Tag Archives: Development

I Wish We Could Win

It was a beautiful sunny morning in a distant country many years back. I can still recall the scent of tropical flowers in the cool morning air I enjoyed on my short walk to the hospital. Hospital? You may think that hospitals usually don’t prompt lighthearted stories that provide tiny lessons. And you are right. This is a sad story. I am telling this particular one again (reworked from my 10th post), much to remind myself that some lessons are tougher than others. And to make the point that among the tiny lessons we barely notice, there will be a few bigger ones. These are the ones that may impact our choices in life.

No, I was not sick or going for tests. I was actually young, very healthy – and very inexperienced, a “green hat” of sorts. I wasn’t going to visit a sick friend or family member, I was an invited guest of the pediatric department of this teaching hospital. A visitor with powers to possibly enhance things. And I was eager to see what my hosts would show me. Although I’d seen many hospitals, helped to manage a few, and recently even had an inside experience after giving birth in one, I would come to realize that I had seen nothing yet.

I was met by the administrative director, flanked by a pediatrician and someone else, who I took to be the PR woman for the hospital. They told me we were going to visit the new pediatric wing donated by so and so rich country. It was obvious they were very proud to show me their hospital. And soon I understood why.  Following a short buzz, the double doors at the end of the corridor opened to a brand new facility, a neonatal ICU. Everything was white and clean, a light sterile scent lingered in the large air-conditioned rooms filled with shiny, state-of-the-art medical equipment. I counted eight incubators in the first large room, six of them were empty, two were in use. The equipment hummed quietly.

Several nurses strutted around in white pumps, white stockings and well-pressed, starched white uniforms, complete with the traditional  two-button “winged” hat, no longer seen in many hospitals. A  foreign-looking doctor was explaining something about one of the machines to a group of young residents. After each piece of equipment was presented, I was told that for the first time in this large city, the premature babies now had a change. I was extremely happy to hear that.

Health care This facility was no less than perfect, probably the best I’d seen by that time anywhere. But I had lots of questions on my mind. How did the babies get here when most births still happened at home in the surrounding villages and there was no reliable transportation? Etcetera. The large numbers of perfectly attired staff  also didn’t fit my picture of severe staffing shortages in this country’s health care system. So I asked the director about that when we returned to the lobby. I was told that the donor still took care of the facility, including all its operating costs, and had committed to continue doing so for the next five years. I now had my explanation and realized that I had not yet seen what I needed to learn about. I thanked my hosts for showing me this great new wing, I was truly impressed,  and then asked where we would go next. They looked at each other and I immediately realized that this had completed the visit.

Stubborn as I am, I politely asked to be shown the old pediatric wing too. The director quickly told me that the old wing did not have power at the moment and therefore a visit would not be possible. The PR woman nodded, maybe another time. That’s when the doctor came to my rescue. He offered to take me there, just for a quick walk-through, if I didn’t mind. So before anyone objected, off we walked in the opposite direction – and entered another world.

The tiny rooms were overcrowded and dirty, cot after cot with several sick babies sharing each little bed, lying sideways, many crying.  In other rooms we found bigger kids, some of them cancer patients, sharing rusty old iron beds. The air was hot, stagnant and despite many open windows, heavy with odors. Between all these rooms, we found one nurse and one aide. The second aide was out fetching water because the running water didn’t work. The nurse in a faded blue uniform was very apologetic and embarrassed about the poor conditions, no power, no water, and it’s been like this for several days now, important meds out of stock too, but she was too busy to stay with us more that a few minutes.

I didn’t blame her, instead I was thankful over the fact she had come to work at all that day, knowing the impossible task in front of her. And I know it was not for the salary, her payroll was not covered by any donor. It was for the love and care for these kids. The prospect that some of them might make it.

Walking out of the hospital I cried. It was impossible for me to reconcile the two different realities very present in the same building. I was shaken to my core, and after managing to understand some of it, my lessons were quite profound. I often think about these kids in the old wing and hope many of them made it into adulthood and became productive members of their communities. They certainly contributed to some of the better choices I’ve made in life, some of which, hopefully, have made a tiniest dent in improving a few “old wings”.

