Guest Blogger: Randy Archibald
Many providers choose to practice medicine as a profession because they want to help people. My passion for working in the medical field began on a two-year mission to Chile I participated in as a young man through my church. During this mission I got pretty sick. In that community there wasn’t much access to medical care. I was taken to a local woman who gave me some herbs and traditional remedies, but it was nothing like I was used to growing up in the U.S. Something about that experience always stuck with me. We really do have so many opportunities here that people around the world just do not have access too.
Since becoming a Physician Assistant, I’ve always wanted to go on a medical mission. This past fall I was able to travel to Qualtzaltenago, Guatemala and participate in a mission with the Making a Difference Foundation. There are so many things I loved about my experience, including getting to see how other people live and experiencing their culture. I was amazed at the people I met and how satisfied and happy they were in the midst of really challenging conditions. I also loved the people I got to work with on this trip. Everyone had a good heart, was there for the right reason, and I made some good friends. I made friends with the homestay family I stayed with and really got to experience what life is like living there. I am just so grateful for the entire experience.
Before going on the trip, I did some research on tropical diseases – and other more exotic aliments -trying to prepare for what I might encounter. But the reality was the people I saw needed really basic medical care and education. For example, here in the U.S. if someone has heartburn or indigestion, they know that it’s probably acid reflux and they know they can go to the pharmacy and buy something. There were quite a few people I saw in Guatemala that said, “my stomach hurts, I have nausea, I have a bad taste in my mouth, and I have no idea what it is.” They may have lived with this for 6 months or a year and didn’t have the resources or people around them that knew what it might be or how to treat it. Most of my time was spent doing very basic education around heart health and managing these types of illnesses, all of which we take for granted. Ultimately it wasn’t treating exotic illness, but rather many of the same concerns people have here in the United States.
I came back feeling that I need to do more volunteer work because sometimes I can get caught up in all the aspects of everyday life. We are all really busy – we have our family responsibilities, and our jobs – and you can forget to take time out to help someone. Even though I have a job where I like to think I help people every day, it’s just different if you take the initiative and find a volunteer opportunity. Giving of yourself without any expectations is really good for my heart and my outlook on life.
This trip reminded me of that early experience I had in Chile, and just how different things are based on where you live and the access you have to healthcare. And yet, things are very similar. The people I encountered are doing the best they can every day, just like all of us. Seeing how much you can help someone who doesn’t have access to medicine and what a difference that can make for them, made me feel good that I chose medicine as a profession. Seeing so many people line up to come to our clinic, and how happy and excited they were just to be seen made me feel that hopefully I am touching people’s lives as I go along.