So Close, Yet So Far, To Senior Year

Second semester of your junior year at Notre Dame is going to be a weird time, and this post serves as your official warning.  People are gone, people have come back, you are making huge decisions, and you never thought you could be busier than you already are.  Because I’m still adjusting to it myself, I may not be able to tell you the secret to get through it, but the least I can do is prepare you.

One caveat: if you are abroad in the spring, then none of this applies.  Your semester will be amazing and full of adventures.  However, for the rest of us, things are changing drastically.  First of all, a positive change is that all of the friends who were abroad in the spring are finally back!  After not seeing most of them since last May, all of the reunions were wonderful.  Still, it cannot be ignored that when they were gone last semester, we had to create a new reality without them. Everyone made new friends and groups adjusted to fill the missing spots for the semester.  Although these new friendships were never a replacement for the people who were gone, they became the new normal.  This semester, when our abroad friends came back, most of the new friends left for abroad.  This adjustment has somehow led to every social scene looking very different than it did last semester; not better or worse, but certainly different.

Another aspect of this semester that makes it different is that (for most of us), it is our last semester living on campus.  Next year we will all be scattered around South Bend, and things will change drastically.  Despite the fact that this is not a change occurring right now, it makes you want to appreciate the fact that many of your friends live right down the hall from you, or a walk across campus at most.  Additionally, soon we’ll be cooking for ourselves.  I know many friends who are glad to never have to go to the dining hall again, but I will definitely miss the convenience of eating on campus.

A third, and more serious, aspect of change in this time is the rapid movement in the direction of our burgeoning professional lives.  Junior year is the time in which many of us decide what our five year plans will be and take steps to secure our next venture after college.  For business majors, this often means getting a summer job at a firm where they will be offered a full time job for after graduation.  For science and arts and letters majors, this means preparing for our next type of education: graduate school.  As a pre-med student, I am preparing to apply to medical school.  This means much more than you would think; outside of my classes I am involved in shadowing, research, tutoring, writing applications, interviewing, and studying for the MCAT.

Despite of all these extra responsibilities and weird adjustments, being a second semester senior is a wonderful period in undergraduate life.  New friendships are burgeoning while old ones are three years in and stronger than ever.  Increased responsibilities come with increased maturity, and we get to celebrate our progress at fun events like Junior Parents Weekend.  Overall, it is essential to appreciate our time here, no matter what challenges it throws at us.

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Finding a Home in South Bend

If you are new to the Notre Dame community, you may be surprised to learn that students typically live in dorms for their first three years at ND.  This is quite unusual, and people are always surprised when I tell them.  I explain that because we don’t have Greek life, our single-sex dorms function as a replacement and a great community.  Personally, I love my dorm, but I know that opinions on living in dorms can be divisive.

My roommates and I just wrapped up the exhausting process of deciding where to live senior year.  You may also be surprised to learn that this timeline is also extremely unusual—most students have signed on for their housing before junior year, and sometimes even before sophomore year!  If I was committed to living with the people I befriended in the beginning of my freshman year, I would be in a world of trouble right now.

Because finding housing can be stressful, I thought I would write a brief explanation of some of the places where ND students commonly choose to live.  First, there is the Foundry, which is where my roommates and I will live.  It is right on Eddy Street, which I believe is the best location in South Bend.  Most of the Foundry apartment prices are outrageous, but with the way my roommates and I have split our triple, we will pay less than many students in less coveted housing arrangements.  My current dilemma is that one of my roommates said she would only agree to live there if we got a cat, but our best friend who lives down the hall is extremely allergic…so this should spawn some fun arguments!  On a side note, check out Pure Encapsulations if you struggle with dietary or environmental allergies as well.

A common hub where Notre Dame seniors live is in the Irish Flats Apartments, Irish Row Apartments, and Irish Crossings Houses.  They are all next to each other, which makes it very fun and easy to see your friends if you all live there.  The Crossings Houses are claimed very quickly, so they are the type of housing that you must commit to as a freshman.  Irish Flats and Row are at a good location and are great apartments with everything you need.  Personally, the apartment buildings were depressing to me, and that was why I didn’t choose it.  However, I know many friends who will live there and love it!

