As I finish off my blog, I began to question my intentions for volunteering. Did I simply volunteer at the Hayat Clinic to fulfill a college requirement? Did I do it for for the betterment of the community it serves? Or was it to for the sake of religion or God? Did I choose to come to the clinic week after week to actually help people? The truth is, I still cannot answer this question. I am not sure. What I do know is that volunteering there has reminded me to think beyond our personal issues. It reminded me to become aware of other people and their hardships. I use the word reminded because as a pre-med student I have volunteered at a variety of healthcare facilities before the Hayat Clinic. I have seen people from disenfranchised backgrounds quarrel with the issues our healthcare system. This helped me realized early in my undergraduate career that I need to look beyond myself and my problems. Similarly, my time at the Hayat Clinic has reminded me of that same feeling. It reminds me of a verse from the Quran, “Do, however, keep reminding them; for reminding benefits those endowed with faith.” (51:55). I believe that this verse can also be applied to reminding ourselves to look beyond our “first world problems”. Often times we get consumed with our own issues and forget about others who are in need. The Hayat Clinic helped me remember these people. Looking at how I began this semester, my last semester in my undergraduate career, I have been reminded a lot. All I wanted to do before this semester began was hurry up and finish school. I wanted to relax and enjoy my time as a senior. Volunteering at the Hayat Clinic really made me look beyond my self-indulgence. It reminded me of the people out there who need help and cannot afford healthcare. It reminded me of how difficult their lives are. That reminder is one of the key things I will cherish from my experience at the Hayat Clinic. It helps bring me down to earth and allows me to look beyond myself. As I finish up my last few hours at the clinic, I cannot help but feel transformed.
Last Wednesday at the Hayat Clinic was a very slow day. Almost no patients came in. Throughout my at the clinic I kept wondering why only few patients decided to come. Those that did come were obviously in need of medication for a cold or fever, but no patient came in for a check-up. Usually the numbers of patients are at least three times more. I decided not to ask Jay why today was so slow. I continued on with my work. He continued on with his. Eventually, due to the immense amount of free time I had to say something. So I decided to ask Jay why almost no one came in today. He simply said, “Today is Dr. F’s first day working at the clinic.” Seeing that the Hayat Clinic always has a random set of doctors scheduled to come in, I did not realize it was Dr. F’s first time at the clinic. I assumed he just came in on the days I was not able to come volunteer. I still did not see the connection though. What did Dr. F being new to the clinic have to do with the number of patients? So I asked Jay again. He explained, “A lot of the patients only go to doctors if they have good things about them. So if a new doctor comes in like Dr. F, many patients won’t come.” I realized then that the relationship a doctor builds with their patients is extremely important. Having volunteered at a different clinic before, I understood this. Usually though every patient would see their doctor. In the case of Hayat Clinic, there is no such thing as a regular doctor. Often time’s doctors switch back and forth. This causes patients to time their meetings with the doctors they feel comfortable with. This might seem like an issue, but it is. A patient can purposely delay going to the clinic just because they prefer one doctor over the other. This can increase health problems further, making it more difficult to give treatment to patients. At the same time, I realize that the Hayat Clinic is trying to do its part. I simply wish to point put areas in which the clinic can improve.
