Season of Giving: Softball Senior Changes Life on South Africa Mission Trip
Dec. 10, 2012
LAWRENCE, Kan. - In the early weeks of the 2012 season, Rosie Hull turned her phone back on as the Jayhawks taxied into the Kansas City International Airport.
The Kansas softball team was returning from a weekend roadtrip when Hull read an interesting message on Facebook. It came from a connection she had through a friend. That friend explained how she met a woman from Kansas that had pursued mission work in South Africa.
The woman had started a Life Care Center and was looking for volunteers to travel to South Africa and help out over the summer. Hull quickly scanned the message, which was geared toward reaching students in the medical field, for the time frame.
"I've always wanted to go to Africa," Hull said. "It was a dream for me, but (because of my schedule) I never thought it would be a reality. Of course I'm interested in health care and aspire to be a physician's assistant someday. I couldn't have asked for a better opportunity."
Hull had valid reason to believe that her dream of doing mission work in South Africa would be far-fetched. A junior on the Kansas softball team at the time, the Lawrence, Kan., native already had plans of off-season conditioning for her senior year as well an intense workload of summer classes. The schedule for a busy student-athlete made it hard to believe her dream would pan out - until she saw the dates of the trip.
"It was in that moment that I thought, `Oh my gosh, it was the only three weeks of the whole summer that I'd be able to go and do exactly what I want to do,''' Hull remembered. "I had never been abroad, but I always knew I wanted to go. I knew I needed to talk to my parents and find out more about it, but in that moment, sitting on that plane, I knew I could do it. It was fate and just so meant to be."
With the pressure of graduating on time and the need for patient care volunteer hours looming, Hull couldn't have been more excited to commit to the trip. She knew the medical field was suited for her even back in her days at Free State High School, so the anticipation of a dream trip such as this had several years behind it.
"My heart beats for people," Hull admitted. "I love the sciences, too, so I've wanted to do healthcare since I was 15. It's so exciting going through college and working toward that. Ultimately, I don't know what I want to specialize in, but honestly this trip was such a confirmation that this is what I'm supposed to be doing."
According to Hull, the trip was split into two parts. The first part centered around the city of Durban, the third largest city in South Africa. While there, Hull and her group rented a flat from local pharmacists and spent the majority of their time volunteering at the Life Care Center in the city.
For the second part of the trip, the Lawrence native found herself in the country - called the African Bush - where she shadowed doctors in a government hospital and stayed on the property.
"That was such a learning experience," Hull beamed. "There were doctors from South Africa, England, Germany and native Zulu doctors, and I got to see all different kinds of wards. It was an experience I couldn't have gotten anywhere else, and then I got to do some fun things, too. I was very blessed I got to go on an African safari, go to the beautiful beach, do some shopping in a market, I got to feed elephants and literally all that traditional African stuff. It was just so cool."
But for Hull, the most memorable and rewarding moments were spent helping people who may otherwise have gone without medical attention. During her time at the government hospital, Hull worked closely with patients. She stepped in and helped in a wide range of needs, including cleaning a stroke patient's bedding and room to make her more comfortable, helping rehabilitating patients re-learn to walk and even scrubbing in on a few surgeries - including a C-section delivery of twin girls. Hull is also a twin and her sister, Maggie, is a member of the Kansas softball team, as well.
"This experience opened my eyes to the need internationally," Hull said. "As well as the possible opportunity to do further mission trips like this after I finish school and learn (skills) that I can use to really help with. This trip cemented (my decision) that this really is what I want to do."
Her life's passion stayed intact despite the conditions she was working within. Accustomed to medical facilities in the United States, Hull described the government hospital as something much different than anything she had come across at home. According to her, the accommodations would definitely not pass in the U.S., but it's all about taking care of as many people as they can in a day with the doctors that they have.
She went to describe that the rooms had beds right next to each other, regardless of men, women or different type of diseases. In the doctors' offices, they cycle patient after patient, so there is rarely time or resources to take all the sanitation precautions that doctors in America do, but at the same time, they're giving them good care and seeing as many patients as they can. Private hospitals are available and offer slightly better health care, but considering the amount of people stranded in poverty, a system was needed that could reach as many people as possible.
"It was so inspiring," Hull said. "The doctors were awesome and they worked so hard. That's what I love about health care--just renewing people's hope and providing them with care. I love that they make the opportunity (to receive health care) available for everyone over there. Even though it's maybe not the best, it's there for everyone, and I think that's really special and I was honored to be part of everything that I got to help out with."
Although the trip lasted only three weeks, Hull knows those 21 days forever changed her life. After she returned, Hull fielded questions about being happy to come home and how difficult it was to leave. Not surprising for the girl who has a smile for everyone, Hull remembers answering that she was filled with the joy that comes with helping people and knowing she has chosen a career path that will allow her do that forever. The hardships she saw only strengthened her faith in the power of hope, but more importantly, gave her life added meaning.
"Being a student-athlete (now doesn't feel quite) as stressful because there's so much more to life than being stressed out about things you have to get done," Hull reflected. "Going over there and getting to build relationships with people put things in a new perspective and I genuinely feel changed from the whole experience, and I'm excited to go forward. I'm excited to be in school, for my senior year of softball and for what's to come with the future in health care. Life is such an exciting journey and that's definitely a new perspective that this summer helped me realize."
Hull's life has returned to normal with practice, weight training and classes, but this time she's armed with a broadened outlook on what her future has in store. She and the Jayhawks are currently finishing up the fall semester and will begin the 2013 season on Feb. 8 against North Carolina State.
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