Thursday, October 3, 2013

Back in Bangladesh!

After an abrupt departure from Bangladesh in May due to concern for safety  amongst the growing political riots and heightened tension, I have returned back to the “desh” for 10 days with additional Mass General staff to assist in the continued education and guidance of the nurses who will be working on the new Bone Marrow Transplant unit. It’s been 5 months away, but,  with my old Bangla friends and DMCH  nurses back at my side, part of me forgets that Maryanne and I ever left at all. 
The Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT)  is scheduled to open on the 23rd of this month, and while the diligent volunteers from MGH (on the ground, and back in Boston) seem to be fixing a problem at every turn, four new challenges seem to appear in its place. Because BMT is one most complicated oncology procedures performed due to the isolation, precautions and strict scheduling required for a patient to thrive, it feels like a bold contradiction to build one in Bangladesh, a country lacking in such basic medical resources. I told one colleague today that every time I think about the work to be done, I am left with a head filled with doubt but a heart full of hope.
Everybody keeps asking how it feels to be back in Bangladesh on a personal level and it hasn’t been an answer I could sum up in a few sentences, so for those of you who want to know my honest answers enough to read my blog,  here are my extended thoughts to the Yes’s and No’s, I so routinely deliver to your questions.
  Are you scared? To this I have thought, only that we won’t get the work done, and that I will be the only person in the history of global health who ever gained weight in a third world country from the copious carb diet.
What are you thinking, going back to a place you got evacuated from, have you not learned your lesson?To this I usually giggle and assure you I have thought it through but really want to tell you that “every lesson I have every learned enough to carry to the present has been built on the grounds of perseverance, finding a window when the door shuts, never giving up and putting human life above all other worth, so no I guess I haven’t learned whatever lesson you are referring to”. For the record, if you’ve asked me that question, I still love you more than words can say and that I know you have my best interests at heart.
Is it worthwhile to endure a 24 hour trip each way for only ten days on the ground? I answered a hesitant yes last night, but I knew I answered correctly at the end of the hospital shift today. My colleague Meg (who has been a BMT RN at MGH for 20 years) and I returned back to the classroom after being on the floor for clinical practice, and I was hot, exhausted and really, really sweaty (pictures to follow) but then I looked at these nurses who are so excited to advance their education despite lack of pay raise or benefits but just because they love nursing and so my answer may be a tired, exhausted and sweaty yes, but nonetheless, always a yes.