Of course, another great option is housing in the South Bend community.  This is popular among big groups of students or student-athletes who want to throw a lot of parties.  It is not uncommon for a dorm or a team to pass down one house within their dorm or team for many years in a row.  However, most ND students do not recognize how viable of an option houses can be.  While apartments near Notre Dame are quite expensive (because it is in the nature of ND students to have the money to pay for it), housing a little further away is extremely cheap.  In fact, I know many families who were looking into buying a house for their children to live in senior year, and then renting it out to other students after their children graduate.  I think this is an amazing idea, but it tends to be logistically hard.  Renting out a house when you live across the country from the house is obviously difficult.  Additionally, it is not easy to get a group of friends to agree to live in a house that they will need to take care of and that is likely farther away from campus than desired.

Hopefully this short list has helped outline the different types of housing in the area!  Of course, there are so many other options that I did not get a chance to mention.  I’m sure I will have more advice to give once I live in my future apartment!


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Spice Up Your Life

Do you agree that seasoning makes life a little brighter and more exciting?  As a lover of Thai, Indian, and Mexican food, I think spicing up and seasoning my food is the only way to go.  However, not everyone is aware of the health benefits that spices and herbs provide.  Even if you’re a fan of a simple salt and pepper treatment, these facts may change your mind.

The first beneficial spice on my list is cinnamon, which is one of my personal favorite flavors in any dessert.  It’s sweet, cheap, low in calories, and sugar-free.  More importantly, studies have shown that it helps bring down inflammation.  It fends off free radicals that attempt to attack cells and can fight bacteria as well.  Studies show that it may lower blood sugar in those with diabetes, and although this is still unclear, it makes sense as cinnamon may serve as a sweet alternative to sugary ingredients.

Sage is another beneficial herb; besides its use in many recipes, it has been used for healing since the middle ages.  Its name comes from the Latin salvere, which means “to save.”  Now, research shows that it may improve brain function and memory.  Specifically, sage inhibits the breakdown of acetylcholine.  This is extremely important for the neurodegenerative disease Alzheimer’s, which is accompanied by a drop in acetylcholine levels.  Even without Alzheimer’s, sage can improve memory function.

Another spice that helps fight inflammation is cardamom, which is a common ingredient in the ever-popular pumpkin spice flavor.  It can also soothe an upset stomach.  Additionally, it is high in minerals like magnesium and zinc.

Ginger also helps soothe an upset stomach (remember your mom suggesting you order a ginger ale on plane rides to help nausea?).  It does this by eliciting a calming effect on the lining of your digestive system.  It is also an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant that may play a role in preventing cancer.

Turmeric is produced mostly in India and used in Indian food.  It has a long list of uses, mostly due to a component of it called curcumin.  An antioxidant, curcumin supports healthy blood circulation, the brain, cells, skin, tissue, the digestive system, the heart, the immune system, joints, mood, and the respiratory system.  It may help ease pain and inflammation and may slow or prevent the progression of Alzheimer’s.  Another valuable part of turmeric is its variety; it can be consumed raw, cured, boiled, dried, or as a powder in cooking.  There are countless turmeric recipes on the internet that use this valuable spice.

An especially pungent, but also beneficial, ingredient is garlic.  Allicin, a compound in garlic, may lower changes of getting heart disease.  Garlic may also help lower cholesterol and blood pressure.  However, keep in mind that these benefits only occur after garlic has been cut or crushed; doing so is necessary in order to form allicin.

Rosemary is another herb that is rich in antioxidants.  It can prevent cell damage, and apparently even sniffing it may provide benefits.  Another possible advantage is better performance on mental tasks and memory tests.  Due to a compound called 1,8-cineole, it may boost brain activity overall.

Cocoa, another personal favorite of mine, is more than just a key ingredient in chocolate.  Due to the amount of flavonoids (a kind of antioxidant) in cocoa, it is shown to boost heart health.  It may also lower cholesterol and blood pressure to maintain coronary artery health.

The list goes on; other beneficial herbs and spices include cumin, peppermint, chili peppers, and basil.  Happy seasoning!

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Managing Stress Levels with Christmas Cheer

December brings lots of things; cold weather, the end of the year, and the holiday season.  For college students, however, one of the most important things December brings is finals season.  After a long four and a half months of putting in every effort for good grades in our classes, we have to muster up the energy to take 3-6 two hour exams, and countless other projects and papers in addition.  Whether your grades are solid or they need to be brought up, finals is almost never going to be a piece of cake.  We would all rather be with our family decorating the tree, making snowmen, or baking holiday foods, but we’re stuck inside the library for another week.