I told you this was a sad story. I wish I could say there are no more old wings in the world. But honestly, I can’t – not yet.

Wherever they live

decent health care for children

I wish we could win.

Staging the Play

Sometimes I have these deep philosophical moments and I ponder life ‘s mysteries, such as the path our lives take. What or who determines how our lives turn out. Is it solely us or is it the God,  destiny or just luck, the environment where we live in, or is it the people we have in our lives such as our parents, siblings, kids and our friends?  Or do those forces co-exist in some kind of orchestrated performance that is our life? And what part do we ourselves play in all this?

These are big questions and we usually answer them, either silently in our minds or speaking out loud, much depending on the lenses we wear at the moment, or the outlook we have from our vantage point.  I don’t pretend to have the answers, only a few fragmented thoughts that have gradually emerged, and have influenced some of the choices I’ve made in life.

I believe that the first determinant that plays a role in our lives is the global lottery: where on our earth we are born. The society,  culture, climate and the economic conditions of our birth place, all merged together, frame much of our lives,  at the minimum during our younger years. Their influence may reach far into our adulthood and often over whole life spans, which are also bound to be shorter or longer depending on where we were born. So we all start our life performances on very different stages.

The second factor that tends to influence our path in life is our family,  which we don’t choose – at least consciously once we are here. Family members are the key players early in the play. Some of us have a family, others don’t and yet others lose their family or part of it early in life. Then there is the issue of quality.  Needless to say that some families,  even if intact,  do not provide a healthy and supportive environment to grow up in. This first set of characters for some of us is stable, and for others unstable or nonexistent.

Then we become adults and can steer our lives in whatever direction we desire, or so we sometimes think.  The opportunities to change the circumstances given to us at birth and the cast of characters in our play are vastly different from one continent and country to another. Sometimes even from one village or family to another. If we were born to a wealthy family in, say New York, or to a poor family, say, in a small village in Somalia, would we have the same opportunities to shape our lives if/when we reached adulthood? I think most of us would say that the options available for shaping our lives are vastly different based on the stage and the set of players given to us. It would be naive to think that “everyone makes his own fortune” in the same way, as an old saying goes.

Once we mature, I think most of us try to make the best of the pieces given to us, whatever the stage. Sometimes we can change the stage and other times we can change the players. What are then the key things or ingredients that can help us in this endeavour?

I would start with hope. It’s an emotional state which promotes the belief in a positive outcome related to circumstances in our lives.  Hope helps us to take action to overcome adversity. It helps us to remain more positive in the now and in looking forward.  If hope is a necessary ingredient in shaping our path in life, how do we get it? I would say that there are several possible contributors to having hope. To me, one contributor would be a strong faith in a higher power from which we can gain inner strength and comfort. Another important factor would be the support we receive from our fellow travellers, whether in our close cast of characters or others.

Second, I think we need courage and determination to overcome adversity – of whatever kind – we’ll meet on our path. Courage is often required to take action to change our circumstances, and to jump on the opportunities presented to us. And determination helps us in keeping at it and not giving up when we meet obstacles.

However, to think that we could control everything in our lives would be a mistake. Such a belief is bound to lead to disappointments and lots of worrying. We should just do our best, try to make the right choices and stay as positive as possible in order not to attract negative events to cross our path. And then relax in the knowledge that the path will open for us to walk on.

My last point would be on the support we provide to others. Do we just care about those players closest to us, or do we also care about those fellow travellers whose stage was not set up as neatly as ours? I believe that one of the most rewarding and enriching experiences on our path is to find a way to also support those not in our immediate cast of characters, help them to find hope. This can be done at many levels: at individual, community of country level. And such actions will certainly shine more light on our own path as well.

