Volunteer Gillian Roy shares her Bhutan experience

I knew that at some point I would sign on for a Surgicorps trip; its reputation is impeccable, its track record beyond impressive and besides, who can argue with the clarity and resolve of its mission?

Following the lead of some well-traveled and trustworthy friends, I made my first foray into this world of “voluntourism,” a week of service at your own expense in a foreign country. Now Bhutan was never on my travel hit parade, but I was jazzed about all the “firsts”: new place, people and challenges and all as part of a “medical” team.
I also was a little unsure of my own ability to do whatever was asked of me and not faint at the sight of – what? Let go, breathe, trust….

Okay, first day, it’s so clearly not about me and won’t ever be. Quick turn around from airport to hotel to hospital. This is the hospital? Yes, dial it down sister, people everywhere, quick introductions, get to work, here’s your job, I can do that, hi Jack…and presto! I’m in the Surgicorps “zone” and it feels great. Real and immediate and astonishing.

Wait, there are dogs in the hallway….

People in need and in pain accepting help from strangers who can turn their lives around. I am humbled and awed by the medical team, all week, non-stop. Short breaks, then who’s next and next and next?

Calm and focused – who are these people?

I share the non-medical jobs with my girlfriends (how lucky!) and a few other wonderful volunteers (lucky again!):

Following and updating the paper trail of patient charts and surgery schedules; helping to prep patients for their procedures – thanks to the translators who helped us here and everywhere, everyday; keeping the children supplied with crayons and coloring book pages; standing by a gurney to keep a patient from rolling off; sometimes fetch and carry and sometimes stand quietly watching and waiting for the next “ask.”

Some people like to be in the operating room but it’s very hot in there and I prefer the very real luxury of moving around.

Big treat – who knew? – doing rounds with Jack in the mornings learning how to have ready and anticipate those things he might need.

I don’t panic, I just do it, no problem…start thinking I’d make a good nurse but besides the math, I realize I’d never pass the “poking people with sharp things” class. Now, where are those crayons?

Thank you Linda and Sheryl for all my quick onsite training!

The luncheon with the royal family was “off the charts” special – a delightful conversation with Her Majesty the “First” Queen Mother revealed that we share the same favorite American Idol contestant!

Loved it! Loved her! We were all tearing up as we left them.

And oh yes, the beauty of the country and its peace-loving inhabitants, their very distinctive architecture and those mountains! Watch any one of a number of good films coming out of Bhutan these days and you will get a taste.

I’ll go back again…with Surgicorps. Maybe to Vietnam with them first….

The very last thing I do want to say and it is such a cliché but it applies:

After the week in Bhutan and my return home, I find I am maintaining feelings of deep gratitude and appreciation for the bounty and love in my own life. The resilience of the human spirit continues to amaze and inspire me through my days….

Thank you for letting me help.

2009, bhutan

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