Hasta Pronto

Goodbyes are difficult in the Dominican Republic. Facing my impending departure, I spent hours on people’s porches, eating arroz con habichuela and sharing stories and shedding tears. After one particularly emotional goodbye, I climbed onto the moto of my friend Tsubaru to drive back to Montellano. Trying to explain away my tears, I said, “Me van a hacer muchísima falta. I’m really going to miss you all.” Tsubaru, in his characteristically candid and matter-of-fact Tsubaru way, said, “Si. Ha cambiado tu vida, y serás una mejor doctora por causa nuestra. Yes, you will. Because we have changed your life, and you will be a better doctor because of us.”

Meg and Tsubaru, a moto driver and father of six, prepping for a photo op.

I hope Tsubaru is right. I hope I remember all the lessons I have learned here, and I hope they make me a more capable and compassionate physician. I hope I am able to go on home visits as I have here, which offer such an illuminating glimpse into patients’ lives, providing information about everything from food scarcity to domestic violence. I hope I am able to work within a competent and diverse team of health professionals as I have here, where an illiterate community health worker in Pancho Mateo contributes just as much as a surgeon in Santiago. I hope I am able to draw upon the tragic experience of one of HHI’s young patients, who was misdiagnosed with dengue fever for months before finally passing away of leukemia, by remembering to think of the occasional zebra when everyone is listening for horse hooves.

Meg with Catherine, a community health worker from Severet, and a young patient.

Beyond medicine, though, I hope I remember all the small ways in which Dominicans have quietly and repeatedly taught me how to be a better person. I hope I remember the kindness of Luz, one of HHI’s community health workers, who works full-time for an HIV/AIDS organization, adopted a Haitian orphan, and still finds time to visit her elderly neighbor every morning to make sure she’s up and awake and doing well. I hope I remember the strength of Soraída, who has survived the death of both her parents, a cancer diagnosis, and an invasive facial surgery, and still manages to giggle and gossip with the best of them. I hope I remember the dedication of Willy, an HHI community health worker who is so committed to becoming a physician that he has started studying American medical textbooks before he has even finished high school.

Meg with Willy and his mother in front of their home.

So to my friends and teachers, Dominicans and Haitians alike, thank you for everything you have given me over the past year. I promise to think of you daily, and I promise to come back. I promise that this is not a goodbye, but rather an “Hasta pronto, see you soon.” When I do return, I will be a doctor – hopefully a better doctor, because of you.

Dorka, Meg and Pastor Pedro in Severet.

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  1. Posted July 7, 2011 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    I’m thinking of you sitting on porches and tearing up with Tsubaru…thank you for everything. Also, don’t forget about all of the people you have inspired back in the states as well (me!)

  2. Posted July 7, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Wow! You should translate this and have it read at the next CHW meeting.

  3. Raquel
    Posted July 7, 2011 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    Tsubaru is as right about you as he is about rearranging those flyaways! Omega, your desire to be a different kind of doctor is what led you to Montellano in the first place, so I have no doubt that your amazing sense of self and all the lessons you’ve learned will stay close throughout your career. Congratulations, and welcome home!

  4. Posted July 11, 2011 at 1:13 am | Permalink

    Alright now Mega, you’re making me cry, and I’m not even the one leaving. But mine are tears of inspiration, as I know yours are too. Tsubara is right. You will be a better doctor because of your friends and patients here – and you’ll be the wisest person in your program now that you know to look for zebras. Thanks for all the things you taught me in that one short week of home visits! I’ve been orienting our two new investigadores this week, and probably every two seconds when I’m trying to share the knowledge they’ll need for the work they’ll be doing here, I find myself saying. “Now this I learned from Megan,” or “that little trick I learned from Nicole.”
    You guys have both really made an impact on my life, and of course, you’ve impacted, forever, the work HHI will do here. We’ll see you both again soon, I know it.

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