Jun 1, 2012, 1:15 PM, Posted by Adam Pike
By Adam Pike, BSN, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation New Careers in Nursing (NCIN) scholar and recent graduate of the Donna and Allan Lansing School of Nursing and Health Sciences at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky.
I had blown off graduate school for a semester and moved in with a friend living in northern Honduras, ostensibly to spend time developing my Spanish language skills. We occupied a small one—room, key—lime concrete block, completely permeable for a variety of local fauna. A coconut tree was visible from our small stoop on which I sat during many afternoons while rain rattled the metal roof like a snare drum. We washed our laundry with a washboard and cistern in the company of chickens, dogs owned by no one, and playful, kind neighbors who regarded us as a kind of novelty. It was the perfect environment in which to pull back from familiar routine and plunge into academics and artistry. I carried out this mission somewhat anonymously in our austere apartment, with the exception of trips for fruit to the ancient wooden cart at the corner, or perhaps to the pharmacy to remedy the inevitable abdominal maladies that occur for foreigners.
Of the many bouts of illness we fought, only one was potent enough to warrant a hospital stay. On this occasion, as I stood in the dilapidated public ER, looking down at my sick friend in his hospital bed, I saw a young Honduran woman wheeled through the entrance of the ER and immediately placed in a vacant bed adjacent to my friend. In this open room, filled with patients suffering from dengue fever, dehydration, and physical trauma, it was immediately clear this pale, sweating woman, desperately gasping, was far more ill than the rest. As she disappeared in an impromptu room the staff conjured from panels of spare drape, I saw patches of dark bruises climbing her forearms.
As the evening passed, my friend napped, and I ventured behind the white curtains to offer anything I could—really, nothing—to the young woman breathing through a mask and her mother, her only company. For what followed, nothing could have prepared me. We conversed, traded stories, said prayers.