Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Medical Clinic Adventures

Disclaimer for my mother and others who are inclined to worry about me: this entry is not about me being a patient at a medical clinic. So you can calm right back down.
I heard about a short-term missions team coming from America to do medical clinics in towns outside of Iasi and that there was perhaps an opportunity for some of the medical students to go along and experience what it might be like to use their profession for ministry. While I'm totally interested in running some kind of health clinic/hospital someday, I'm not training to be a doctor nor do I speak even reasonable Romania to be of any use. So I didn't really even think about going. But when I found out that a few students wanted to go, but the missions team would have no extra space in their vehicles, I immediately sprung into action, having found a role- Leader of Adventures via renting a car and driving everyone out there. Oh boy oh boy do I love an adventure! My teammates in Iasi are appreciative of this, given that being married and/or having children somewhat precludes spontaneous adventuring. And as even the simplest of everyday tasks (picking up packages, going to the grocery store, etc) can quickly become an adventure, they were thankful I was willing.

Step one- rent a car. Which in the USofA would take all of 10 minutes. In and out, choose your car, sign some forms, done and done. Oh but not in Romania. Even being the only person in the store (ie, not waiting in line for any of the time) it took over an hour to get it all sorted out. Not to mention the 15 page rental contract ALL IN ROMANIAN. After the (very kind and helpful) woman told me what 10 of the 187 items said (If you intentionally slash the tires it will be 75 Euro per tire. If you intentionally break a mirror it will be 89 Euros. If you key the car it will be 142 Euros. Etc. Etc. Etc.) I said, "So basically, if I hurt the car I'm not getting my THREE HUNDRED EURO DEPOSIT back? Right, ok, got it. Where do I sign?

Did you catch that? Three Hundred Euro Deposit. Paid in cash, paid in lei. Which is like 1300 lei or some such ridiculousness. Which I obviously didn't have on my person, so I had to schlep to an ATM and withdraw it. But that was quite ok with me because at least it gave me something to do while The Machine turned its cogs and wheels.

The other thing about renting a car in Romania, at least at this place is this. You can't just pick it up or drop it off whenever you feel like it. Oh no, they have hours. Like 9-6. Now I haven't rented too many cars in the US, and maybe because most of them have been at airports I actually have no right to think this is absurd, but really, what about the bajillions of people who want to go on a trip and "get an early start?" Like me. Or who want to pick up the car at say 8pm? Like me. Well for all of them, there is an extra 10 Euro fee attached for each early/late pick-up/drop-off. Excellent.

After that was all settled and done I had my little van. My seven-seat stick-shift Opel Zafira. Because I need a little practice in the Looking Like a Soccer Mom department. For two whole days I was responsible for that vehicle, and boy did I love it like my own. And I must say that not even once did I stall. Nope, not once. Even on the second day of our travels when we crammed nine people (Shhhh don't tell anyone) into it and I had to start from stopping on a hill several times. Shazam!

So ok, moving on from the Rental Experience to more pertinent things. Like the clinic. Well, what can I say? It was a medical clinic in a town about an hour from Iasi. Which enabled me to experience not only crazy city driving in Romania but crazy country driving in Romania, which entails things like roads with one lane on each side that are utilized by everything from 18-wheelers to horse-drawn carts. Never-ending barrels of fun that is. Let's just say my left calf got a really excellent work-out over those two days of driving. And there I go back to the driving thing again. But really, the clinic. Both days we went it was to a town called Targu Frumos, about 45 minutes from Iasi. They were set up in an old shop, one room. Three nurses, one optometrist, and a lot of people eager to get new glasses. Turns out there was another medical clinic in town the week before, so most people didn't really need more ibuprofen but were happy to get reading glasses. But we still saw around 150 patients over the two days at the nurses' stations.

I loved observing. Loved it. I think in another lifetime I would be an anthropologist; I just really enjoy watching people and learning about culture. I was fascinated to hear how old people were. Men who were in their mid-50s looked shockingly old to me, especially as I compared them to my own mid-50s father. They were so wrinkly, so... OLD looking. Darkly bronzed from laboring in the sun, and many hunched over from decades working in gardens. Many said they have low calcium, almost all said they have high blood pressure, and quite a few said they have Hepatitis. I really enjoyed watching the nurses as they interacted with patients, almost as much as I enjoyed simply looking at the people who came in. Just thinking about how their lives might have been, and praying for them, as so many are ensnared in the Orthodox religion, thinking there is no way to know whether or not they can be in heaven with God because they are told they must earn their way to heaven. Oh the burdens they must carry through the years!

I'm so thankful I was able to help out, because I could just see how much the students enjoyed themselves and that they really learned a lot. Even for me, seeing what I did/didn't like about the way it was organized and observing the goings-on at a macro level, it was an eye-opening experience. Hopefully we'll be able to do more of these kinds of things in the future. Never a dull day.
Talking with a patient

Karen (America), Uche (Nigeria), Anita (Kenya), me, Katy (Romania)

The second day with many students and several of the American team


Karen Connor said...

Ah, reading this made me totally laugh out loud!

It was so great to meet you, such an answer to prayer to have the help of the medical students, and an amazing and humbling trip. You echo my mind and my heart in your description of the patients we saw....

Thanks be to God for His indescribably gifts!

Unknown said...

Liz, there are no words to describe how much i love your blog. I think that was possibly a Luci-ism. I miss you!!!