The Beginning of my journey
I forgot how much I hated hospitals, how much they remind me of past emergency room visits to see my twin sister who has had no choice but to make the hospital her home away from home. I have always avoided hospitals because I cannot stand seeing roomfuls of sick and vulnerable people at the mercy of someone else’s helping hands. I asked myself on my walk from the hospital today why I had neglected to remember my utter detestation of hospitals before pursuing my project.
I had to hold back tears several times, as I observed worried teenage mothers. I was helpless. There was no way that I could go back into time and change things so that they would not be where they are today—children having babies destined to a life of poverty and disadvantage. One girl could not even answer the questions the nurses asked her about her medical history. Her mother had abandoned her—she was living with neighbors, and the father of her baby is in jail. She pretended that it did not hurt her to explain all of this, but just as she pretended, I did too—I fought to keep tears from running down my face.
Doctor Consuelo, my supervisor, took me on a tour of the hospital that I was not expecting, that I was not prepared for. We walked to the lab where technicians tested the patients’ blood for HIV. The conditions were dismal, the machinery archaic. Then, she took me to a room where the smell of bleach dominated the air. A framed picture of la Virgen Maria on the wall stared at the room’s inhabitants—teenage mothers who had just given birth. The television enclosed in a gated box whispered in the background while the new mothers sat idly on their beds, passing time by staring into space.
After getting closer to the girls’ beds, I realized that their babies were with them. When the mothers were not staring into space, they snuck quick glances at the babies they do not know how to care for yet. “Dena, ven acá, mira,” Doctor Consuelo shouted. I approached to find a girl who had given birth to twins. She was only sixteen. One baby would have been enough.
I returned to the waiting room, the same room that fills up each day with teenage mothers. There was a girl who was crying. Her mother wiped her tears, as she stood over her. Although I did not know why this girl was crying, I felt for her and for her mother anyway. I held back my tears again.
My day was almost over, only to begin another day full of learning and of emotions. As I walked out, ready to begin contemplating about my day, Doctor Consuelo, who had exited the room with me, was called back in. I waited for her outside, trying to take it all in. She returned to tell me that a seventeen year old mother, 37 weeks pregnant, tested positive for HIV. She is only one of many. I proceeded on my way out the hospital into the Dominican heat, thinking that this is going to be an experience.