It's funny how our perceptions of a situation or a group of people can be changed in a matter of hours.
Yesterday I was assigned to take care of an Afghan patient who I could barely stand to touch when assisting with a turn a few days ago. I looked at him, with his thick scraggly beard and dark skin, and only felt disgust. I knew he wasn't a part of the Taliban but I still had strong reservations. I had a difficult time seeing them as people. Of course, the fact that he was intubated, sedated, and missing both legs with several inches of femur on one side sticking out of his new stump didn't help. It can be hard to see past that and look at the patient as a person sometimes.
I was taking report from the outgoing shift when I learned that he wasn't just a local. He was part of the Afghan National Police, and had set off an IED while on patrol searching for Taliban. So maybe he's not so bad after all. Maybe he's just trying to make this country a better place for his family, just like our ancestors did years ago in this country for us. And unlike us, he hasn't had the same access to a life of privilege, education, and opportunity.
Today when I came to work he had been extubated and off of his sedation, so it was even easier to interact with him. He didn't speak any English, and I certainly don't speak Pashtu, but we were able to communicate nonetheless. The look of gratitude in his dark eyes was unmistakable in any language. I fed him a banana and some French toast, and when he got transferred to the med-surg floor, I told him it was an honor and a pleasure to care for him. I don't know if he understood the words, but I'd like to think that he understood the meaning.
Working in this hospital is going to be a challenge. It's advanced yet primitive at the same time. For example, flies should never be buzzing around in the ICU, yet we have a staff of some of the most qualified surgeons in the nation here. The British may speak English, yet they have many different words for things and it can get confusing. Today one of the nurses needed to hang some fluids and asked me for a Gemini. I came back with the Gemini infusion pump. All she needed was the tubing. Oh well, at least we weren't in a code. A lot of the medications we use are the same but have slightly different names as well and not all of their equipment functions like ours.
I know the day will come when I have to take care of a detainee. I'm not sure how I will feel about that, I guess just take it as it comes. I'm thankful, however, that my first experience with an Afghan patient was with this one. It helped break down some of the unfair and ignorant biases that I had and see them as people.
Part 4 of a 13 part miniseries following the personal memoirs of a deployed soldier