Service Through Healthcare: An Alumni Story

Christine Adams was part of Valor’s inaugural freshman class. The 2011 graduate and valedictorian served on three Discovery teams while at Valor, traveling to India, Kenya, Uganda and Chile in her freshman, sophomore and senior years. She sat down recently to share about her experience as a Physician Assistant in Santa Barbara, CA during recent weeks.

My name is Christine Lyles and I am an Emergency Medicine PA at Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara. Just as the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus was being identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China in December 2019, I was graduating PA school. I was beyond excited for the year 2020. I was finally a PA, something I had worked towards for the past ten years. I was ready to put into action all that I’d studied and learned, and I was ready to save lives.

While in PA school, I saw people die and I also saw babies born. I saw providers extend grace when patients didn’t deserve it and I saw patients extend mercy when the providers didn’t deserve it. I saw people at their absolute worst and others at their best. I saw myself at my own worst as well as my own best. Being in medicine is very personal and people let you into a special place in their life in a way that some people will never see. Medicine is a science, with various pathologies, diagnoses, and evidence-based treatments, but it’s also an art. As SARS-CoV-2 is a novel virus and we are learning new science about it daily, it is more evident to me than ever how much medicine is an art.

Acknowledging people’s humanity as patients and not just numbers to get through in a day is a gift to both parties involved. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has hijacked almost every aspect of people’s daily lives. People are scared and I can see the fear in their eyes when they come to the ER. Triaging patients in a tent outside the ER, using iPads to talk to our patients so we don’t have to keep going in and out of their rooms, and not being able to hold peoples’ hands when giving them bad news are some of the daily changes that have been unexpectedly difficult. Getting only one mask per shift, having my temperature taken every day when I show up to work, and feeling claustrophobic in all my PPE (personal protective equipment) are becoming the norm. However, seeing people show up to the hospital to drop off boxes of masks, meals for the entire staff, goodie bags and creative signs has been unexpectedly encouraging.

People say that it’s not about the destination but rather the journey to get there. I wanted to go into Emergency Medicine to save lives. These past few months have not been what I expected them to be, but I have learned that it’s the little moments of humanity in the midst of the chaos, taking the time to slow down and listen to people, and being brave through the many unknowns are what counts. I am grateful to live in a country with advanced healthcare, to work in a hospital with enough PPE, to go to bed every night with a full belly, and to have a home to self-isolate in.

I’ve had some time recently to read through my journals and reflect on my time spent abroad on Valor Discovery trips. I think of the slums that I’ve walked through in India and the mud huts where I’ve slept in Kenya where it’s impossible to maintain 6 feet of distance. I think of the lack of hygiene and scarcity of hand sanitizer and wipes. I think of the hungry bellies that are just becoming more and more hungry each day with food shortages. I think of the remote villages that an ambulance can’t just go and pick someone up to take to the hospital.

[A recent quote] hits the nail on the head. “Satan: ‘I will cause anxiety, fear and panic. I will shut down business, schools, places of worship, and sports events. I will cause economic turmoil.’ Jesus: ‘I will bring together neighbors, restore the family unit, I will bring dinner back to the kitchen table. I will help people slow down their lives and appreciate what really matters. I will teach my children to rely on me and not the world. I will teach my children to trust me and not their money and material resources.’”

I am proud to be a PA and honored to be able to continue serving my community during this pandemic. I have been blessed to be a blessing to others and I hope to be a good steward of what I’ve been given.


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