Saira, Pakistan and Washington

Saira is a senior President’s Scholar and member of the University Honors Program who is majoring in biology and anthropology in Dedman College. She received a Richter Fellowship to travel to Peshawar, Pakistan, during winter break 2012 to research the health of Afghani refugee children. Then, during spring 2012, she will intern with the U.S. Department of State.

The visit

Giggles filled the air in the bright, naturally lighted room. I put myself in their shoes and realized I’d be laughing, too, at what seemed to be ridiculous questions. I was visiting my first patient’s home, Tahira, to interview her and her family in a more familiar setting and observe their living conditions. Of course, most of my questions regarded diarrhea. I had wanted to visit their home so that Nasreen, Tahira’s mother, would be more comfortable. I was hoping she would be able to go about her work, as I merely observed and asked questions about how and why she did things. I soon found out this would be impossible. As I stepped into Nasreen’s home, I was surrounded [...]

2012-02-06T22:02:38+00:00 February 3rd, 2012|Saira, Pakistan and Washington|

The value of a life

I shudder every time I think about it. My eyes fill with tears without fail. In the past two weeks, I’d seen more pain and suffering than I had in my entire life. A bomb went off four days ago on  a main road that we cross every day on our way to the hospital, 30 minutes after we crossed it. The victims were all rushed to the Mass Emergency Unit, my unit. I had left the hospital by then, but the next day I was filled in on the situation. Twelve were injured and six killed. The head nurse said the situation was good compared to two years ago. The situation had improved. To me it didn’t appear so. Today, another [...]

2012-02-03T20:20:02+00:00 January 14th, 2012|Saira, Pakistan and Washington|

Making a difference

I walked into a wall of human warmth. The stench of spit-up, human refuse and sweat filled the air. I almost vomited.  I swallowed hard and entered. Though I had already properly interviewed 20 patients, winter wasn’t the "season" for acute gastroenteritis, and I wandered into Children’s A Ward to see what else I could find. I found myself in a small, side laboratory that catered to the children’s ward. Its rudimentary setup consisted of a single microscope, sulfur, methanol and other testing chemicals. Children’s stool, urine and blood samples were brought in to be tested. Across the hall were a pharmacy tech room, several side chambers for more stable patients, a Higher Disease Unit and a neonatal and pediatric Intensive Care [...]

2012-02-03T20:04:55+00:00 January 13th, 2012|Saira, Pakistan and Washington|

UNICEF’S presence

His face was sunken; his eyes bulged and twitched. He could barely hold up his head on the Dora-the-Explorer bed sheets. His mother looked exhausted and defeated. It was old man’s syndrome. I thought he wouldn’t make it. We were receiving a tour of a third hospital. I was particularly interested in the Children’s Ward, which was crowded with children and their families. Families stuck together - patients would make the journey here, some all the way from Kabul, with mothers, grandmothers, aunts and uncles - a full support system. Though it was crowded, sometimes with three patients to a bed, I was impressed with the efficiency and determination of the young, overworked doctors. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about all the doctors I [...]

2012-02-03T20:00:29+00:00 January 12th, 2012|Saira, Pakistan and Washington|

A different world

A heart-wrenching wailing filled the ward.  Screams were followed by soothing words, deep breaths and wails anew. It filled every corner in a stifling fog of sorrow. I was at a large government hospital for the past week enrolling patients in my gastroenteritis study. I recently expanded my access from Emergency Pediatric Services (EPS), which deals with acute gastroenteritis patients, to the Children’s Ward, which deals with more severe diarrhea patients. There is a world of difference between the two wards, and I like the upbeat, somewhat chaotic nature of the Children’s Ward. The past week was filled with incidents. A doctor was robbed and killed, and doctors all over Peshawar went on strike. They appealed to the government to arrange [...]

2012-02-03T19:55:59+00:00 January 11th, 2012|Saira, Pakistan and Washington|

Day 4: My research begins

Children could be heard crying from every direction. In one room, a child was receiving a shot; in another, an IV was being started. My heart broke for them. I wondered how long it would take for me to become desensitized to their crying. Attempting to battle jet lag, I decided to take my host up on her offer to visit the hospitals where she was beginning her rotations. We were expected to wait as final-year medical students were being taken on rounds. Of course, for a group of ten 21-year-old girls, that means explore. An organized chaos filled the hospital, one you couldn’t understand unless you were groomed in their system. We split up and wandered from room to [...]

2012-02-03T19:56:39+00:00 January 10th, 2012|Saira, Pakistan and Washington|

Landing in Pakistan

The first thing that hit me was the smell. The pungent smell of dirt, dust and human sweat was a familiar one and alerted another one of my senses that I was in Pakistan.  The sight confirmed my nose's insight- a fog of dirt and dust hung in the air, preventing one from seeing far ahead of the airport platform. Pashto surrounded me, and although it was Pakistan, I felt like I was truly in a foreign country. I couldn’t understand much beyond the passionate gestures of the Farsi-derived language. I had donned the hijab in the airplane and kept thanking my dad for reminding me to do so. I was one of four women on the airplane from Doha to [...]

2012-02-03T19:56:26+00:00 January 4th, 2012|Saira, Pakistan and Washington|

Preparations for Pakistan

Saira is a senior President’s Scholar majoring in biology and anthropology in Dedman College. She received a Richter Fellowship to travel to Peshawar, Pakistan, during winter break 2012 to research the health of Afghani refugee children. Then during spring 2012, she will intern with the U.S. Department of State.

2012-01-04T20:52:13+00:00 December 25th, 2011|Saira, Pakistan and Washington|