Life Changing Moments in Pediatric Care


A story by Jessica Dinh, Nurse, who shares her story while volunteering in Jamaica.

According to google the definition of life changing is…

"having an effect that is strong enough to change someone’s life: a life-changing decision/moment. Having a powerful effect."

It’s feels like such an understatement and a cliche to say these past 10 days have been life changing. But it is the literal truth. Anhtuan and I were blessed to join the Issa Trust Foundation for it’s 2017 Pediatric Medical Mission Trip in Jamaica. Thanks to Diane Pollard and Kerri Cook for making this possible.

I wish I could articulate the hundred of moments that i got to be apart of. The group of 42 people that were there we’re such amazing, compassionate individuals and I can’t imagine doing this with anyone else. As I decompress and fully look back at everything we did I know more things will come to me. For now I wanted to share one moment in particular.


Our 2nd clinic location we had a 18 year old girl come in. It was obvious that she was extremely ill and the amazing assessment skills of Laci Swanson and Elizabeth Mitchell Foden recognized this immediately and got her seen very quickly. She was in the end stages of a terminal illness. She only weighed about 75lbs and could barely eat or drink anything because it hurt too bad. To add to everything else she also had pneumonia. 


We were able to give her antibiotics and a fluid bolus to help with her extreme dehydration……. and then she was on her way home. I had an extremely hard time this day. I was blessed to get to help comfort her during her IV start and throughout her treatment. Those who know me as a nurse know that I do not shy away from these type of situations. I tend to gravitate towards difficult and hard patients and try to make their experience better in some way. This was no exception, but the feeling I had after was something I’ve never experienced in my professional career. It was a toxic combination of sadness, failure, hopelessness, sorrow and guilt.


I watched her leave knowing she would likely die within a few weeks if not sooner. That her death would be painful and horrible. That the severe lack of access to medical care ensured the world would be deprived of the amazing things this girl has to offer. I am not saying in america that we could have changed the end. Maybe so, or at least prolonged it. Enough to let her actually live a full life. Or to simply be comfortable.


After a few minutes of feeling sorry for myself I came to a surprising realization. After her fluid bolus she did look "better". We were able to give her a sandwich and fresh fruit (although she wasn’t able to eat much). The antibiotics should begin working and hopefully decrease the amount of pain she is in. I do know she left better than when she came in. And although medically we could not save her. I do pray that she left feeling that people cared about her. That she was important and loved. That she mattered. I sent my small fan I brought with me that hangs around my neck with her. It was a cheap $4 Wal-Mart purchase. But I hope that if all I could give her was a little more comfortable death and the feeling of love, compassion, kindness and respect…..I’m not sure we can ask for much more than that…


“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” – Mother Teresa

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