The Synthesis of Hope

23 05 2011

By Andy Wu
Economics, Global Health Certificate

Two weeks ago, I was sitting in Perkins studying, worrying about how the semester would end. As of a week ago, I am now on the other side of the world in Beijing, working in the Burn and Plastic department as an interpreter for American physical therapy students at China Air Force General Hospital. Due to the lack of adequate health insurance in China, there are many charity organizations that aid in subsidizing the expensive surgeries and physical therapy needed to recover from these injuries. The hospital I am working provides many surgeries at a discount for many of these patients, whose families do not have adequate capital to pay for treatment. Most of the patients undergoing PT work are young children.

The cause of the injuries are varied – some are house fires, cooking-related injuries, chemical burns, or car accidents. What remains the same is that all of these patients undergo painful therapy to stretch and break down scar tissue two times a day, without pain medication. Some patients have scarring so extensive that their skin resembles leather overlaid by a cobweb of maroon scars. Everyday the physical therapy room is filled with the cries of infants and children working with the therapists.

At DukeEngage Academy, a workshop stressed the difference of service, helping, and fixing. Ideally, I am supposed to be serving instead of helping, which is based on inequality. Though I understand the intent of the article is not to approach my service experience from that of a naive college student wanting to save the world, to say that seeing these children with such injuries does not bother me or draw up feelings of pity would be a pretentious lie as well.

It is truly inspirational to see the clinicians work with these patients everyday with a smile on their face, intentionally inflicting pain on these children to the point of tears to heal them. Even more strong-willed than the clinicians are the patients themselves, willing to subject themselves to such painful treatment, knowing that despite all this work, they may never fully recover from these injuries. To be able to be surrounded by people of such dedication even for just eight weeks is truly awe-inspiring. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, this is the synthesis of hope in its purest form, where tears, pain, and diligence are the fire needed to create recovery.

I’m sorry for making this first entry so non-colloquial, but I felt the need to put some context for my future blog posts. I have no idea what I will write about in the future, but I’ll try to keep you guys posted on what I’m doing!



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