn't feel that way. Most people were so happy that we were there to help and were thankful to be prayed with. It is so easy to get lost in our everyday lives as medical students; eat, sleep, study, repeat. I was thankful to be going to serve others but never expected to come home more rejuvenated than I have felt since starting medical school. The verse that keeps reverberating with me on my reflections about feeling rejuvenated is Proverbs 11:25 "A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed." I am constantly wondering if I am in the right place. This was one of the situations where God has shown me the plan he has, and opportunities like this might not have happened elsewhere. I am so thankful that God opened this opportunity for me, and I can't wait to see where the next one will be.

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