12 September 2011

Almost like coming home

I’m here—back in Pakistan—and it is almost as if I never left. There is so much that is familiar about Karachi: food, crowded streets, tuk-tuks, sounds and smells. The past two years in Prague have started fading away, which is sort of sad, as I enjoyed them so much. But I find I am glad to be back; almost like coming home.

I joined the U.S. Foreign Service with the intent to live and work in places I would never visit as a tourist. My goal was to really get to know people and cultures that were different from the life I had always known, and I have been true to that goal. Even living in Prague, in the Czech Republic, which is in many ways similar to the United States, was very different from my pre-Foreign Service life in the American South. Americans and Europeans are pretty savvy about health and wellness issues. At least, they know a good deal about it, even if they don’t follow good health practices. But Southeast Asians are often not well educated about safety and health issues. Many of the home remedies and first aid applied in this region are traditions passed down from one generation to another, and they are not always effective traditions.

For instance, during my previous tour in Pakistan, one of our gardeners sustained a deep gash on his lower leg from a chainsaw accident. In an effort to stop the bleeding, his co-worker doused him with the gasoline mixed with oil that was used to power the chainsaw. We rushed him to the hospital for definitive care and, after the surgery, the surgeon called me to ask what that oily substance was in the wound that required such pains to debride?

As a result of that incident, a program was created to train some of the local employees to teach all of the other local employees, in their language and on a regular basis, about basic first aid. I’m pleased to say that the program is still ongoing in Karachi and is taken quite seriously by the workers. I am hearing stories of how family members and neighbors have been helped through the program.

Sharing information about health and safety practices to poorly served populations around the world is one of the most important things we can do. It follows the “teach a man to fish” philosophy, and small successes are really great triumphs.

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International. 

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