Timmy Tripped Me – A Student Reflection
You could say Indiana is just about the opposite of Quito, Ecuador. Saturday’s teleferico ride up the towering mountain walls of Quito, felt light years away as we made the last leg of our return-trip through flat fields and foliage to Notre Dame, Indiana yesterday.
A Timmy brigade can feel abrupt: from Friday’s classes, to the airport, to Quito – from Quito to the airport to Monday’s classes. It’s easy to come back from a service trip and let it be just that, a trip.
Luckily, for most people I know involved with Timmy, it’s a different kind of trip. It’s a physical trip, a fall-to-the-ground kind of trip. While the Timmy brigades provide sustainable primary health care to their patients, the volunteers only step in for one week. It’s up to them to sustain their motivation for change. Just as we advise our diabetes patients to watch their diet and take their pills after we leave, we cannot let the week of clinic days be it for us. A Timmy trip has the power, if you let it, to trip up your daily life, and inspire you to spend a lifetime advocating for the vulnerable.
When I was a sophomore, I went on my first Timmy trip. At the time, I was very unsure if a life in healthcare was meant for me after all. For the past year, I’d barely had my head above water, struggling with my own mental and physical health. Worried I wouldn’t be able to handle the trip, I almost backed out. Yet, the week was the best I’d had in a long time.
My first Timmy trip tripped me. I was under the impression, that if I couldn’t even take care of myself, I’d never be a good doctor. It got me to take a breath and come away from my stifling mind to remember how much I loved to help people. But more than that, it showed me, that even as a broken person, I could still help people, and arguably, I could do more than that. I could accompany them. While I didn’t know the term accompaniment, nor solidarity at the time, my first Timmy trip introduced me to the new reasons I’d want to be a doctor. From loving science and service, to wanting to accompany and support a person, to making them feel understood and healthy, to never let them feel helpless; my medical aspirations found deeper roots.
As I return from my second and final undergraduate Timmy trip, I am sure of my decision to pursue healthcare. While I’m stronger now, like everyone, I carry my own troubles. But Timmy has given me the opportunity to realize that the broken can help the broken. A medical service trip is multifaceted. It is not just foreign doctors and students going abroad to provide care. It is a formation of a cross-national community, with benefits going towards the patients and providers.
Leading this final trip has been a wonderful full circle experience. I was able to watch my team be curious and inspired, motivated and empathic, frustrated and finally, tripped. I could also see how much I’d changed since my first brigade. Timmy inspired me to delve deeper into themes behind global health. I studied abroad to improve my Spanish. I worked with more vulnerable populations. I kept asking questions, and used my own troubles, to not disqualify me, but simply better walk with people.
In our final reflection, a doctor expressed his frustration of the staggering amount of work left. As we left clinic each day, and drove through impoverished southern Quito, it was hard not to think that one hundred patients was only a drop in the bucket. It’s true. We saw 500 patients last week and there are plenty remaining that spend each day struggling with chronic disease and lack access to care. But the beauty of it is that we aren’t acting alone. Timmy will return to communities across southern Quito. And those affected by their time with Timmy will use their lives to reach out even further.
Timmy has a 365-day mission. While it’s easy to focus on the actual brigade experience itself: it’s simply spark. Timmy uses the different chapter trips to provide continuity of care to patients. Our own continuation of advocacy is up to us. So although I may not return to Quito for many years, I will continue to live out what Timmy has inspired me to do: become a doctor and accompany the vulnerable.
by Libby Wetterer
Libby is a senior psychology major at the University of Notre Dame. She studies Psychology and intends to go to medical school and complete a master in public health. She was the trip leader of the Notre Dame 2014 brigade to Quito, Ecuador.