Regardless of school, the holidays can be a difficult time for some people; the nature of the holiday can really exacerbate any family problems or financial stress.  These issues along with academic stress can hit hard, so I wanted to talk about one of my favorite ways to keep the stress at bay while getting in the spirit of the season: my dorm’s section decorating contest!  Each year, the 7 sections in my hall each choose a holiday-related theme with which to decorate their section.  Past themes have been Christmas around the world, the twelve days of Christmas (with each door in the section as a different day), the island of misfit toys (with each section resident as a different toy), Christmas puns (and here’s another idea for decreasing stress—check out these dog puns for a needed laugh!) and Hallmark movies (with each door representing a classic movie).

My section won in 2017, and I can barely describe how fun that experience was—everyone was so motivated, energy was at an all-time high, and the feeling of accomplishment when we won was huge!  This year, my section portrayed the story of the Grinch and Whoville, and my door was covered in pictures of baby Grinch.  Our hallway and lounge was decked out with a Christmas tree, Christmas lights everywhere, wreaths, a fake fireplace, and more.

The most important part of this tradition is not the competition, although we sometimes forget that.  Spending time with your best friends and roommates is already one of the best ways to combat stress, and doing it while united by the holiday season is the best.  The dorm pays for all of our decorations with money we raise in fundraisers and money from the university, so no one has to worry about being unable to pay to make their section look good.  Finally, coming home every day to a beautifully decorated section makes everything you have to do when you get home a little less daunting.

This is a unique opportunity that my roommates and I have due to the dorm community we live in, but there are other ways that you can combat stress with holiday spirit  It takes very little time to go on a drive to see the holiday lights on houses, bake cookies (the Pillbury holiday ones are the easiest in the world!), volunteer or donate food/toys to underprivileged families (doing something good for others will make you feel good too!), or simply play Christmas music while you work.  No matter what you choose, we will all make it through finals and make it home for the holidays, and the idea of that itself is fuel enough for me!

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What’s So Great About Collagen?

Recently, you may have noticed many health gurus, and even your friends or family, buzzing about the benefits of collagen. But why? Isn’t collagen what’s used for Botox or other types of artificial injections? As it turns out, collagen has a wealth of beneficial uses—and it is much less foreign to your body than you think.

There are 28 types of collagen that comprise 30% of the protein in the body. Types I, II, and III are the most common, but all 28 are essential for providing structural support, organization, and shape to the skin, tendons, ligaments, organs, bones, and gastrointestinal system. Without collagen, many systems of the body would not run smoothly or be adequately supported.

Thankfully, the body creates its own collagen, but issues can arise during aging when the amount of collagen that the body produces begins to decrease. When this happens, you may begin to experience sagging and drying skin, joint problems, general pain due to reduced cartilage, etc. Considering the importance of collagen, what can be done to maintain collagen levels? 

One of the easiest ways is to eat right. Amino acids and vitamins are the two primary components that the body uses when making collagen. Amino acids like glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and arginine are most important. As for vitamins and minerals, vitamin C, zinc, and copper are the most important. To increase the availability of these necessary materials, eat more protein-rich foods like beef, chicken, fish, beans, and eggs, dairy products, and citrus fruits, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, greens, and whole grains. Another recommendation is bone broth, which is made by boiling animal bones to draw out the nutrients.

Another good option is a collagen supplement. However, not all collagen supplements contain the same type of collagen, so checking the label and buying the one that is right for you is important. Supplements containing type I and III collagen may help to support healthy looking skin, skin elasticity, a healthy bone matrix, better nail bed structure, healthy circulation, and glycine production for muscle health. Type II supplements may be ideal for maintaining cartilage throughout the body, and the normal function of joints such as the knees, back, and jaw. Be aware that the collagen in supplements may come from cows, eggshells, chicken, and fish, which may limit availability to vegans.  

You may also want to consider skin creams with synthetic collagen. These are extremely popular for promoting healthy skin—while not as effective as healthy eating, it may still have a beneficial effect. 

If you are curious to learn more about the role collagen plays in your body, and how to maintain collagen levels, check out this article on collagen.

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Clean Eating Can Clean Up Your Life!

