In her heartfelt story, Mai reflects her journey as a healthcare professional from Amman to Chicago. Her compassion, commitment, and dedication reflects her values. 

Momarrida. In Arabic, this word translates to healer. It is also the only word used to refer to nurses back home in Amman.

At five years old, my family and I left our modest shack in Amman, Jordan in hopes to find prosperity in Chicago. While my adolescent mind could not begin to imagine the culture shock that I was about to experience, I was thrilled by the chance for change. Amman had been my home for the first 5 years of my life, and even so, I had never felt more at home than I did while stepping off of the airplane at O’Hare International Airport. To this day, I can feel the rush of the wind as it blew my braided pigtails around my little face, a smile stretching from cheek to cheek.

It wasn’t that I was happy to leave Amman. In fact, I was sad to leave my cousins, my friends, and my teachers. Nevertheless, there were many things about Amman that I was excited to leave behind, especially after hearing about how magical of a place America is. Upon arriving in America in 2000, I was shocked to learn that streetlights were used at every intersection on the roads.  Back home in Hashmi al-Shamali, the humble slum of a village with one corner store and stray cats galore, streetlights had not been introduced yet. Rather, taxicabs would scuttle past one another down the narrow alleyways and gravelly roads.

The next big culture shock happened when I became enrolled in school. As an Arabic-speaking kindergartener in Chicago, I had to continually make a conscious effort to communicate in English to the best of my ability. From having come from a learning environment in which I was already comfortable with my peers and familiar with the curriculum, adjusting to relearning the alphabet, numbers, shapes, and seasons in an entirely foreign language was challenging and, at times, discouraging. It wasn’t until I began watching more American television and reading more English stories that I began to steadily pick up on dialect and its proper application. Before I would know it, I would be able to comfortably participate in snack time discussions with the rest of my classmates.

While I relished in the convenience of streetlights and the consolation of welcoming schoolmates, it was my first trip to an American hospital that really allowed me to understand why America was spoken of like a magical land to my friends back at home. When I was four years old living in Amman, I decided to stack together the mattresses that my siblings and I would sleep on in our shared bedroom. In the process of jumping on and off these layered mattresses, I broke my arm and received medical attention at our local clinic. To compare the quality of healthcare that I received in Amman to the quality of healthcare that I received a few years later in Chicago would be unfair.

As a nine-year-old with Appendicitis, I was treated promptly in a clean, sterile environment surrounded by cautious yet compassionate professionals. While the doctors were direct in providing superior care, it was the nurses’ intimate compassion that, once again, helped me understand why my parents chose to leave our home to pursue opportunities in a new home. Although I had been living in Chicago for just a few years at the time, I was still adjusting to finding my place in a society that I felt as though I had just joined. Scared, lost, and unsure, I sat in my hospital bed after surgery thinking about all of the differences and advancements that this hospital had over the clinic that I visited five years prior. Moreover, I considered the quality of individual care that I received from my nursing team during my stay. As a nine-year-old with broken-English recovering from an appendectomy in an unfamiliar environment, the nurses on my floor were commendable in their extensive efforts to make my stay as comfortable as possible. In offering me their time and commitment, these nurses granted a scared, uncomfortable little girl consolation and friendship.

To be a nurse is far more than simply completing tasks and assessing patient-care. It is in my experience that to be a nurse, one must possess superior-level skills such as compassion, patience, and an unparalleled degree of commitment. At a very tender age, I was thrown into a completely foreign environment and speaking a foreign language among my foreign-cultured peers. With enough of time and effort, I was able to persevere my way through some of the most difficult times of my life while adjusting to life in Chicago. These obstacles have not only shaped me to become the dedicated spirit that I am, but they have also instilled in me a drive to continue to pursue greater opportunity for myself, just as my parents had done for my siblings and I. To allow my parents’ sacrifice to leave our home in the Middle East go to waste would be an abomination to all that I aim to stand for in the future.

During the recovery process of a patient, positive motivation is important for psychological and physical health. A soft voice, a kind smile, and supportive words are curative and alleviate suffering. I have humanity’s best interests in my first aid kit and a great appreciation for education which is why I choose to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Nursing.  It would be a tremendous opportunity to enter into a nursing program in which I will be given the resources and privilege to apply my strengths to the fullest potential, meanwhile adjusting my weaknesses to become additional strengths. If given the opportunity, I am confident that I will be able to configure myself into the type of nurse that will make a difference in not only the healthcare profession entirely, but also in the lives of the many individuals that I will come across during the duration of my career.

In my native language, Momarrida translates to “healer” in reference to “nurse.” To heal is to possess aptitude in application with compassion. Nursing is a profession of natural ability coupled with benevolent concern. Just as I’ve taught myself how to speak and write English and assimilated myself with my surroundings, my next accomplishment is to become a Momarrida.

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