Yesterday at the Hayat Clinic seemed like a pretty normal day. Patients rolled in at about 5PM as I began to sign them in. I was in a particularly cheerful mood for some reason. Maybe it was simply because I could finally enjoy the weather after a tough weekend at work. Either way, I was just happy. This did not last for a very long time. As time passed, the patients kept piling and the doctor still was not here. I believe there were around ten patients in the waiting room by the time the doctor came in. There was a small accident down Devon Ave. and like always, the traffic was terrible. I felt relieved that he at least came. After telling patient after patient that the doctor is on his way, I was beginning to doubt whether he’d come at all. As the doctor began going through the first set of patients, an old man came in. He was from Hyderabad India. I could tell by the dialect of Urdu he spoke. He approached the front desk. I handed him the paperwork but he just gave it back. He began speaking in Urdu and started to make small talk with me and Jay (other volunteer). Jay listened carefully. I on the other hand simply nodded and smiled at the old man, pretending like I understood what he was saying. In all honesty I was just trying to be polite. I had no clue what he was talking about. After hearing a few phrases of Urdu that I understood, I realized the old man was talking about his life in India and how he performed pilgrimage to Mecca. I smiled and continued to nod my head. The old man concluded his story was what seemed to have been a sad request. Being the perfect Urdu speaker I am, I continued to smile, not having a clue what was going on. The old man then grew silent. He looked into my eyes and said nothing. He then looked at Jay. Jay reached for his wallet and handed him some cash. The old man said thank you and decided to leave. At this point I was still confused. I had no idea what had happened. I ask Jay why he gave him money. Jay laughed and said, “Because the poor guy has no money”. Jay then explained to me that the old man was saying he lost his job. He had a brilliant life as a child in India. He even got to perform pilgrimage in Mecca. Now he has nothing. He cannot even afford “Roti” or bread. This whole time the old guy was asking us if we could help him out with some cash and all I was doing smiling and nodding, like a complete idiot. This really upset me. It still does. I had no clue what he was going through. When he tried to explain I could barely understand what he was saying. I’m not sure if I’ll ever see him again, but all I can do now is wish the best for him.
My previous day of volunteering was a very unusual and tiring day. I am not even sure what to write about at the moment, but luckily the words keep coming. One thing that I learned in my previous visit to the Hayat Clinic is the importance of organization. The place, other than their patient files, is highly disorganized. This is what prompted me to come up with the not so brilliant idea of helping them with their organization. My job that day changed from managing patients to managing the world messiest pharmacy/storage/tool-shed/EKG testing room. It was entirely exhausting, yet I knew they needed someone to help maintain order. The Hayat Clinic needs an area for EKG testing. Therefore, it was quite important to get it done. Below you can see a picture of the end product of my day. As you can see I have another few days till it’s a working EKG room.
As I fixed up the room as much as I could, I realized patients needed to be managed as many began to pile in twenty minutes before we closed. I stopped my work and began helping Jay. As things began to settle down Br. Rajab and I decided to make small talk. I asked him if the Hayat Clinic receives any government funding. He replied with confidence, “No.” He said that in order to receive funding they must follow certain regulations. Therefore, the Hayat Clinic is entirely run on donations. Br. Rajab explained it like this, “Either we can use the money to try to meet those standards for funding or use the money to continue helping those who require healthcare.” Whether he realized it or not, Br. Rajab was debating the “fitting-ness” of the paradigms of service. I realize now that the current system set up at the Hayat Clinic is more concentrated on charity. Even though they consider themselves to be an organization, their goal is to help meet the immediate needs of their patients. In the end, I believe that with a little work and organization the Hayat Clinic can have the potential to help a lot more people.
Due to a family issue I was not able to volunteer all of last week. There was a lot going on at home and I felt so stressed. I was literally in my own little bubble and could not see the world passed my own problems. It was only after I visited the Hayat Clinic did I realize how selfish I was acting. At 5PM it was as if reality hit me. It was by far the busiest days I have ever been at the clinic. Maybe it was the sudden change in weather over the weekend or maybe it was the flu was going around. Either way, everyone that came in had sore throats, nasal congestion, and other flu-like symptoms. Everyone was so sick. I remember one man came up to us and asked us if he could be seen by the doctor earlier. His eyes were sunken in. His clothes were tattered. He was slightly shivering in the clinic. Seeing that we have no heat in the Hayat Clinic this might sound normal. Regardless, the man looked desperate. We told him we could not. That he would have to wait his turn. This upset him, but what could he do. He just sat down and had to wait. As time passed, I approached the man and asked him why he was in such a hurry. He told me it was simply because he wanted to get the medicine already. He told me of how he had to miss work over the weekend just because he got sick. He started clarifying how he couldn’t miss another day, or he will be fired. He explained that he just wanted to get better so he could get back to work already. He did not want to be late on his rent. This poor man had it so bad that if he missed a couple of days of work he might not be able to make rent. He was literally living “hand to mouth.” This small talk made me realize that my problems aren’t really problems at all. I have been blessed with so much. And many times I take it for granted. As we parted ways, the man was seen by the doctor. He was given his medicine and left with the determination to get better. He left with the determination to not miss work again.