What does a diet mean to you?  Does it mean cutting out dessert, or carbs, or just eating less volume?  I challenge you, as I’ve challenged myself, to aim to eat cleaner rather than adopting a diet.  So many diets such as juice cleanses, keto diets, and specific weight loss programs may help you lose weight, but won’t help you keep the weight off.  More importantly, they won’t contribute to your long term health in other beneficial ways.

Clean eating isn’t about when you eat or how much, but the quality of what you’re eating.  In a way, it goes back to what humans were originally meant to be eating; sustenance without pesticides, hormones, GMOs, etc.  Clean eating involves avoiding highly processed foods and choosing high-quality organic foods instead.  It nourishes your body in every way necessary and more, and has many benefits.

Eating clean may seem daunting at first, but it is easier with three steps from Vitamix’s article “What is Clean Eating and Why is it Important?”.  The first step instructs you to shop the perimeter of the store, as most clean and organic foods are actually found along the outer perimeter of the store.  The second step is to read food labels.  A common trick is to look at the ingredients list and if you see any ingredients you’re not familiar with or can’t pronounce, then it isn’t organic and simple enough.  With number of ingredients, less is more for clean eating.  Also make sure to look out for excessive added sugars.  The third step is to cook your own food, because it is far easier to ensure that you’re eating clean when you know everything that’s going into your food.  Cooking may seem daunting at first if you haven’t had much practice, but it gets easier very quickly.  There are so many fun, easy online resources for following healthy recipes—my favorite is Tasty videos.

Besides shopping for clean foods and cooking your own meals, there are other ways in which you can supplement your nutrition with clean foods.  I recently went to a juice bar in Dallas that is “100% certified organic,” which is surprisingly rare considering how many juice bars there are, especially in California.  Another great option is the products from Orgain, a certified organic company that aims to deliver the cleanest nutrition products possible.  There are already many options for a clean diet, and they will only grow in number.

Other resources on clean eating claim that adopting the lifestyle will make you smarter and happier and make you live longer, save money, have better relationships, and help save the Earth.  Obviously some of this has to be taken as exaggeration, but I’m sure there are truthful aspects to each point.  The benefits to your health are surely worth it.

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Treat Yourself, Treat Your Skin

Did you know our skin is our largest organ?  It serves as the body’s first defense and is important for so many reasons.  We tend to forget how instrumental the wellbeing of our skin is to our health, and how painful skin problems can be.  Even aside from healthcare, taking care of your skin is essential to self care and self-esteem.  Everyone’s skin is unique and responds somewhat differently to different treatments (although of course we all share some common ground).  In this post, I will discuss my journey with skincare and what has worked for my specific skin type thus far.

The moral of the story for my skin is less is more.  I’ve always had very sensitive skin, ever since I was a baby.  I can’t even use scented lotion on my legs without itching for hours afterward.  I used to have terrible eczema on my arms; it was incredibly painful and annoying for a young child to deal with.  The medicine I had to put on it stung because of how deep my scratches were, and my parents’ constant reminders to stop scratching were no less annoying.  I’m so thankful that it’s gotten better over the years, but when it acts up I know that I just need to use my cortisone anti-itch cream and it will be better by the morning.

The next most problematic area of skincare that I had to navigate was shaving.  For years, any razor and/or shaving cream would give me painful rashes and hives for the next five days after shaving.  Some might tell me I should wax my legs, but regardless of the money, time, and pain that causes, I can’t because I had adverse reactions to getting my eyebrows waxed.  Years later, I have found what works for me: Gillette Satin Care Ultra Sensitive Women’s Shave Gel, and Schick Hydro Silk 3 sensitive razors.  I swear by this combo now, and whenever I run out, my old problems return.

The next, and possibly most common, skin problem is acne.  I took doxycycline for years, and now I use topical medications such as clindamycin and tretinoin.  All three have worked very well for me, almost fully eliminating acne, but they leave my skin dry, vulnerable, and more sensitive than before.  I have found through trial and error that the fewer products I use in addition, the better my skin fares.  I don’t wear makeup often, and my skin definitely thanks me for it.  I wash my face in the morning and evening, but only with an extremely gentle cleanser as my skin can’t handle much more.  My skin tends to be on the greasier end, and I used to wash it more often to fix that, but the truth is that the more you wash it, the more oil your skin will produce to try to compensate (just like with your hair!).  Moisturizer is essential, but it’s another area in which I found that less is more.  I used Olay anti-aging cream as my moisturizer for a long time, but last fall my friend gave me her very expensive, high-end moisturizer that she wasn’t using.  I’m sure it’s a great product, but I was allergic to something in it because my skin broke out in a rash that lasted for months and turned into a skin condition called contact dermatitis.  Since then, it’s become even more important to treat my skin well and use only the most natural, simple products on it.  Hint: check out 100 Percent Pure for the kind of healthy skin products I’m talking about!  As I’ve clearly learned over the years, putting the time and effort into your skin is something you won’t regret.

