Sunday, May 20, 2012

Pay It Forward

I believe that our lives are made up of many experiences, unique to each of us, that define and make up who we are. Some are big and some are small, but all have the ability to change us and make us better people. As most people reading this already know, just one day shy of today, one year ago, I was involved in a pretty scary car accident resulting in our car spinning and eventually rolling over and eventually landing in a ditch out in the middle of one of Utah's canyons. Despite the statistics of the other car accidents along that same stretch of road that same evening (a deer migration of some sort seemed to be the universal cause), our lives were spared and we left that night mostly uninjured. I have often reflected upon this large experience with extreme gratitude that things turned out okay. I find myself replaying the events of that night that I remember and the ones that have been told to me. I am so grateful for all the helping hands that were there that Spring evening. I was later told that the first people to stop and help us after our car came to a jolting stop was an off duty police officer and off duty EMT. I never quite understood how I was so lucky to receive this small but important help. To this day, I still do not know who those men (or women) were, nor the paramedics, firemen, or hospital staff that were a part of my life that evening. I do not even know what their faces look like. But what mattered most at that time was the compassion and comfort I received from each of them. It is a memory I will never forget. What I do know is that I have hoped in some way I would be able to pay these individuals, and in a sense hero's, back one day. This has proved difficult in regards to those first arriving upon the scene. Now a year later, I have finally figured it out.

Our walk to the hospital each clinical morning is about a ten minute walk. We pass our staple, the 7-11, weave around the stopped mopeds awaiting their green traffic light, then make our way across a four lane bridge. We stand as speck as we cross that bridge with all the cars, mopeds, and frequent ambulances that are continually on it. The solid concrete bridge drops you off about two blocks shy of Chi Mei hospital. As you walk down the steps of the bridge, it is important to watch where you are going because it is apparent that the other vehicles do not (a common occurrence in Taiwan). For three weeks now I have tried to learn by observation the rules of the road, but have only come to the conclusion that there are none! This is exatly how it is under the close quarters of the bridge.

This past Wednesday, my clinical partner, Haley, and I had set off for the hospital, after making my routine pit stop at the "sev" (aka 7-11). It wasn't long before we were up and over the bridge. We were about two steps shy from reaching the bottom when all of a sudden two mopeds had a head on collision, both going close to full speed. The one driver, who was wearing a helmet fell from his bike, landing on the ground shattering his glasses. His pain was apparent and he had the cuts and scrapes to prove it. The other guy was not quite as lucky. This young man was not wearing a helmet and flew off his bike, smacking his face and head against the cement stairs, and ricocheting off. He landed on the ground and was knocked out cold. Before we even realized what had happened only ten feet from us in a matter of seconds, but felt as if it had been minutes, Haley and I were at those two boys sides. We did exactly what we have always been taught to do and we had the adrenaline to do it. The language barrier made for a difficult situation, especially as the young man who I was now holding C-spine (spinal immobilization for those of you who I have already lost) on, began to wake up from his loss of consciousness and became slightly combative because he was so confused. Fortunately, there were some people nearby to help translate. The whole ordeal took a while, but eventually everything turned out okay. More of my classmates showed up a few minutes after we did, as they were still crossing the bridge at the time of accident. And so it was, about eight BYU nursing students and two Taiwanese EMT's helped these two boys get to the hospital. We found out later that day that both boys were going to be okay. The young man who was without a helmet sustained facial fractures, a closed head injury, and what I consider to be very lucky.

The whole situation seemed very surreal and Haley and I thought a lot about it. It is amazing to me how we are often placed at the right time in the right situation. I was grateful I was able to help that day. In the end, as I reflected on this experience and the one that I experienced a year ago, I learned that it was not necessarily about going back and finding those people who helped me in my time of need just to thank them; to me, it was more about paying it forward to someone else. I was able to provide the same comfort and care to a complete stranger who was probably just as scared as I was after my crash. To me, this concept of paying it forward was more real than it had ever been before. And the best part about it is, is that you walk away from it with nothing in return because that's not what matters. What matters most is what you do to help and what you will do for people in the future.

I want you all to look at this young man's right hand and what my friend is doing. If this doesn't sum up what nursing is all about, then I don't know what does. Often times this simple gesture means more to a patient than anything else, at least that was how I felt when I was lying in this young man's position. The medical part of nursing is just one aspect, while another is the non-judgmental compassion, which is equally as important.

I leave you all with one of my favorite quotes (I have many)- "What greater wisdom can you find than kindness." I absolutely love nursing and the kindness that is behind all that we do.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Grass Gave a Standing Ovation

Being the over-packer that I am, I was amazed to find I could fit everything in here.
We set out for the weekend this past Thursday with only our backpacks in tow. I felt like a real traveler by this point. After a high speed rail, a train, and I'm not sure how many buses later, we arrived in Taipei! The weather was overcast with a light rain. With the intense humidity down in Tainan, the weather up north turned out to be perfect. First stop was the National Palace Museum.

This was a particularly neat museum to visit! We were packed in like sardines with lots of Chinese people, but it only added to the experience. Apparently the museum has a great deal of artifacts that only 1% is on display at a time. This is pretty remarkable considering we spent a couple hours in it delving into all three levels of it. After the museum our travels led us a shrine where the changing of the guard occurs every hour. Our instructor used to be in the Navy so I think he really enjoyed being there. The shrine and the idea of it is similar to Arlington in the U.S.

