Sep 24, 2012

First day on the job

Hello, friends!  I'm back in Galway now, after a jam-packed weekend in and around Dublin.  I'll be posting photos and stories about everything I experienced there in the next few days.  There's so much to tell, in fact, that I'll probably have to do it in parts.  In the meantime, I'm enjoying this quiet room for the last night I'll spend here (I'm moving tomorrow afternoon), and have almost caught up with all of the reading I thought I'd do during the many hours I spent on the bus this past weekend.

Why wasn't I being a good student and using that dead time to breeze through Dubliners, you ask?  Well, I spent most of it sleeping...which may seem excessive, but not if you consider how sick I've been since Thursday.  It turns out that I badly needed the rest, as I somehow caught the illness that's been circulating among the Union/HWS students lately.  It felt eerily similar to the flu: everything hurt, I couldn't keep anything down...and between the fever and the general congestion, a good night's sleep was out of the question.  But thankfully, the worst of that is behind me now, and I'm quite happy to nurse my tea and ride out this residual cough.  A little Sudafed goes a long way, friends.  If I can give one future patient this kind of relief, I'll be a satisfied doctor.

Bad news: I missed all of my classes today.  Better news: I did make it to CROI this afternoon to begin my volunteer work!

After a half-hour walk in the usual Galway drizzle, I was glad to see this sign.

I don't think I've mentioned anything about my volunteer placement yet, so let me step back a little and do some explaining.  Some years ago, students who went on this term abroad mentioned in their post-experience evaluations that they felt they hadn't had enough opportunity to interact with Irish people.  In response, the directors
  • reorganized the housing scheme such that each student would live with at least one Irish student, and
  • forged connections with local charitable organizations so students might, in volunteering, contribute to the Galway community while also "interacting with" residents.
Over the years, this latter response - the volunteer program - has proved to be both successful and popular; in fact, students now regularly cite their volunteer work as one of the most rewarding aspects of their time abroad.

Before I left New York, I submitted a resume that helped my program directors place me at an organization that might suit my interests as well as my career I wasn't surprised that I was assigned to the one health-related organization on the list: CROI (pronounced "cree").  This charity, which serves the entire western half of Ireland, provides the community with programs focused on cardiovascular health and lifestyle habits designed to maintain it.  While it does offer some rehabilitative services to cardiovascular patients at the nearby University Hospital Galway, its primary focus is on prevention - which I'm fully behind.  Prevention, while certainly a less glamorous route than acute care (i.e. prescribing a medication or performing a surgery), is always the best route.  Always.  Teaching a parent how to eat healthily on a budget, for example, is an efficient way to lower an entire family's risk of hypertension, heart attack, high cholesterol, and more.  And I'm not even going to touch the issue of how much more cost-effective it is to prevent rather than to treat...

Anyway, let it be said that I admire this charity for the way it makes concrete the ideas of "prevention" and healthy living.  CROI offers talks, demonstrations, and training sessions on topics like healthy diet and exercise habits, CPR certification, and even yoga.  Yep - I'm impressed.  I expect that the twenty hours I spend there over the next ten weeks may even inform the way I eventually practice medicine.

This, however, is not to say that I'm directly involved in these health-related initiatives.  No, friends...I spent two hours today working with Excel.  That's right, friends: data entry.  A task this mundane would ordinarily strike me as the busywork no one else wants (or has time) to do, and leave me annoyed at best.  But honestly, after the beating my body's taken lately, I don't think I would have been able to tackle anything more mentally stimulating than data entry.  So in a roundabout way, this was what I needed.  I even met a friendly fellow expatriate at the office - a woman from Iowa, no less!  E (who moved to Ireland because she married a Galwegian) was quite kind to me this afternoon; after showing me around and introducing me to all of the staff, she smiled at me maternally and said, "You sound like you could use some tea."  And friends, I don't know what she put in it, but it was phenomenal.  (By my own admission, I still sound like a dying frog.  But as I said, the worst is over.  Once the fever breaks, there's nowhere else to go but up, right?)
On my way home, I saw these flowers by the side of the thoroughfare...that is, if they are flowers.  Curious-looking, aren't they?  
I must have looked like a real loon, snapping pictures of roadside flora, but I was intrigued.
I mean, for heaven's sake - the inside is purple!

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