Tonight was my first night working at the clinic in Khayelitsha, and I was looking forward to getting to see if I liked the work. On my way home from my last class, I got a message from my mom saying I needed to call her. She told me that my grandma had passed away that morning. I felt so awful and disconnected from home at that time, but made the decision to still go to the clinic. I figured it would keep mind busy and prevent me from sitting in my room alone and feeling sad.

I got to the SHAWCO office in obs and met some of the leaders of the program. We all piled onto a bus and made our way through rush hour traffic to get to Khayelitsha. When we arrived and unloaded our supplies from the bus, I saw the group of people waiting to be seen. I looked around at the group of students I was with and the single doctor at the clinic and wondered how we would be able to help all of them.

We made our way into the back of the clinic where patients are seen, and the leader of our group gave us a quick run-down of how the night would work, ending with a cheer to get us pumped up.

I joined a fourth year medical student in one of the cubicles. Our first patients were two young girls, both complaining of rashes. One of the sisters also had a severe burn on her leg from a heater, and the other had swelling in her fingers and toes.

We spent the next hour talking to the girls, getting a medical history, examining their rashes and other problems, and trying to determine what we thought was going on. Once we reached an agreement we called the doctor over. He worked with us as we explained what was going on, and helped us determine what was wrong with the girls. We were then able to write them prescriptions for their rashes and give a referral for the girl to see someone at another clinic for juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

When all the patients had been seen, we loaded our supplies back onto the bus and had a quick celebration of the night with juice and cookies. I realized on the way back that I had gained so much knowledge over the past few hours, and that this experience is something I wouldn’t be able to have anywhere else. I was so happy that I’d decided to go, and was already thinking about getting to go again.