At the start of my time here, I was placed at Hospital Antonio Lorena. This hospital specializes in pediatric care, specifically Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. When I first received this news, I didn’t quite know what to think. I was excited, but also filled with trepidation. Of course, the opportunity to work in such a setting was an invaluable one, but I was also acutely aware of the potential difficulties that working with pediatric leukemia patients presented.
These were children that were sick. So very sick. Sick to a degree, that some of my days were spent simply sitting and talking, maybe reading, instead of playing active games that healthy children partake in. Some days all I could do was hold their hand as I sat by their bed. These were the days that I could literally see their energy flux, one moment high, and another gone, to be replaced by waves of nausea and exhaustion. But these were also the days in which unexpected laughter bloomed and spread from bed to bed at the smallest thing, filling the room and breaking the silence. These moments forever imprinting upon me the duality of the chemotherapy drugs coursing through their systems and the laughter filling the room. The dual state of strength amongst sickness.
I don’t think that words are fully capable of describing, with full accuracy, my experiences, or time in the hospital. With this thought in mind, I’ve included several photos, snapshots in time, that I think portray it a little better. My hope is that you, as you read this, will be touched in some small way by the enormous strength that these children have, and will choose to spend time with them. Your life will forever be changed.
One of the memories that I will forever cherish is getting to know the nurses. Initially, most of the nurses were fairly distant. Understandably so, with the nature of volunteers coming and going… Some never staying more than a day when they realized what the hospital actually was. Initially I found this indifference towards me to be disheartening, but eventually their outlook towards me changed. This change can be traced to when I asked them to write down their names for me. I simultaneously explained that sometimes, because I’m learning Spanish, it can be hard for me to translate names unless I see them. It was in this moment, that they smiled, wrote down their names, asked me to do the same, did the change occur. From that day on, they were friendly, kind, and always greeted me, as well as offering Spanish tips. Just another small memory.
My time in Cusco has been extraordinarily memorable. From my host family, to the hospital, to the people I’ve met, it’s been something that I’ll never forget. And as I prepared to leave for Lima, and then the states, I felt a pull in my heart to stay.