Monday, April 9, 2012

Reflections on my service at the SAY Family Clinic of Detroit

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a nurse so that I could help people. Not only did I want to help people who were physically sick, but I also wanted to be a help to them in a Spiritual way. I wanted to be able to show others the Love of Christ and I thought that there would be no better way to do this than to follow my dream and become a nurse. The summer after I graduated from high school, I had the opportunity to go to Kenya, Africa and work on a mission compound that had a Bible school and a hospital. At the time I had just gotten a rejection from a nursing school where I had applied and I started to have doubts as to whether nursing was the direction I was really supposed to go. Maybe God had other plans for my life, but if so, what were they? The summer I spent working at the mission hospital cemented in my mind and confirmed that this WAS what I was supposed to do with my life. I obviously got into nursing school with my next application and I had all sorts of dreams of doing volunteer work as a nurse and possibly even going into medical missions...then life happened!

I say all that as an introduction to my Service Learning because it seems I have always had a desire to serve others, but sometimes life gets in the way of good intentions. As my career got started and I got married, always in the back of my mind I would think of volunteering or going on missions trips, but it just never seemed like the oportune time. Several years ago our church had the opportunity to help open a Crisis Pregnancy Center. Again I felt a nudging, thinking this would be an ideal place for me to volunteer. After all, I was a Labor and Delivery nurse! By this time, however, I had my own family and was busy working and taking the kids to various activities. That's not to say that I didn't still desire to show the love of Christ to others and feel that I did that often in my work as a nurse. Even in the area of Labor and Delivery where it is often seen as a "happy" place to work, there are many times of sadness and it was at those times, especially, that I would try to show Christ's love to patients and their families. But I continued to have a nudging in the back of my mind that I needed to do more...enter Regis University and their requirement that we do Service Learning.

During this Practicum I had the privelege of doing my Service Learning at the SAY Family Clinic of Detroit. I had heard of the SAY clinic when it first opened a few years ago because it became affiliated with our hospital. They were looking for volunteers to work in the clinic and a few of us at work actually talked about possibly volunteering there. But it seemed like I needed more than a nudge (I had been nudged several times over the years, remember?). No, I needed a shove! Anyway, let me tell you a little about the SAY clinic. The SAY Family Clinic was started by Mitch Albom a few years ago after Detroit hosted the Super Bowl. He found out that the city had provided housing etc to the homeless to get them off the streets during the Super Bowl. His thought was if we could do that for a few days, why couldn't we do that all year long and provide care to our neediest population, homeless  women and children? SAY stands for Super All Year. Thus the SAY Clinic was born. It is a totally free clinic for women and children who are uninsured. It serves mostly women now as children are insured under MI Child in Michigan now. All of the women are uninsured and many of them are homeless and come from neighboring homeless shelters. I have heard story after story of these women having lost their jobs and thus their health insurance coverage. Michigan has been hit especially hard economically with lost jobs from the auto industry. Most of these women never expected to be in this situation and so many maybe seem gruff having to accept this type of charity. Others are so very grateful. The last time I volunteered there, one woman was so grateful that she gave us a donation of $20.00. That may seem like a small amount to us, but for her, I am sure it was a sacrifice. Most of the time that I spend there I spend taking histories, vital signs, drawing blood and assisting the volunteer physicians and NP's. Jobs that may seem trivial, but always I try to do them with a smile and I love to converse with the women and hear their stories. Sometimes you can hear the despair, but often, despite their circumstances there is still joy.

Jesus told the Pharasees (and us!) that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and the second was to love your neighbor as your self. He then asked who our neighbor was. They aren't just the people who live on either side of you nor are they always the lovable. This clinic is over an hour where I live, but for me, they are my neighbor and I am trying to be the "skin" of Jesus, if you will, to these needy people. This experience has changed me not only as a nurse, but as a leader and a Christian. I have been able to live Jesus' commandment to love my neighbor as myself and I plan to continue to serve in this capacity.