The two lines you see leading up to the shrine are created from the polish of the shoes as the changing of the guard occurs. It was not placed there before to ensure they walked in a straight line, which was what I thought it was prior to learning this.

Apparently I have a small obsession with trees whenever my camera is in hand as you will come to see later on in this post. So just ignore that fact and look at how amazing this tree really is!
Loved the door
After spending a short time there we walked, and walked, and walked. Taipei receives SO much rain every year, making for picturesque walk throughout the city. Of course we were trying to find the train station (because all we ever do these days is ride on trains), but I didn't mind when I got to look at all this.

The palm trees were intermixed among larger trees
(The red growth that happens to be hanging in front of me in EVERY picture is actually my purse, just in case you wanted to know what was hogging the center of attention in every picture featuring me. I'm working on posing better.) I don't know about you, but I have never seen a wall so green and mossy before. It stretched down the entire street like this.
Yeah I know, another tree. 500 more to go.
I literally felt like I was in the middle of a jungle at times. The lush environment, with low hanging clouds along the mountains made me feel like King Kong was going to come barreling down the hillside at any moment. The various shades of green enveloped you and you couldn't help but think the grass gave a standing ovation with every rain drop. With every step of our picturesque voyage, things kept getting better and better. Next stop on the map: Chelsea's very first hostel. I was ecstatic to finally get to experience this and let me tell you, it was one of a kind. We finally arrived to our destination...
 What happened next was truly amazing. Have you ever seen so much leopard in your life?? Everything, I repeat, EVERYTHING was covered in leopard. Even the outline of the TV in the living room was leopard print.  
My bed- pay close attention to all the detail... we even have leopard print on the walls
My bed again

This is what we looked like when we would crawl into our beds.
Many of the girls seemed overwhelmed by the copious amounts of leopard that we were confined to, but I personally thoroughly enjoyed it. We had a 10 bunk bed room that was three stories high.... all leopard. I thought it was so much fun sleeping all together like that. The beds were all stacked in weird ways with some of the beds tucked away in random corners. I felt like girls were popping out of no where in that room because it housed so many of us. We all looked forward to coming home and sleeping in our leopard thrones, complete with rock hard mattresses. Needless to say, I still slept like baby. In the end, I decided I wouldn't mind having a small room in my future home dedicated to being leopard-i-fied.

Our second, and last, day in Taipei we woke up early and headed out to visit the famous Taipei 101. This building used to be the tallest one in the world, until the building in Dubai (not sure of the name of it off hand) was built and surpassed it. The elevator ride to the highest viewing point, the 89th floor, took about 40 seconds to complete. On the way up and the way back down, you had to continuously pop your ears whilst staring up at the glistening stars on the roof of the elevator in place for dramatic effect. It blew my mind to see an elevator travel so quickly and smoothly.

From the bottom

This is the the inside side of the elevator. It shows your speed and how many floors you have traveled.
The humidity is really taking a toll :)

From the top
The greenery still astounds me. It is so beautiful!
On the 88th floor, you can see the wind damper in the building. Taipei 101 is one of few buildings that has this central damper. Pretty unique! I will let the pictures do the talking.
The wind damper held up by such massive cords.

Later that evening, we got the opportunity to go to the Taipei LDS temple. It was beautiful and felt so good to be there. Taipei is your typical city environment, full of traffic and people. I love how you can be walking along busy streets with tall buildings and then turn a corner and suddenly the temple is right there in front of you. This is exactly what we saw after turning the corner.
After sleeping in our favorite leopard den that night, we caught a train to Hualien. We only had one day here and spent most of our time in the Toroko Gorge. Remember when I said that everything else, especially in Taipei, was so beautiful? Well, those things do not even compare to the beauty found in the Toroko Gorge. It was breathtaking! Hualien has actually been my most favorite place here thus far.
This was taken at the visitors center in the gorge, which was the first stop on our tour.

I LOVED the stone path. I want one.
We had to wear hard helmets for a portion of the journey. You know, just in case of rock slides. If this didn't set off a small state of worry, then I don't know what else will.
I could stare at this water all day. Isn't it beautiful?
These are the tunnels our bus would go through. It's a little surreal to be traveling through a huge mountain.
On one of the short hikes.
King Kong's terrain
Off to the right was one of the temples. I don't have any pictures of it though. Apparently, the greenery was much more interesting to me.
Orchids grow out of the trees are here. Love it!
Someone said this was a shrine, but I'm not sure if it really was. It was 286 steps from the bottom where our bus dropped us off, to the top of the "shrine". Atop this was the highest point in the gorge we ever reached. The view was spectacular.
View from the top

View from the top again

I feel like these pictures do not do justice. The entire canyon is made out of granite and marble. All the rocks you see in the pictures are not just ordinary rocks. They too are mostly marble. I've decided that Hualien should be on everyone's bucket list.

Our trip ended with a 5.5 hour train ride (we love trains), 2.5 hours of it we got to stand in the cattle corral with other passengers who were not able to get seats. I didn't mind this because it is all part of the experience and makes for some great memories.

Sorry if this post seems short and choppy. There was so much to write about and not nearly enough time to do it all. Hopefully you were still able to experience some of it with me. Life is great and I am loving what I am doing here! Tomorrow through the rest of the weekend we will be in Kenting, the southern part of Taiwan known for the sun and ocean. The beach will be my company for the next few days, definitely my happy spot. This is what it looked like from our train ride home last weekend:
Cant wait!