At 4:50PM I rushed down the traffic-jammed street of Devon Ave. It was my first official day (after training). I was finally going to meet the main Doctor in charge of the Hayat Clinic, Dr. Rajab. I had to make a good impression. I was not going to be late. As the clock ticked down to 5PM, I knew I had a small chance of coming on time. At approximately 5:05 I parked my car and began sprinting to the clinic. I ran inside, all frantic and nervous, only to find a big sign in front of the main door: “CLOSED.” I sighed with relief, assuming that the Doctor must also be running late. So I waited with two patients outside the doors. As time went by, someone finally came to open up the clinic doors. It was Jay. Jay was also a volunteer at the clinic. I went inside as I escorted the two elderly men in the waiting area, and right away began preparing their files. Jay told me to stop. He remorsefully said, “The Doctor cannot come today. His father is ill.” The two elderly men became upset. One yelled, “I’ve been waiting for over an hour!” Jay apologized. I apologized. We did not know what to do. Jay decided to make an appointment for the two men who waited outside for so long. Hayat Clinic is a walk-in clinic only. It does not make appointments. They might not have realized by Jay was doing them a favor. As the two geared up to leave, an elderly woman entered in. She seemed terribly saddened. When she approached the desk, she told me her she injured her writs. She seemed so frail. She did not speak English. She spoke to me in Urdu. Since I don’t know it that well it was difficult to understand her. All I could tell was her wrist hurt and she fell on it. There was a chance she fractured it. Jay recommended she go to Cook County, seeing that there is no doctor here. Before he even finished his sentence she interjected, asking, “Will it cost anything?” That is all she cared about. She would not be at this clinic if she could afford it. We decided to give her over counter pain killers to help her through the night. We could not do anything else. We did not know what to do. I suggested that if she simply sprained it, to go to a pharmacy and buy analgesic heat rub like Bengay. Again she asked how much it would cost. I could tell then and there she had no intention of going to pharmacy or the hospital. Her eyes seemed filled with sorrow. She knew she could not afford it. This experience really hit me hard internally. Sometimes I feel we do not realize how lucky we are. Many of us waste so many resources. Whether it is money, food, medicine, or water we tend to take it for granted. This poor old woman could not afford a $5 tube of Bengay to soothe her sprained, if not broken, wrist. All I can hope for is that she gets well soon and that her wrist has a minor sprain. Even though my day ended up being different from what I expected, I still learned a lot today.
The Hayat Clinic. Just a few days ago I started my first few hours of volunteering at the Hayat Clinic. First impressions: very small, cold, and understaffed. As I walked through the hallway passing the basement masjid, I met Brother Abdullah. He showed me the inside of the clinic. To my surprise I saw a larger, warmer, and well equipped clinic. But still, it was understaffed. I did not realize how much they really needed volunteers. Brother Abdullah acquainted me with Dr. Fareed, a tall dark bearded man who cannot help but smile. Dr. Fareed was just finishing up with a patient, asking him about his anxiety. I was asked to bring the patient Librium. The patient’s anxiety appeared to be so bad that he seemed dissatisfied with the amount I gave him. After he left, Dr. Fareed told me the difficulty of maintaining the clinic. He explained that the majority of the medicine given to patients is from samples or bought from donated money. This really showed me the importance of helping out in organizations like this. Many uninsured and impoverished people around the area rely on places like the Hayat Clinic. It brings life to those who need it most. That is what I believe the purpose of this clinic is supposed to be. Even the name comes from the Arabic word “Hayat” which means life.