Little Miss Sunshine Cart This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

March 2, 2015

I’ve known I wanted to be a nurse since the day I took my dad’s stitches out. It was early evening, and Dad was hunched over the bathroom sink, shirtless, trying in vain to remove the thin blue sutures from the still-pink – but healed – gash on his arm. I was watching him, fascinated.

After a few minutes of unsuccessful snipping and pulling, Dad handed the minuscule silver scissors to me and asked, “Would you help?” His forehead was shiny with sweat.

“Sure,” I replied, bending down and gently sliding the scissors between the pink scar and the blue suture. Cautiously, I snipped then grabbed a pair of tweezers to pluck the stitch out.

“One down, four to go.”

Dad smiled in thanks. I gingerly removed the last four stitches, rubbed some Neosporin on the scar, and gave Dad’s arm a pat. Stitches out, job well done.

My desire to enter the health care field led to my interest in the human body. I spent hours and hours poring over my dad’s college textbooks. Every aspect of physiology fascinated me, and I turned myself into a human sponge, absorbing everything I read. However, I began to long for hands-on experience in the diverse world of health care.

Late May of my freshman year of high school, I applied to and was selected for the O’Connor Hospital Junior Volunteer program. I was assigned to the Sunshine Cart, which traveled to patient rooms to hand out toiletries and books. After five vaccines, three training sessions, and a two-hour tour of the labyrinthine hospital, I was ready to start.

On my very first day, I dropped my basket of toiletries, accidentally bonked into a nurse with the Sunshine Cart, and unintentionally entered an isolation room. That day was rough. I remember getting off my shift and suffering a small identity crisis. Is health care for me? I wondered. Am I fit for this field?

But volunteering only got easier from there. I became an expert at navigating the busy and mazelike hallways, and juggling toiletry baskets and books became a breeze. Most of my visits with patients were pleasant, and I was often complimented on my bright smile. The only persistent difficulty was the language barrier. Most of the patients spoke Spanish or Vietnamese; I spoke neither. I was thankful that toiletries are easy to act out: I pointed to my mouth for “toothbrush,” my hair for “shampoo,” and my armpit for “deodorant.”

One of my most memorable experiences as a Sunshine Cart volunteer was with an elderly Filipina patient. As I entered her room and began to introduce myself, she held up her tiny, wrinkled hand. “I will sing you a song!” she exclaimed, clearing her throat.

“I love you,

For sentimental reasons.

I hope you believe me,

I give you my word.”

“That’s very good,” I complimented her. She beamed and explained, “When I was 17 and coming on a boat from the Philippines to meet my husband in America, that song played as I was walking off the boat. I never forgot it.” She grabbed my hand. “You are a very pretty girl,” she told me. I squeezed her small hand before heading back to work, and I can still feel its warmth.

Despite the many challenges of being a Sunshine Cart volunteer, I wouldn’t trade this opportunity for anything. Not only does it provide me with hands-on experience in the world of health care, it makes me feel good. There is nothing better than a patient smiling and exclaiming, “You made my day!”

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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