My intern on nights with me this past week was a south spoken Syrian. He spent two years working to get a visa to come and study pediatrics here. He wants to be a pediatric cardiologist. He will be one of the only in the entire nation and even surrounding nations when he goes home.
He left Syria in the mist of a near civil war where every day there are reports of people dying. The Arab Spring of 2011 has not ended well in his homeland.
But for now, he is here with me taking care of ward of children who have succumbed to the various demons of winter.
Late one night, we admitted a Somali toddlerl for observation after drinking some cleaner. When the ED called to tell us about her, both of us got excited. Me because I took care of Somali refugees in Kenya and him because many Somali folks speak Arabic.
After we had her settled in, we found ourselves walking for midnight shack in the cafeteria. We talk about the famine in Somalia that no one is talking about, the children who are dying. How our pediatrician hearts break for the children who are caught in the crossfire of country at war with self and a divided world who cant seem to understand each other. The West has turned their back on Somalia because they harbor terrorists. But the terrorists who have friends in high places elsewhere are not dying, its the women and children.
Our conversation turns to the ground that divides us. How hard it was for him to get a visa because he is from the other half. How many of my countrymen suspect something of this quiet soft spoken pediatrician because of his passport and his religion. They haven’t heard his heart for children who are dying of repairable heart defects or watched him play trains with a terrified 3 yo to soothe him. And how his countrymen suspect something of me as an American, as a Christian, as a Navy brat, as a global health doctor surely, surely she is an imperialist. Surely she wants the whole world to be like America. Surely she must be like that man in FL who burned the Koran (which apparently is a popular viral you tube like video in the Middle East). They don’t know that I took an Islam class, read the Koran and that my best friend from medical school is a Muslim. They don’t know that in the end I love the diversity of the world and dress like a Kenyan, cover my head in Eastern Europe and am mildly horrified at how viral McDonalds is much less the rest of my culture.
And our conversation stops for a quiet reflective moment.
In the end, we conclude. It all comes down to pediatrics.
No really it does.
We want a better world for our children. A safer world. A more peaceful world. A world where our children are not hungry, are not sick, go to school and grow up free.
We smile. We eat our snacks and rush back to the havoc of the wards in the winter.
If only we could put aside our fear, our pride, put down our guns and realize for a moment just how simple it really is.
It renewed my desire to be a global pediatrician, to be part of the solution.