As I stepped into a gloomy hospital room in Antigua, Guatemala, ear-piercing cries rang through the air and sent shivers down my spine. As I strained to understand what one of the nurses was telling us in Spanish, my eyes panned across the numerous cribs that lined the walls. My heart sank as I learned that almost all of the children in these cribs had severe cases of cerebral palsy. Although I knew very little about cerebral palsy, the pain they were experiencing flooded their eyes as I peered into each of their cribs. As I made my way to each crib, my heart sank further and further as I held their distorted, trembling hands. These suffering children had done nothing to deserve this disability, yet they were receiving little attention and living in a bed that more resembled a metal cage than a crib.
I forced myself to continue walking down the long line of cribs, stopping to spend a couple moments with each of the kids. Their inability to communicate me allowed me to simply gaze into their eyes and feel the depth of their pain. As I moved to the last crib, I met the gaze of the only boy in the room who was capable of sitting up. I extended my hand to him and was startled when he latched his nails onto me and tried to jerk my arm through the bars of his crib. At last his arms relaxed and he gently led my hand over to the latch on his crib. When I shook my head, he began to cry and point to the door. I broke down in tears as I squeezed his hand in mine. I felt helpless knowing that there was nothing that I could do to assist him and I would be leaving in a matter of moments. As I walked away, I could hear his wails growing louder and louder. I walked towards the door and turned back for one last glance—one more chance to see the face that changed the course of my life in a matter of seconds.
What had initially burdened my heart to see had now ignited a fire in my soul. That little boy’s look of desperation brought a new perspective into my life that drives my actions each day and shapes my intentions for the future. I now seize each day thankful for the ability to move and breathe and take advantage of the life that I have. Each day I have the opportunity to take control and make a difference in this world, no matter how small. I have the freedom to take a leap of faith—to live, care for, and serve.
Before meeting that boy, I was unsure of what I wanted to dedicate my life to or work towards. After I spent those few moments with him, it became painfully clear that my heart was programmed to pursue medicine and study towards a career that will allow me with the opportunity to help people similar to that little boy. Thanks to the perspective that I gained in that hospital room, I am now able to view my life with an entirely different perspective and sense of motivation. Through this lens of opportunity my stuffy dorm room becomes an oasis, my dysfunctional family becomes the dearest thing I have, and my fear of the future becomes a wide window of possibility.