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Before I left for Africa, many adults in my life were anxious for my safety and somewhat disapproving of my choice to go.  My grandparents had no idea why I wanted to go there in the first place, and some family friends told me that they prayed for my safety every day.  This was highly frustrating because not only did they refuse to understand that I would be safe with my organization, but also it was clear that they had made snap judgements without knowing ANYTHING about the country and city where I would be living.  Their anxiety reflected a very real and ingrained issue of prejudice.  I was excited to have the most amazing experience and prove them wrong; unfortunately, this wouldn’t turn out to be the full story.

Mombasa, Kenya has a high rate of violence and crime.  However, I was living in the nicest residential area of the city, with 24/7 guards and security measures protecting the house.  I trusted the people I was with and the Kenyans working in the house.  Of course, you never want to expect that anything bad will happen to you.  On my 7th night there, however, someone broke into our rooms and stole from all of the girls’ rooms while we were sleeping.  My phone was stolen, and collectively there were 2 phones, 3 pairs of expensive sunglasses, and over $800 taken without anyone in the house of 13 people waking up.  Everything was done in a very systematic and detailed way that led us and the police to believe it was definitely an inside job, whether that meant a worker, friend of a worker, or fellow intern inside the house.  This was a traumatic experience for me for several reasons.  First, having your phone taken in a foreign country and losing everything on it is very upsetting and hard to deal with in a practical sense.  Second, if people entered the house from outside, they entered through the balcony door which was right next to my head as a slept.  Third, with how much time the robbers took and the horrifically violent things we had seen at the hospital, we were terrified to think of all of the worse things that could have happened to us.

Enjoying Kenya in the same way I had before became a little harder after that night.  I was too scared to sleep in my room for the nights following the robbery, and my roommate almost decided to go home three weeks early because she didn’t feel safe.  However, my organization and the police dealt with the issue in the most prompt and thorough way they could.  Although I was still scared, I knew they were doing everything possible to keep us safe.  They hired new security, installed new cameras, got a guard dog, installed a better electric fence, changed all the locks, and more.  Some interns started to point fingers at the staff working in the house, but all of us who had been there long enough knew it would not be them, and each member of the staff apologized to us personally because they were so shocked that it had happened.

Even though I had a harder time feeling safe at night, this event did not change my experience of Kenya and my desire to make the most of my trip.  I worked at the hospital with a new sense of understanding and purpose, and I remained open to friendship with everyone I met.  Although I took new measures to keep myself and my belongings safe, I recognized that being distrustful and doubtful of the people around me would get me nowhere.  On my safari the next weekend, I got to fully experience the beauty and wonder of Kenya and its wildlife.  In the end, one of the interns in the house was sent home due to an unrelated incident where she stole another intern’s headphones.  Many of us think she was the original thief, and even if she wasn’t, the incident showed that immediately blaming the workers for a robbery would be a mistake.

After being robbed, I didn’t tell many people.  However, word got out through my parents and friends, and it’s not like I was going to lie about it.  The reactions that I got were extremely disappointing.  Everyone who had been anxious for me to go had their beliefs confirmed, or so they thought.  My grandparents and others keep telling me “I’m sorry you had such a horrible time over there!” while I desperately try to explain that I had an amazing time, despite an unfortunate event.  I hate that when they think of Africa, the memory of me being robbed will be added as a reason to be scared.  Going forward, I will continue to show them the beauty of Kenya and all of the lessons I learned there from the amazing people I met.

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Healthcare Across the World (part 3)

For my third post about experiences with healthcare in Africa, I thought I would journey outside of the hospital.  As well all know, health is much more than what happens in emergencies or hospital stays.  It’s much bigger than that.  Our health is determined by our daily behaviors and decisions.

Even with all the resources available to us, many people struggle to make good choices for their health.  In extreme poverty, people have less ability to choose to live healthy lives.  I witnessed extreme and system poverty all throughout Kenya.  I’m so thankful that I didn’t have to sit back and watch; my organization gave me the power to do something, even if it was minimal.

