Alicia Mascote, Clinical Nurse, Unit D3
Alicia Mascote, Clinical Nurse on D3, shares a beautiful journal entry documenting her life-changing mission trip providing medical relief in Nepal. Read her full story below and also featured in the Magnet Showcase outside of Nursing Administration by the escalators on the ground floor through February. Thank you for sharing your inspiring story, Alicia!
Mission trips are life-changing experiences filled with unique challenges both mentally and emotionally. Last summer I traveled to Nepal with an organization called International Medical Relief. This was my third such trip, and my first time being selected for a leadership role on the team. The added responsibility of that role made this journey difficult at times, but ultimately it became my favorite mission trip.
Going into this trip, I held little to no knowledge about the culture or even the location of Nepal. By the time I left Nepal I had created memories that will last a lifetime, and grown immense appreciation for the natural beauty of the country, and the kindness of its people. In order to share my experiences with you; what follows is a passage from my travel journal.
Joy and poverty have rarely been words used together. Pain and laughter, grief and hope, faith and hunger. I’m not sure how but today I have witnessed these conflicting ideas meld together like the many colors of the prayer flags that follow me in my dreams. The experiences of today reaffirmed what I’ve always known; laughter is a language everyone knows, and true kindness needs no words.
It’s hard for me to explain exactly what today was, but if it were a painting it would be incredibly intricate. This painting is filled with startling contrast. The backdrop is Kathmandu valley, nestled in the shadows of the giant Himalayas, with blue skies and breathtaking vistas. The foreground is shades of brown, dusty, and deeply impoverished. We find ourselves in the “slums” of Kathmandu.
Within this slum is an orphanage. The children ages 4-13 abandoned and taken in. Many know no other life than that of blankets on the floors, and a small metal trunk that holds all their worldly treasures. The “bathroom” is a small dark room with concrete walls, a little running water, a place to hover and squat, and a smell that attacks your senses. The children are taken in from the streets, once beggars, or left by mothers who could not care for them.
Yet this day doesn’t begin with pity or sadness. In fact this painting’s strokes begin with blessings, music, costumes, singing and flowers. The children & their teachers have made us all flower necklaces out of carnations varying in color. We are anointed with the bindi on our foreheads and orange on our cheeks. I am led inside a stunningly colored temple…it’s bright yellows and blues, oranges and pinks something out of a box of crayons. My shoes and socks off, I walk to the altar where I am given a coconut to crack ceremoniously spill the milk around the statue. I am humbled by their belief and unwavering faith while surrounded by such decay and devastation. We walk with the children on a little parade to their school which is also their home. The two rooms where they eat, learn, sleep and dream. What, I wonder, do they dream of …
The children, all 54, are dressed up today in the “best” clothes they have. Then they dance for us. Traditional and Holi dances. It is mesmerizing. Their small bare feet moving to the music, their arms and shoulders swaying. Some mouth the words and others are counting in time. All are so proud and excited to perform, to have our eyes on them. Like all children who take a stage or field of some sort and long to have someone sitting among the audience…for them.
Once the dancing finishes we set up clinic. A transition that is hard for me, but as one of the team leaders I must take charge and coordinate the teams within the clinic. The ground is all dirt; there are wobbly tables and some plastic chairs for us. The children all sit on one side, the adults on another. We will see this entire community. With so many patients to see throughout the day, the pace is quick; bordering on hectic. The chief complaint by the children is “no shoes”. Their feet are torn up, scarred, and bleeding. Some have blisters and toenails that are infected and painful. Most have lice and likely harbor parasites. We treat them with Albendazole and Ivermectin. We offer comfort and smiles as they look at us with fear of having their wounds cleaned and bandaged. They line up for the dentist and learn about hand washing and teeth brushing. We hand out much needed toothbrushes. A 7 year old must learn how to give himself drops in his ears for an infection. I show him, and administer the first treatment. The teachers explain in their native language. I dose up all the ones with wounds using children’s Tylenol making “yummy” noises as I try to encourage them to drink the red sticky liquid. They are brave, strong, and possess a warmth that is inspiring. Each one is a flower, blooming, in spite of their surroundings. They are in need of so much love.
The adults have so much pain. In their backs, hips, legs, feet. The years of manual labor, bending, lifting, pulling & dragging. Their only way to live. We show them exercises and stretches. They listen. We give them pain meds, but maybe more importantly we are there for those whose grief cannot be held in any longer. We listen. Once they tell their stories they are somewhat lifted. Light briefly returns to their eyes…small sparks you once knew were there… they dim before long. I wish I could do more…
The day must close and the painting must finish… the children follow us out to the bus. They wave and they cry and they ask when we will come again… we drive away.. some of us waving, some silently crying … we are very quiet …we know for this day we have been part of something so full of joy and so full of pain. Somber yet beautiful. Now the brush is set down..awaiting to paint another day ..
I have seen the air thick with dirt, pollution and trash. I have watched cows graze among it and children dance through it. I have seen a child have her head shaved from so much lice, while her new orphan friend holds her hand for support. I have seen the elderly walk with their crooked sticks and bowing knees unwavering in their faith. I have been surrounded by men and women, children and priests, the very old and the newly born. The smells and sounds will follow me. In my dreams I will hear them and eventually the smells will dry into the painting I have created.
With joy and pain, grief and laughter I have celebrated and mourned. The slums are a “city” all their own. With pride and formality, religion and rules. The tents used for our shade, colorful blankets and scarves, saris and fabrics. Textiles of such color and beauty standing in defiance of the din and dirt of the slums. So much love & pride battling against the struggles of poverty.
I know I will not see the little girl with the heart on the outside of her chest. She will not make it until the next Holi or her 5th birthday. I also know that the many elderly will have said their last blessings & in the coming months taken their last breaths. Yet, I got to blow bubbles with this girl and smash coconuts for celebration with the elders of the community. I have let them place bindi color on me and trace my face with their hands as we smiled into each other. I will remember their faces forever. I can only hope they remember the sound of my laughter and the look of my joy.
As our mission trip comes to an end, I reflect on so many people helped. My team provided care with such warmth and exuberance, skill, and commitment. This has truly been a transformative trip. I am both proud and humbled, and I implore anyone with a kind heart to extend a helping hand and partake in a mission trip.
For more information please visit http://www.internationalmedicalrelief.org/
Until next time …
I bid you Namaste.
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