Mercer On Mission

2016 Blog

This blog is made and updated by Mercer undergrads. Throughout our time in Honduras, students from the various disciplines will write about their experiences serving. 

How can you feel hopelessness with an accomplsihment?

I have been in Honduras for almost a week now and today was clinic day #4! Before coming to Honduras, I thought the most challenging clinic day would be day #1, but I was sadly mistaken. Today was by far the most challenging day for me. It wasn't the request by the plant workers to cure them of their health problems or the fact that the plant workers didn't wear protective gear while working in contaminated air, it was one plant worker's response to my question with a statement that I didn't know how to respond to. 

One male plant worker stated to me that he knew smoking cigarettes was bad for him but he continued to smoke because he was going to die from something one day, so why should he quit smoking. The surprising part was that he was in his 70s and he did not have hypertension. Usually, I would relate the cause of high blood pressure to smoking, but I couldn't do that in this case. His lifestyle didn't match his clinical presentation, and I was dumbfounded as to how to educate this man in way that would make a difference in his life. I knew that statement he made was right in some respects, but I also knew after hearing the statement he made that it was extremely important for me to educate him on the effects of smoking cigarettes, even if he didn't have hypertension. All I could think to tell him is that it was important for him to live a life of optimal health, but I didn't know what reason to give him since he already knew smoking was bad. I had to sit there for a minute and watch Lauren W., the medical school student, assess him and ask him further questions about his clinical problems. During this time I thought about ways to get my message across to him. Then a lightbulb went off and it hit me! I asked him why he felt the need to smoke when he already knows it is bad for his health. This is when the plant worker revealed that he was stressed about his home life. He lived with his wife and mother-in-law. His only child, a daughter, was married and caring for her own family. His wife had fibromyalgia and his mother-in-law was dying from Alzheimer's. He stated he is always anxious about getting a phone call letting him know his mother-in-law passed away because he knows how devastated his wife will be. Smoking was his outlet!
Although I wanted him to just stop smoking 8 cigarettes a day, I knew I needed to help him make a success plan to quit smoking. I knew I just needed to meet him half way! He previously mentioned that he tried to quit smoking before, but he was unsuccessful. So, I asked him if he thought he could just smoke 5 cigarettes a day. He said yes! I was so thrilled that he actually agreed to the "compromise" that I started clapping. After I regained my composure, I told him that he should decrease over time the number of cigarettes he smokes a day. This would help him successfully quit smoking instead of him trying to do it cold turkey. He said that sounded way better and he thought he could do it. I also took the time to relate cigarette smoking to his life expectancy. I told him he needs to stop smoking so he can be around to help his wife because she is going to really need him. 
This plant worker was bringing the stress from his home life to work with him everyday. His situation reminded me of the video we watched in Macon about the different internal issues all people deal with on a daily basis. I also felt this man would be a good candidate to speak to one of the MFTs, but unfortunately they are still at the ranch. I told him that I was going to pray for him and his family. He thanked me and Lauren and as he walked away, I felt a sense of accomplishment and hopelessness. I felt accomplish that I was able to help him create a plan to quit smoking, but I felt hopeless that I could not help relieve the stressed caused by his family dynamics. 

Christina, Nursing Student

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