By Livi Rees

Hi everyone! This is a slightly different blog post for our last one, as Stuart and I have both been back in the UK for just over two weeks now. Rather than reflecting on the trip I thought I’d write about coming home and how that’s been so far. Returning from a long trip away is often challenging, especially when you have been immersed in a culture so different to your own, and so we were expecting a bit of a shock when we first arrived. I was particularly dreading the shock of the cold – especially once I heard that Cambridge would be a shocking 30 degrees colder than Yangon the week we got back! But this was soon made up for by the thought of seeing our loved ones, and breathing in the comparatively pollution-free air of the UK.

When I first got back I stood outside my house for a few minutes before going in, noticing how visually different the buildings and pavements are to central Yangon, but what struck me most was how eerily quiet it is here. It amazed me that I’d never noticed it before, but my street is almost silent! Gone is the constant hum of traffic, the roar of the trains going behind our flat, the laughter of the children playing in our alley and the calls of the street vendors as they tout their wares.

This initial shock was softened by many warm welcomes home from friends and family, and by the rediscovery of some home comforts. There is nothing quite like that first night in your own bed after some time away, and more so if you’ve been sleeping on a hospital bed for six months! One of my top priorities on my return was a trip to the supermarket to buy all the food I had missed, and I came home with six different types of cheese and a smile on my face!

Both Stuart and myself have restarted our jobs at Addenbrooke’s this week now. Returning to work was a similarly surreal experience, looking at familiar things through fresh eyes and becoming aware of things I may never have noticed before. Assisting in the insertion of a tracheostomy earlier this week I was really hit by how privileged we are in this country to have so many devices and protocols that are designed with the sole purpose of reducing risk in procedures such as this, making the environment safer both for patients to receive treatment and for us to practice as healthcare professionals.

Going forwards Stuart and I will be giving a few talks about our experiences, and soon we are hoping to start the process of organising another trip to Yangon for two new volunteers in the future. The last six months have been a truly formative experience, we have both learnt a huge amount and met some wonderful people. Our next task will be to embrace the changes that have taken place within ourselves, and to bring that learning into our practice in the UK to develop further as healthcare professionals.

Livi and Stuart upon their return to the UK. They stand alongside ICU Consultant and CYTIP Project Lead, Rowan Burnstein and CUH Director of Workforce, David Wherrett.