Archive for May, 2012

To Love and Serve

by Chris Sullivan, Boston College High School

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Our sojourn for service in West Virginia of April vacation had a significant impact on my peers, the chaperones, as well as myself during and after our efforts.  Despite the fact that the trip was a school required trek, I felt that each one of us approached the trip with open minds and genuine hearts. Over six days in WV, we served the poor by working in soup kitchens.  We served the poor by helping organizations that recycle just about everything you can imagine and redistribute it to those in need all around WV. We served by tearing down and rebuilding homes that had been entirely flooded out. We learned about the struggles and injustices that the poor peoples of WV face each day.  I believe the combined contributions of our group touched those who were in need.   But what was most surprising was the way we all changed and progressed during our time spent in West Virginia.

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Through spending time with the people of West Virginia, we dispelled the previous stereotypes that we had of one another.  Everybody came to the realization that we are not all that different from one another.  We realized that being human unites us in a way we should be sure to consider while we live our lives.  We are all human and here to love and serve one another. This was the most remarkable characteristic of the trip for me. Everything else took the backseat as people began to help people solely because of this profound connection and calling. The  experience of breaking down and rebuilding houses in Logan, West Virginia was perhaps the greatest example. It was amazing to realize that at that very moment we all had the power to make a difference in this world.  The needs of this family were immense and we were called to be there to not only build a home, but to reform and build new relationships based on hope and love. Overall the trip took a physical and emotional toll on each and every one of the participants, myself included. However, undoubtedly it was a sincere act of kindness by a concrete troop of “men for others.”

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Rebuilding with Graditude: Boston College High School

by Mike Goulding, Boston College High School

I hadn’t even heard of the flooding in southern West Virginia until about a week before our troop.  I had not seen it on the news, newspaper, or any media source.  I found out through a group leader as we were preparing for our trip, who had found out through talking with volunteer coordinators via phone.  This was extremely daunting to me and others going on the trip.  How could this be going on in my own country and not even hear a single thing of it.  We saw youtube clips of some of the devastation, but would not even compare to actually being there.

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We arrived at the first house, the entire area had been severely affected.  Every building or house in the area was damaged in some way.  But in this very hopeless looking environment, dark clouds, raining; one found shining hope in the large groups of people, all helping to make this place HOME again.  It was truly quite a sight.  We entered the house.  It was quaint, though a very beautiful place to raise a family.  The water levels had reached beyond five feet and its effects were noticeable.  We began tearing down walls, insulation; learning the entire time aspects of the skills our generation has neglected.  We met Tom and Dave, two very special individuals.  Tom is quiet, but an extraordinarily hard worker.  Dave definitely enjoyed talking and I loved talking with him all the more.  He spoke of how right when the floods happened he just came right down.  It seemed that it wasn’t even a question for him, he felt called.  He always speaks with a smile and is genuine to everyone he meets.  We continued to talk as we met again at another house.  The next was also badly, perhaps more.  We tore up a floor and put a new one in, something I have never done before.  I also met Mike, who loved to crack some of the punniest jokes I have ever heard, still making me laugh, none the less.  He taught me a lot about carpentry and importance of the craft.  I was able to work much one on one with Mike and enjoyed his many words of wisdom.  He told the group and I, as we left, “What you’ll learn in life is how YOU make sense of the world.”  Those words have stuck with me and always will, one among many others he spoke.

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I learned much on my trip and was able to experience a truly beautiful land and people.  WV is a place like no other and the people you meet are some of the most good-hearted and passionate people you will ever come across.  I am grateful for all the people and places that have touched me in my life, and West Virginia will always hold a special place in my heart.

Comfort Always: St. Louis University

by Michael Scolarici, St. Louis University

It was Wednesday morning.  Some friends and I woke up at 6:00AM to slip in a run before the sun began to crawl over the horizon.  After returning I led a reflection with two main focuses:  a phrase from Coach Michael Arenberg, “First thought, good thought,” and a quote from Dr. Thomas A. Dooley a Saint Louis University Medical School graduate “A doctor’s job is to cure sometimes, to relieve often, and to comfort always.”  I wanted to share the first phase from one of my high school mentors to remind my new friends that we have the power to decide if we are going to have a good day or let the obstacles we face bring us down.  The second quote aligns with our Health immersion trip, because not only does it describe a doctor’s duties, but Dr. Dooley says that the main responsibility of a doctor is to comfort.  No one on the trip was a doctor, but we all have the capability to comfort those we interacted with on our trip.

After we finished sharing our thoughts on the reflection, Adam, Sara and I traveled to Boone County, WV to serve and shadow at the Boone-Raleigh health clinic.  Our shadowing experience offered very unique opportunities which included taking vital signs of the incoming patients, brainstorming for ideas on a grant regarding black lung, interacting with patients in the blood lab.  The atmosphere of this rural clinic was simple yet warming, and the staff was glad to have us for the morning.

          

Once the three of us began to settle in for the morning, I felt that we posed less of a burden and offered more of a relief to the staff through our conversation and aid in busy work.  I was asked to follow the student physician’s assistant (PA) as she held an appointment for prescription refills with an older mother and daughter.  The student PA completed a very thorough and professional history despite a seemingly routine appointment, and after a few minutes of talking with each patient she was able to open their lives and delve deeper.  Both mother and daughter complained of not only a persistent coughs but chronic vomiting and diarrhea for the daughter and knee pain for the mother.  Besides the cough, both mother and daughter also had a distrust of medicine in common.  The daughter explained that despite only eating baby food, oatmeal, and Pepto-bismal for the past couple of months, she only would trust one hospital to see a gastrointestinal specialist.  Although the mother repeated multiple times that although she has knee pain, she was adamant about not wanting anyone to touch it with needles.  The mother also was very specific that she would only consider getting her knee x-rayed by a nurse she knows at the clinic.  Understanding their concerns, the student PA discussed how she could try to accommodate their requests but also that they might have to step out of their comfort zones to get the appropriate treatment they needed.

This obvious distrust of the medical system is frightening because it adds another layer of complications when trying to treat someone who is now not only limited by poverty and access to healthcare but also by their own fear.  Earlier in the week, I also shadowed at Jackson General Hospital, and one of the patients in the clinic was almost desperate to take off his wrist identification from the hospital.  He explained to the PA if you don’t have one of them on then there is nothing wrong with you.  Some may call this ignorance of their own health needs, but there is something deeper.  Fear of what the doctor may tell them and fear of what anyone involved in healthcare may do to them burrows deep into the culture.  This fear is contagious and needs to be addressed along with all of the other public health concerns that everyone knows about throughout WV.  Whether it be lung cancer, obesity, diabetes, bad knees, or a mystery gastrointestinal problem, fear must first be calmed and over come before a patient will accept and follow a healthcare provider especially in the areas that I saw in West Virginia.