Today I had a 15 year old patient that was madly in love with her secret 21 year old boyfriend.
Here’s a little background about this patient...She finished school last year because her parents could not afford further education. Unlike most girls her age that we see in clinic, her family made it clear that they did not want her to date, or marry-off like many other girls her age do after leaving school - they wanted a better future for her. Her family was struggling financially and therefore up-rooted to another village where jobs were more promising. So, she now was working 1 day a week at the only available job she could find. She spent the rest of her free time at home, pining over her secret love-interest she was unable to see.
In the clinic, she initially was textbook depressed. That being said, after 15-20 minutes of chatting, she began to open up about her secret love and it was clear that her current emotional status was one of helplessness, anger and resentment toward her family for not letting them be together. Recognizing a chance for impact, I presented to Dr. Ruch who pulled in Myra so the 4 of us could all talk. After another 15-20 minutes, it unfolded that the patient really valued pursuing her education but felt powerless without the funds to make it happen. The 3 of us decided to use this moment to discuss the possible trajectories of her current dilemma: she could run off with this man without an education, little opportunity, and likely be pregnant very soon, or find a way to pursue her education and maybe get the man as well. With our help, she slowly began to realize that if he truly felt for her what he claimed, he would likely wait for her to finish her education, and maybe even help her pursue it. This is what those who respect you, those who love you, will sacrifice for you. --She nodded.
As we tied up the conversation, we felt a little lighter knowing we had seized the chance to impact the life of a young impressionable woman… until we were about to leave the room.
Myra quickly asked the patient in a secretive manner if she understood all of our previous conversation. The patient nodded shyly. Myra then asked her if she understood what the word “respeto,” or respect, meant. The patient looked down and embarrassingly said no.
Witnessing that some of these young girls and women that we treat do not have a conception of the word “respect” is absolutely jarring. Life as a female is a different beast for many of the patients we see at Sew Hope. When reflecting on the immense injustices women face here, it cuts deep to realize that many of these women will never realize that they deserve better – unless the idea somehow enters their world from an outside source. One visit with a patient like this can make a huge difference if the effort is made.
By the look on her face at the end of her clinic visit, I’m confident this patient left with her mind reeling with possibilities, questions, hope, and a budding sense of self-respect.