It was midnight. I had been at my patient’s bedside for five hours, doing everything I could to bring up her oxygen, to give her comfort, to comfort her mother, to hope for another miracle after eight months of miracles.
Holding the breathing tube open between my forefingers, I rested my head on the bed for a minute.
The Maasai mom in the next bed looked at me quizzically and kindly. She speaks neither English nor Swahili, so our communication was limited, but I could imagine what she was thinking:
Why? Why is this American in this room right now, at midnight?
Why is she at the bedside talking to that tiny baby, arranging her blankets, obsessively checking her oxygen and heart rate?
I was asking myself the same questions, actually.
There was nowhere else I would possibly be at that moment, but still, I felt myself asking why.
I discussed a patient in casualty and one in the NICU with our clinical officer while I continued to hold the baby’s trach in place, waiting for the surgeons to come to secure it.
Everything seemed surreal at that moment, perhaps because of my exhaustion.
Why was I the one here, now, at this moment, in Kijabe at this bedside?
No specific answer came—except that this is the place God has me for this moment.
I was watching Wonder Woman a few nights with my daughters.
Steve Trevor, the pilot in the movie, is asked why he is fighting—why he continues to try to stop the inevitable war.
He says, “I don’t know, but I guess I’ve got to try. My father told me once, ‘When you see something wrong happening in the world, you can either do nothing, or you can do something,’ and I tried doing nothing…”
Sometimes in medicine, I feel like my training and experience have taught me what to do. But some days, situations are new and unpredictable.
I have to trust that because I am the person in that place at that time, I have to do something—to try. I think that’s what is asked of me: To do something, not nothing.
So, I found myself quoting Wonder Woman when talking to a friend about why we do what we do—a reason to stay up night after night, to see patient after patient, to train, to share, to pour out when I am at my end.
“For I know that only love can truly save the world. So I stay, I fight, and I give, for the world I know can be.”