• Christina

Just Another Day in Paradise


I wake up just after 6:00. I had dreams about people singing, influenced no doubt by the roosters crowing at all hours of the night and morning. By 7:30 I’ve polished off a couple cups of fruity-flavored tea, eaten peanut butter toast, prayed, read my Bible and stretched. By 8:00 I’ve started in on work – today I’m working from home one a project to teach doctors about healthy lifestyles. It’s not a new project, but I’m working on new balance. I stop for a veggie break at 10:30 and then drive to ABC Clinic. I didn’t have patients scheduled this morning, so I take the time to meet with people I always pass buy when I’m busy with other work.

10:50 - I pop in at the pharmacy. Mrs. Chibwana, the department head, is looking beautiful in a green dress. I tell her she always looks beautiful, which is definitely true, and she compliments the yellow wrap-around chitengi skirt I chose today. She hands me some copies which will help me explain healthy lifestyles to my patients. As I pack them away in my office, I ask her if she can print a final sheet for me, so that I have plenty to share with my clinic colleagues. Everyone was very interested after the Continuing Professional Development talk yesterday and wanted copies of their own. She graciously agrees and I step aside so she can deal with some boxes coming into the pharmacy. I step over to the front desk and check my schedule for tomorrow. Fully booked for the afternoon – my first two patients are a Muslim man I saw last week who is getting his diabetes under control and a Muslim woman who is still reeling from the death of her husband recently. The last two times I saw her I prescribed several medications for her multitude of symptoms, which is unusual for me to do but spoke to the plethora of her struggles and the little I could do to help. I will start praying for tomorrow’s clinic now.

11:00 - I stride over to the inpatient ward to see if we have COVID vaccines in stock. Still out – there’s a national shortage, so this is no surprise, but I hope Greg can get vaccinated soon. Due to our COVID infections last December, Greg didn’t qualify to get a vaccine earlier, and now everyone is out. I have only had one shot of AstraZeneca myself and hope that will be enough to protect me for the time being.

11:05 - I run into Jane, one of the hospital chaplains. She has looked over the materials we put together for helping mothers keep their children healthy. She is interested in putting the materials together in a booklet which she can use when she talks to women in various villages. We’ve discussed translating these materials into Chichewa, and she thinks it would be good to have a version for English speakers and a version for Chichewa speakers. We talk about people who might be able to do the translation, and I think of a university student I know who might be able to help with the design of a final brochure. Next steps planned and a phone number for Jane in my phone, I’m ready to meet with Christina. Christina works at ABC’s front desk and always has a smile on her face. We joke that we are twins because of our names. Today I learn for the first time just how much Christina does to make sure that patients feel cared for at ABC clinic. She keeps track of the time every patient arrives and checks in on them after one hour. She makes sure that they know how much longer they will be, whether they are waiting to see a doctor or to get the results of a lab test. I have a student working with me this month, and we are hoping to help with patient wait times. Christina helps me come up with ideas of a tracking sheet and areas to deploy my student tomorrow.

The clinic isn’t too busy this morning, but if I don’t get away soon I will be tempted to stay all day. So I drive home. Greg asks me on a date to a new café not far from our neighborhood, so I head up some leftovers (going to a tea shop hungry is a bad idea for me) and jump back in the car with him. By 12:30 we’re sitting in a lovely garden for the next hour and talk about life: how things are going, strategies for future ministries, opportunities and people in which we want to invest, how to keep in touch with friends and family back home. It’s a fun hour, the strong local tea and fresh scone are fun. We stop at a local bakery on the way home, and we pick up some fresh lettuce, homemade croutons, a vanilla scone, banana chips along with a loaf of fresh cranberry sourdough bread. We also pick up a basket to carry it all home in – that will help us keep the office more organized in the future.

2:30 Back home, I check messages – there’s a patient with a question via e-mail and a friend in the refugee camp trying to help a young girl with dizziness. It’s amazing what conditions can be assisted over a distance these days. Another patient needs a new prescription, that will have to wait until tomorrow. I take a brief break, sitting on the back porch reading a comic book, watching the wind in the trees, reading about tea. Then it’s back to work. This time I’m working on a project to help teach specialized doctors about maternal health and improve outcomes in San Bernardino. We just got this grant and so for now my work is very preliminary – how we will track outcomes, how we will follow up on recruits, how to get access to the systems I will need. That work carries me through to the evening.

5:15 - I start a pot of veggie soup and go for a run. I love running with my dogs. I don’t quite have time for a shower or an ab workout before jumping straight onto my video call with faculty from the American College of Lifestyle Medicine at 6:00. It’s a great meeting, we’re moving forward on modules to help doctors learn about lifestyle. It’s work I enjoy and I might even be able to become board-certified in Lifestyle Medicine by the end of these projects. I have a checklist of things I want to work on next for this project, but I put the list on the side of the desk and decide to take a break for the day. I try hard not to work more than 8 hours each day, and I’m on 8.5 at this point.

7:30 - I join Greg for soup and rolls for a late dinner. We rest on the couch and watch some shows, surrounded by our dogs. We chat with his mom and I e-mail a friend. I go to bed just after 10, which is pretty good for me. This was truly a fantastic day- filled with health, balance, and plans for the future. Possibly one of the best Mondays ever, and all the better because it’s a rhythm that I should be able to maintain for quite a long time.

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