Compensate or Compensation
When your blood is pumped from your heart it goes throughout your body in vessels called arteries and returns to your heart through your veins. The arteries are the blood vessels that deliver oxygen rich blood from your heart to the tissues in your body. A test that is often done from the blood in the arteries is used to determine the arterial blood gas levels (ABGs) used to assess your lung function determining the adequacy of the oxygenation and ventilation through an acid-base balance. From science class you may remember the basic pH scale of zero to fourteen, seven being the middle neutral number. If something is above the number seven it is basic (aka alkalotic) and if it is less than seven it is acidic. Your ABGs are measured on a similar scale. The normal pH for your respiratory system is 7.35-7.45 (so any number above 7.45 would mean you are alkalotic and any number below 7.35 would mean you are acidotic). Another level that is closely looked at in this test is your CO2 level. Your CO2 level shows the amount of carbon dioxide your body is retaining. The normal CO2 level for the body is 35-45 mmHg. If you are having problems with asthma, pneumonia, or hyperventilation your pH level goes down and your CO2 level goes up causing you to have what is called respiratory acidosis. If you are having problems with hyperventilation or are having a panic attack the pH level in your body goes up and your CO2 level goes down leading your body into respiratory alkalosis.
You may ask why in my blog I am taking the time to explain this. The answer is simply that in the last couple of weeks the words compensate or compensation have come up multiple times in the work we have been doing here as well as in my devotions.
The definition of compensate according to the dictionary is: “to counterbalance, adjust or construct so as to offset or counterbalance variations or produce equilibrium.” As a nurse, the first thing that comes to mind at these words is respiratory compensation and metabolic compensation (something that was drilled into my head in nursing school and continued to be used in my work at the hospital). If our respiratory system starts to fail and become acidotic or alkalotic as mentioned above, our metabolism will work to compensate through what is called metabolic compensation, increasing or decreasing the pH depending on what is needed. If our metabolic system starts to become acidotic (due to alcohol, diabetic ketoacidosis, etc.) or alkalotic (due to vomiting, loss of potassium, etc.) the respiratory system will step in and work to compensate as well. How God made our body systems to function and support each other is truly amazing.
Since arriving back from Humla, two different teams have come to work with us for about a week at a time. The first team consisted of two pastors, their wives, a doctor, and a nurse.
The doctor and nurse from the first team allowed us the ability to provide a couple of different medical clinics in outside villages as well as in Kathmandu. The first medical clinic we did was in southern Nepal, over a 16-hour drive away due to terrible roads. We stayed in tents outside of a small church and then set up clinic at a local school. We saw anywhere from babies to elderly patients, both male and female. The main ailments that were seen were gastrointestinal, diabetes, hypertension, different joint injuries, vaginal infections, malnutrition, and different skin infections. We were able to provide these people with medications that we brought in. We did clinics two days in the area and saw around 100 people. Medical staff here was little to none, so when sick the people go to the local pharmacy it is about a 30-minute motor bike ride away, let alone walk, or they go to a doctor (which most cannot afford) by bus several hours away. I learned a lot working here about the culture when it comes to health and the importance of basic health education. Every person we saw come through we took the time to educate on their health and the medications we would be giving them to take home. The people here in Nepal work hard to live but due to lack of education when it comes to health they put their bodies at risk to medical ailments. When looking back at each person’s situation though, I am amazed at how they compensate for what they do not have to live out their lives.
The other team we have had was also a medical team that consisted of an occupational therapist and a physical therapist. This was a small team that had been here in the past, so they had specific things that they wanted to get done in their time here. We did a couple house- to-house visits with them to see different disabled children and help educate families on things that could be done to assist both the family and the disabled children in day-to-day life. All the one-to-one appointments we went to left an impression on me. It was neat to see how each child and family compensated in different ways to be functional in the way they lived. One of our one-to-one visits, though, stood out to me above the rest: a young girl about the age of 9 who had cerebral palsy. Our meeting with her was at the church instead of her home. The parents of this girl drive an hour by motor bike one way with her every Saturday to go to church (because this girl loves to go to church). This beautiful girl is not able to speak more than a moan and say “mom” and “dad.” She cannot move at all on her own, not even to hold her head up or roll over, and her mother carries her everywhere she goes. Yet, when you look at this young girl, talk to her, and watch her smile your heart melts as you see the life in her eyes. When asked if the family had a wheelchair for her to use to help prevent injury to them they said yes, but only at home in the house because the ground here is to uneven for a wheelchair; so anywhere this family goes outside of the home this girl is carried by the mother. Education on different things that could help the family to avoid injury and stretches that they could do with their daughter were given. The way this family lived was amazing to me and their faith left mine lacking; I was very humbled through this meeting.
With the physical therapist and the occupational therapist, we went to one disabled group home for children and it was neat to see how the kids learned to compensate with their disability even though they did not have the tools that we would provide in the United States to assist people with similar disabilities. There were kids with little to no hands managing to write and a girl with stubs for feet dancing. These kids were kids–mischievous and full of laughter. I was able to sit and talk to one of the girls here who spoke English very well. She had been brought into the facility as a young girl and her younger brother had been brought in shortly after with the same disability. They saw their parents on occasion but not often because being disabled is not embraced here but instead hidden.
My life here continues to be full of constant learning. Language school continues to be a struggle, but I look forward to the day when I can communicate with the people around me. I have moved into my own apartment and am working to make it home. Some of my Nepali friends have offered to come teach me how to cook and I am excited to learn how to cook the food here. I am still running and working out every morning and with each beautiful sunrise I thank God for all He has done and continues to do. I read a quote the other day that says, “make each day your masterpiece” by John Wooden and I have decided to make that my new goal. Each day is challenging to me as I learn to adapt to this new life, but I know with God’s help I can make each day a masterpiece.
I currently am reading, “Chase The Lion” by Mark Batterson. In this book Mark Batterson talks about how perceived disadvantages like disabilities often prove to be well-disguised advantages because they force us to develop attitudes and abilities that would have otherwise gone undiscovered. It is as we compensate for the disadvantages that we discover our greatest gifts; in other words, it’s in the disadvantages that dreams can be made.
The way God made our bodies is amazing! How everything works together and compensates for each other like in respiratory and metabolic acidosis and alkalosis leaves me in awe of our creator. It is in this expression of awe looking at the science of the body that I realize that God’s designs are intricate and unique to each one of us. He knows where each of us is spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Instead of always wanting out of the tough situation we might find ourselves in, we need to start utilizing the circumstances God has us in knowing that He sees the bigger picture.