During my second week in Kenya, we were all told in the morning that after we got back from the hospital that day we’d go to a school in the slums to teach a hygiene clinic.  I had no idea what that meant; where exactly were the slums, and how do they expect us to teach hygiene?  In my mind, it was something that would never be explicitly taught in a school because it seemed too basic and like something you grow up learning.  Even these thoughts show that I am privileged in ways I never would have realized.

The first part of the experience was our drive to the “slums.”  I had two conflicting thoughts; on one hand, poverty is so widespread in Mombasa that I didn’t understand how one part could be designated as the slums specifically.  On the other hand, I was aware that the house that myself and the other volunteers were staying in was in the nicest residential part of the city.  Therefore, I figured that if there is a designated slum, it must be pretty far from where we lived.  Imagine my surprise when after a less than 10 minute drive, we turned onto a muddy street and ended up in what looked like a different universe.  There were people everywhere, and their living situations were atrocious.  We drove down the road to a school, where we got out of the car to greet hundreds of children, who were all ecstatic to see visitors.

At the school, we introduced ourselves to all of the children and told them that we would be teaching them some important lessons, or refreshers for the older children.  We then had our pre-dental students teach them how to brush their teeth.  After the demonstration, we called up a student to show us how it was done.  We also taught them a song about how to do it.  I understood the need to teach them how and when to brush their teeth; when you don’t have enough to eat, spending money on dental hygiene obviously isn’t a priority.  The lack of clean water is an issue as well.  Additionally, kids not wanting to brush their teeth is a universal issue; I’ve witnessed it with both of my siblings.

Hand washing was the portion that I thought was self-explanatory, but I saw how important it is to reinforce it.  We had them practice and tell us exactly when they should be washing their hands.  At the end, we gave them all toothbrushes and toothpaste, and I’ve never seen anyone so excited to receive those things!  We also gave dietary supplements to the children who needed them.

Little things like proper handwashing techniques and dietary supplements can do so much to change your health.  For example, Thorne Research creates dietary supplements with a focus on purity and precision.  If we all valued our health products as much as these Kenyan children appreciated theirs, the world would look different.

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Healthcare Across the World (part 2)

In my last post, I wrote a little bit about my experience with healthcare in Kenya.  I only touched the tip of the iceberg and I’d love to continue in this post!

I worked in the county hospital in Mombasa, a coastal town, for three weeks total.  I spent the first week in the Gender Based Violence Recovery Center, the second in surgery, and the third in OB/Gyn.  I also did an overnight shift in emergency.  Each department was eye opening in a different way, and overall the experience has made me so much more determined to go into the medical field.

The part that is freshest in my mind is my time in OB/Gyn, so I’ll start there.  First of all, I’d like to mention that this was the part that aligned least with my interests.  When thinking about possible careers in medicine, obstetrics and gynecology is nowhere on my list.  I love babies, but I know it’s not for me.  However, I thought it would be interesting to work in OB in Kenya because I knew that their extremely high birth rate would mean that much of the hospital’s resources would be allocated there.  I was right—there are about 40 births in that hospital a day, although there are only 16 beds in the labor ward.  They take the mother in when she’s dilated enough, deliver the baby, and get her walking or wheeling out of the ward only about an hour later.

Many of my experiences in Kenya served to prove something I already knew in a very new way, and that is just how strong women really are.  I saw countless women, young and old, in labor pains without any kind of medication.   In this hospital they don’t even let the husband or any family members be present for the delivery.  Whether or not I’ll want pain medication when I’m giving birth, I absolutely cannot imagine having the strength to do it without my loved ones there to support me.  The cleanliness of the beds and instruments is so minimal that it terrified me, and the lack of medication puts the mothers at risk as well.  The amazing doctors (who are mostly female as well) make up for this deficit as much as possible.

My time in the OB/Gyn unit was eye-opening and unforgettable.  It made me more appreciative/aware of the beginning of life, the strength of women, and the resources of Western medicine.  There are so many mundane things that can become deadly in countries with less resources.  At the same time, pains and problems that are mountains for us are only molehills for them.  We are so lucky to have access to new and evolving brands such as New Chapter supplements and so many other vitamins and supplements that allow us to live longer and healthier lives.  It is our job to appreciate the life we have been given, especially when all of the necessary tools are at our disposal.

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