Turin (Agenzia Fides) - Clara Pautasso is now 40 years old, lives in Turin and works as a nurse at Molinette hospital. At 18, with her high school leaving exam approaching, she felt called upon to make a choice. "I have a very precise memory, engraved in my memory. I was having dinner with my family, it was spring, and I remember very well that I told them that I was leaving for Africa in September". Having grown up in the admiration of figures like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Clara wants to immerse herself with all her being in the reality of things. Through friends, she met a Consolata missionary nun in Tanzania. From there, the desire to leave was born. She wanted to see with her own eyes situations and people that she had hitherto known from hearsay, or from stories read and seen in the media. Like those of little boys and girls who live in situations of suffering, hunger, illness, without anyone to dry their tears for no reason.
Clara works all summer to be able to pay for the trip, takes the entrance test for nursing training and leaves in September for a month and a half. "This reality entered my heart from the first day, I immediately felt at home," Clara Pautasso told Agenzia Fides. "It was a journey that changed me, I was first in service at the Kibiti dispensary then in Dar es Salaam at the dispensary and maternity ward and in Iringa. On my return, I started to study at university to become a nurse, and as soon as my holidays allowed me, I went to Kenya, to Matiri, to Taraka, to Saint Ursula Hospital, where I did everything I had to do, and not only activities related to my profession".
Meanwhile, in Turin, the young nurse continued her training: a license thesis on malaria, a specialization in tropical diseases: then she started to work. First for six years in orthopedics, then in emergency medicine. “It felt like every choice was dictated by something that was prepared for me,” Clara says. On this path, which is also an inner quest, came first the decision to dedicate herself to emergency medicine, then, in 2018, the choice to leave the "protected" paths to follow her own desire for total dedication, helping those most in need.
In May 2018, Clara begins a very intense period of reflection. She speaks to her coordinator at the hospital and tells her that she could leave the work team in the coming months. From this moment, everything is just a succession of "departure preparations". Leaving a secure job, a home, a family.
If the Consolata missionaries help her a lot on the one hand, they do not take into account the difficulties she will encounter in Ikonda, in Tanzania, where Clara is destined.
"In Tanzania, I realized that everything I was going through was like a dress 'sewn' on me," she says. I find myself working in an intensive care unit, opened only two months ago, after experiencing emergency medicine."
There are no anesthesiologists or emergency doctors in Ikonda. There are local doctors, mostly surgeons, as well as volunteer specialists who come from Western countries. The team is made up of nurses. Clara gets to work. First objective: strengthen the healthcare team. "More than learning how to measure blood pressure or read an electrocardiogram, I wanted to be able to convey the desire to take care of a person which is the basis of a nurse's work. I really saw the growth of many of them before my eyes," she explains.
During the nine months spent at Ikonda, so many things happen, Clara meets people, crosses eyes and lives including that of Frederick, a young man of around 45 years old suffering from stomach cancer. At first, Frederick does not agree to be treated by Clara. She's white, she's female, and she's wearing clothes and sweaters he's not used to. Clara remains embittered by this unmotivated hostility. Then Frederick gets worse, worse, he can't feed himself. Clara prepares to feed him as best she can, spends hours by his side. And things change, without words: "Frederick died a few days later. Thanks to him, I understood that feeling loved can be one of the most powerful medicines, even when there is nothing left to do, even if you are about to die".
The time to return home arrives and her stay in Ikonda ends.
Back in her city, without a job, Clara puts her contacts back in motion, and leaves again. It is precisely her experience in Africa that made her realize that this is the horizon in which she is called to live her devotion. She arrives in Turin in the autumn of 2019, shortly after the pandemic broke out. Clara, due to lack of personnel, was "diverted" from the Molinette hospital to the Mauriziano hospital, in the emergency medicine service attached to the emergency department, the first point of entry for Covid patients. A providential "diversion" which reopened in Clara the desire to return to Molinette, in her former emergency medicine ward. At that moment, she is on the front line and doing her best to help patients affected by the pandemic. She recognizes once again the chain of this "dress sewn to measure", on a path where nothing is acquired, but where "Even the hairs of your head have all been counted" (Lk 12,7)". (EG) (Agenzia Fides, 13/1/2023)
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