Reflections on 2013 Armenia Trip

November 6, 2013 § Leave a comment

by Vahe S. Tateosian MD

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It’s 3 am local time, and the jet lag has allowed me to reflect quietly, alone, on my thoughts from the past few weeks. Those thoughts which not only formed the past two weeks, but those which had been brewing for much longer. Through years of studying and training, I had wanted to be part of such a cause, but always felt it would be such a different experience contributing once my training had been completed, more as a teacher, rather than a student. However, the truth still stands when we say, the more you learn, the more you realize how little we all know.

What was most memorable, most inspiring and will stay with me the longest are those relationships that were forged within the past ten days. The Plasticos Foundation has allowed for the creation of relationships with our fellow doctors, surgeons, nurses, students, and most of all patients. Those patients that always prove to be our greatest teachers and inspiration. Those that allow us to realize, sometimes much later than our encounter with them, what the purpose is for all of our efforts. Too often, our successes are measured by efficiency…speed. Too often, we don’t realize the impact of even a simple procedure on the lives and our patients and their families. The relationships with our fellow healthcare professionals are meant not only to teach them, but also to teach us. To create a foundation for collaboration and learning by any means we have at our disposal. In such a technologically advanced age, our methods of communication, teaching, interaction and interpersonal relationships seem endless. Yet, we also realize how much we truly take for granted. Many of our first world problems constitute interest rates, traffic jams and status updates. Many third world problems constitute needs such as social services, transportation, basic healthcare and infrastructure. A few of the nurse anesthetists I worked with had been on call, stayed in the hospital 24 hours, and continued to stay and help the following day, well past their shifts, in order to contribute. All with smiles on their faces! Needless to say, many of them commute home on buses for over an hour. We often take for granted the resources and information that is so easily at our disposal, simply a few swipes away on our smart phones. Yet, working with my fellow anesthesiologists from Armenia, I was impressed by their skills and knowledge and overjoyed by their willingness and ideas on continued collaborate.

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For me, a first international medical mission, the days in the hospital were full of constant adjustments and considerations. From the equipment used, to the relationship between the nurses and physicians, and their “normal” routine. Thankfully, my fellow anesthesiologist, Armen and I speak the language, but we were given a brief introduction to “informed consent” on our first day in the hospital by one of the anesthesia residents, an astute and well spoken young man. Parents simply want to be assured that their children will be well taken care of, and they put their faith and trust in you, which is both a humbling and inspiring sentiment.

So if you ask me what will I remember most? What has inspired me most? At home I stare at the thousands of lights of the cars ahead of me in traffic on the way to work. In Armenia, our jaws dropped every morning with the views of Ararat on the bus ride to the hospital. The attitudes of the doctors, students and nurses…frustration in their eyes and in their tone, mixed with hope. The conversations with a great new friend about stars and Pluto, while running into the Opera House on my last evening. The ideas exchanged by fellow anesthesiologists and surgeons in the hopes for future endeavors. An evening listening to jazz music with great friends, and now family, after a long day. The stroll in the market on our last day with a new friend, as I reflected on the week’s events. The gentleman I met on the plane back home, who I hope I inspired to contribute to our cause, even if through communication. The children and their parents that had only their words and hugs to express their gratitude. Ayo…Yes…all of that and more.

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