I can only describe today as terrifying and honoring. After lunch, one of the providers named Sarah, whom I had formed a close relationship with the day before, came up to me saying we were being called away to see a patient. So, I grabbed a blood pressure cuff, my stethoscope, and a thermometer. We hopped in the back of the land cruiser and we were on our way. Finally, Sarah told me what was going on. The chief’s husband was sick and was unable to walk to our clinic so we were coming to him. As we drove, we went over the correct greeting with Sarah’s translator and when to kneel and when to stand. We arrived and our moment of truth was upon us. Sarah and I looked at each other, gave a terrified excited smile, and went to the chief’s door.
The chief and her husband were extremely kind and welcoming. Sarah asked what his complaints were and to see his medical passport. The chief went off in search of the passport and we continued to get information from the husband. Using our translator Emma, we were able to get all of his major symptoms. We went through the passport looking at his medical history. We really collaborated together about what diagnosis we were thinking and how to best handle them. Knowing that he had a history of hypertension I went in thinking the blood pressure was going to be high. I took it once and got a low reading. I turned to Sarah and told her my findings and said I wanted to take it again. Diving deeper into the history Sarah found he was taking medicine for his hypertension and the reading I got was similar to the ones that they were getting while he was taking his meds. Knowing that my second reading was almost exactly like my first, I moved on to the easy stuff, temperature and pulse. He thanked me and gave me a toothy smile.
Knowing my hard part was done I returned to Sarah’s side to figure out what medicine treatment would best take care of his ailments. We explained to the chief and her husband what our plan of action was and that we would be back in 15 minutes with medicine and instructions. After many thanks were exchanged in both English and Chichewa, we calmly walked back to the land cruiser. Once we were safely behind closed car doors Emma, Sarah and I all let out a huge deep breath and burst in to laughter. As the car drove, we went to work on our med plan. When we reached the clinic, Sarah asked to wait in the car for a few minutes to finalize the plan and celebrate. After a group-hug/high-five situation and some good old women empowerment encouragement, we went into the clinic in search of our meds to bring to the chief.
This experience in Malawi has been incredibly impactful. I am out of my comfort zone completely, eating new things, taking manual blood pressures, standing or rather kneeling in front of village chiefs. I am so thankful to my nursing instructor Lucy who encouraged me to go on this trip on Thursday morning in early September at 7am (when I should have been studying for my test). I am so grateful to the VIP staff and medical and dental team for this big community of love and service. I can’t wait to see what the final day of clinic holds.