My Year with the Philadelphia Health Corps

As the end of the year approaches, I find that it becomes easier to indulge in a little introspection. Through my time with the program, the work demanded little room for such self-centeredness. Ultimately, my focus was on clinic patients and the basic struggles that they must live through every day. I joined the Corps to offer an underserved community a measure of peace, a small reprieve from ailing health and poverty. If, in that process, I somehow provided a measure of happiness as well, then that seemed enough for any kind of personal fulfillment.

But now it’s almost July, and I have unpacked my share of medication, and received my share of papercuts and phone calls. I have sat with countless patients at my desk, listened to their worries, and tried, with every good intention, to deliver on my promises. I have dug around our closet for medicine that would substitute the supply that arrives from the pharmaceutical company. I have swallowed frustration over missing faxes that would delay a crucial shipment. These experiences form a simple routine from a day to day perspective. However, taken as a summation of the year, I realize they are a profound privilege of what it feels like to take responsibility for another being’s life. These patients come as utter strangers, with unfamiliar backgrounds, cultures, and burdens. Yet, in the brief time that they are in my office, between handshake and signature, there exists an intimacy and a feeling of care. In these unequivocal moments, our lives – as advocate and patient – seem to touch.

For every form of appreciation I receive, I believe my own is, if not greater, then equal in comparison. I am grateful for this unique opportunity to deliver essential care. I am grateful for all that the Prescription Assistance Program has taught me. Most of all, I am grateful that I, from a complacent upbringing with no comprehension of daily hardship, where ordinary, fleeting pleasures seem brighter and somehow sweeter too, would be granted such life-affirming work.

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