Friday was our last day in the hospital. It feels like we had just arrived, I feel like I had just gotten into the swing of things… but already it is time to go. I am going to miss the kids, doctors, and nurses who all taught us so much, and I am going to miss my friends here. I tend to get very sentimental about goodbyes. I build them up in my head and but a lot of weight on making them meaningful and timeless. Because I tend to overdramatize goodbyes, endings can be a stressful time for me.
Our day at the hospital was perfectly status-quo. Pediatric rounds in the morning followed by outpatient clinic in the afternoon. It felt good to check-in on my patients and go through the well-learned motions of the history, exam, note writing, and plan. Most of my patients are doing a little better, which is always a nice feeling. Once our time in clinic for the afternoon was over, we said goodbye to the many people who had helped us, taught us, and laughed with us at the hospital.
We went home to quickly do a little packing before leaving for our evening “goodbye tour.” We had been invited over (or simply decided to drop in on) to several people who we had grown close with during the trip.
It started with tea at Vera’s house. Vera is Zambian woman who is a nurse at the hospital, teaches at the nursing school, is studying for her master’s degree, and is a church founder for a community close-by Zambia. She is also the seamstress who we were told to go see if we wanted anything made during our time here. She truly does it all! All 4 of us had gotten several items made from beautiful cloths (chitenge) that we found at the market, and during our visits for measurements and sizing Vera would share stories with us, answer our questions about Zambian tradition, and serve us corn from her garden. After all of our clothes were made we saw Vera in the hospital halls. “Thursday is your last day” she said “come over for tea and corn just one more time.” We were thrilled—we couldn’t think of a more perfect person to have one last chat with before we left.
After Vera we made a quick stop by the Thumas. Dr. Thuma and his wife Elaine were people who had welcomed and hosted us during our first trip 2.5 years ago—he works mostly at the research side of the site and has been a pioneer in malaria and HIV interventions in the community. All-in-all they are an inspiring couple, and the type of people who I really hope I can be like when I grow up. Dr. Thuma’s intelligence, ingenuity, patience, and compassion are qualities that I hope to also hold in my practice as a pediatrician. We meant to just drop by quickly, but we couldn’t resist taking a seat and chatting with Elaine about future plans and things to come. It was a heartwarming little visit.
We were grateful to be invited to dinner by Chris and Marlys Book—a couple who had been the first to welcome us to Macha on our arrival one month ago! They both attend my church in Harrisburg when they are in the US, reaffirming that the world can sometimes be incredibly small. Their hospitality seemed to be a consistent theme throughout this trip, and Friday night was no exception. They cooked us an amazing meal, and we reflected on our times in the hospital and learned a lot about the different poisonous snakes and bugs in the area—something that was conveniently withheld until the last day of our trip! Eek!
By now it was dark, and we utilized our flashlights to navigate our way to Amanda’s house. We were very cautious given the preceding conversation about poisonous snakes, and played our least favorite game: “Stick or Snake?!” Amanda is a missionary nurse working in the pediatric ward who is originally from Canada. She has been someone who we could turn to with questions and also for advice on how to get things done for our patients. She was someone we turned to when things got tough, and could debrief with when things got confusing. She had been a huge blessing during our short stay.
We finally returned home after 10pm. We still had to shower, organize, and pack… but our “goodbye tour” was not done. I had told my dear friend Mutinta we would have her and her daughter Chileleko over for popcorn and cookies once we made it back to the dorm! Unfortunately we got back much later than everyone was ready for, so we had a quick silly PJ dance/goodbye party with Chile and cleaned out our fridge with Mutinta. She also woke up early this morning to send us off this morning. Mutinta’s friendship was probably the most special part of my trip 2.5 years ago, and for me the sweetest part of this trip was being able to spend time with her and to meet Chile. Thanks to the internet we have been able to stay connected even over many years across an ocean, and I know we will continue to be in each others lives in the years to come.
All in all, it was a truly wonderful, heartworking, and very thorough goodbye to the community of Macha and all the people who have made it such a phenomenal trip. I am leaving feeling completely satisfied with my experience—and with the quality of sentimental “goodbye” time we had! There are so many unknowns in my future; I have no idea where I will go for residency, or what kind of global health program they will have. I am holding onto a small seed of hope that this is not the last time I will visit Macha Mission Hospital. My time in medical school and the Global Health Scholars Program may be coming to an end, but my life feels like it is just beginning!