Perspectives

It was a beautiful sunny morning in a distant country many years back. I can still recall the scent of tropical flowers in the cool morning air I enjoyed on my short walk to the hospital. Hospital? You may think that hospitals usually don’t prompt lighthearted stories that provide tiny lessons, and you are right. This is a sad story. I am telling this particular one in my 10th post, much to remind myself that some lessons are tougher than others. And to make the point that among the tiny lessons we barely notice, there will be a few bigger ones. These are the ones that may impact our choices in life.

No, I was not sick or going for tests. I was actually young, very healthy – and very inexperienced, a “green hat” of sorts. I wasn’t going to visit a sick friend or family member, I was an invited guest of the pediatric department of this teaching hospital. A visitor with powers to possibly enhance things. And I was eager to see what my hosts would show me. Although I’d seen many hospitals, helped to manage a few, and recently even had an inside experience after giving birth in one, I would come to realize that I had seen nothing yet.

I was met by the administrative director, flanked by a pediatrician and someone else, who I took to be the PR woman for the hospital. They told me we were going to visit the new pediatric wing donated by so and so rich country. It was obvious they were very proud to show me their hospital. And soon I understood why.  Following a short buzz, the double doors at the end of the corridor opened to a brand new facility, a neonatal ICU. Everything was white and clean, a light sterile scent lingered in the large air-conditioned rooms filled with shiny, state-of-the-art medical equipment. I counted eight incubators in the first large room, six of them were empty, two were in use. The equipment hummed quietly. Several nurses strutted around in white pumps, white stockings and well-pressed, starched white uniforms, complete with the traditional  two-button “winged” hat, no longer seen in many hospitals. A  foreign-looking doctor was explaining something about one of the machines to a group of young residents. After each piece of equipment was presented, I was told that for the first time in this large city, the premature babies now had a change. I was extremely happy to hear that.

This facility was no less than perfect, probably the best I’d ever seen, but I had lots of questions on my mind. How did the babies get here when most births still happened at home in the surrounding villages and there was no reliable transportation? Etcetera. The large numbers of perfectly attired staff  also didn’t fit my picture of severe staffing shortages in this country’s health care system. So I asked the director about that when we returned to the lobby. I was told that the donor still took care of the facility, including all its operating costs, and had committed to continue doing so for the next five years. I now had my explanation and realized that I had not yet seen what I needed to learn about. I thanked my hosts for showing me this great new wing, I was truly impressed,  and then asked where we would go next. They looked at each other and I immediately realized that this had completed the visit.

Stubborn as I am, I politely asked to be shown the old pediatric wing too. The director quickly told me that the old wing did not have power at the moment and therefore a visit would not be possible. The PR woman nodded, maybe another time. That’s when the doctor came to my rescue. He offered to take me there, just for a quick walk-through, if I didn’t mind. So before anyone objected, off we walked in the opposite direction – and entered another world.

The tiny rooms were overcrowded and dirty, cot after cot with several sick babies sharing each little bed, lying sideways, many crying.  In other rooms we found bigger kids, some of them cancer patients, sharing rusty old iron beds. The air was hot, stagnant and despite many open windows, heavy with odors. Between all these rooms, we found one nurse and one aide. The second aide was out fetching water because the running water didn’t work. The nurse in a faded blue uniform was very apologetic and embarrassed about the poor conditions, no power, no water, and it’s been like this for several days now, important meds out of stock too, but she was too busy to stay with us more that a few minutes. I didn’t blame her, instead I was grateful over the fact she had come to work at all that day, knowing the impossible task in front of her. And I know if was not for the salary, her payroll was not covered by any donor. It was for the love and care for these kids. The prospect that some of them might make it.

Walking out of the hospital I cried. It was impossible for me to reconcile the two different realities very present in the same building. I was shaken to my core, and after managing to understand some of it, my lessons were quite profound. I often think about these kids in the old wing and hope many of them made it into adulthood and became productive members in their communities. They certainly contributed to some of the better choices I’ve made in life, some of which, hopefully, have made a tiniest dent in improving a few “old wings”.

I told you this was sad story. I wish I could say there are no more old wings in the world. But honestly, I can’t – not yet.