Sunday, March 13, 2011

I left my ICU shoes in Sulaymaniyah….

…which I feel a little guilty about because they were a gift from our friend Aqeel in Nasiriyah (that whole, third-party-buy-now-pay-someone-else-later thing…turns out it doesn’t actually work). 

They were cute…sort of a funky Middle Eastern take on Crocs…blue plastic with a latticework of round ventilation holes…and they had little plastic flowers on them.  Very cute. 

Sulaymaniyah had the same sort of swap-your-shoes-at-the-door routine that we had in Nasiriyah.   Outside shoes are dirty you know…don’t worry too much about washing your hands but be sure to change your shoes (please forgive the sarcasm…I can’t help it). 

When I walked out of the ICU for the last time the other night, I decided to leave my shoes at the door.  I think someone will use them (occasionally, shoes will get borrowed by local staff to the great distress of some of our team members).  I hope someone will use them. 

Like I said, I felt a little sorry to just be discarding them…but it wasn’t exactly that unceremonious though…I put them down and took a photo of the on the floor.  I wanted to document that action for some reason. 

And then I walked out. 

This month in Iraq was very challenging on many levels.  Physically.  Intellectually.  Emotionally.  I don’t think I have ever worked so hard, for so many days, within so many impossibly difficult clinical situations…no, actually, I know I never have.  I have also never had to face so many deaths…deaths that the whole team worked so passionately to prevent.  But, I am very glad to say, I feel like I was able to rise to the occasion, time after time. 

By my last day, I was done.  Done.  I couldn’t do it anymore.  I was frustrated and bitchy and so broken hearted by the fear of  loosing another patient after we left…

But then leaving was so abrupt.  I gave report to the night shift ICU team…and said goodbye.  I went out to dinner with part of the team, and simply said good bye again.  I stayed up late with a handful of folks until the wee hours of the morning…and then a few of us left for the airport…then one by one, we all went our separate ways, off to our own individual destinations.  Headed home.  Back to our lives. 

(Well, except for me.  Silly girl.  I am just leaving on the next crazy adventure… flying from Sulaymaniyah to Amman to London to Seattle to Spokane, then being driven by a friend to Nelson, B.C. and THEN (hopefully after sleeping) getting on a helicopter and flying to some remote ski lodge in interior B.C.  Like I said, silly girl.)

I knew that this sudden extraction from this experience in Iraq would feel weird...that it would not feel satisfying in anyway…just a predictable succession of hurried goodbye’s.  That’s how it felt when I left Siberia…and Nasiriyah too.  Empty in a way.   

And honestly, I felt like I needed a little more closure than that.  Even if it was solely just for me…to carve out some peace in this experience. 

I needed a way to step away, to put this behind me so that I can more forward now.   I need an end point in time…

So I left my shoes at the door. 

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