Dr. Britt is keeping us all humble with her example
Stonington - Brittany Solar listened to her parents. The enduring lessons: Others come first. You second. Chase your dreams, but remember Cicero: "Non nobis solum nati sumus." We are not born for ourselves alone.
And maybe had she not listened so well to Neil and Paulla Solar, she'd still be in residency at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, doing plenty of noble, selfless work as a pediatrician. But then, that's not Britt.
"I remember one summer, she read 'The Hot Zone,'" Neil said Thursday, alluding to a 1994 novel about the origins of Ebola. "She wanted to become a virologist in Africa."
And now some years later, Brittany Solar, former 1,000-point scorer at Stonington High, has spent the last three weeks in Cameroon working on a research project about mothers and their children with AIDS, also tending to many others as the only pediatrician in a local hospital.
Brittany has been blogging about the experience.
There, eloquence belies the heartbreak and heartache she sees every day.
Here is an excerpt from cameroonkids.blogspot.com:
"Then there are the children like Cedrik who walk around the sidewalks with goofy grins on their faces, with basketball bellies under their shirts. They giggle at the sound of your stethoscope in their ears and they share their fufu with you. They play 'slap hand' before rounds and explore the compound in the afternoons. They have a mother and a baby sister who sit at the edge of a hospital bed at all hours. They enrich your life, your every morning, with an infectious crooked smile; they lighten your heavy heart when they walk up behind you and grab your hand.
"Cedrik is the best thing that has happened to me since coming here, a youthful light in so much pain and darkness. I vomited when I heard the news, felt a deep squeezing pain in my chest. I can't talk, I can't think, I can't eat. I can't bear to see his mother, hear her wails. I am nauseous, defeated, overwhelmed, paralyzed. I've had the horrible misfortune of enduring far too many childhood deaths, but this one has truly shattered me.
"I can't believe that I won't see his smiling face ever again, hear the sound of his giggles. So outwardly healthy and full of life, so much of a mischievous future he would have had. It is too painful to even think about his mother. He will never be a teenager, he will never fall in love, he will never know the joys of being a parent. I just can't wrap my head around it. Playful and free this morning, lifeless by afternoon.
"I didn't see it coming.
"In 29 years, this is the worst day of my life.
"I think it will be a while before I catch my breath, before I can pull the knife from my stomach. No one will make eye contact with me today. The surgeons look at the ground when they see me coming. Last night at dinner I told them, 'be careful with him, he's my favorite patient.' I wish I hadn't said that.
"And so this is life, I suppose, just a pericardium away from death. It's cruel and horrible and unfair at times. Admittedly beautiful at others. But right now I'm having trouble seeing the rainbow through the monsoon.
"The chaplain came and we prayed. I thought of the words my bravest friend had written to me:
"'God, grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.'
"I will try to remember this, now more than ever."
This is Brittany Solar:
She's 29 now, a graduate of Rhodes College in Memphis. She completed medical school at the University of Texas at Houston. And she's in residency at Mount Sinai. She was taking Community Health Organization classes and came upon a doctor whose research project was about mothers and AIDS patients in Cameroon.
Off she went.
She comes home March 22.
"I get very nervous," Neil Solar, a math teacher at Cutler Middle School in Groton, said. "This is something she's always wanted to do, all the way back to middle school. I pray all the time."
Neil Solar worries, as dads do about their daughters. But how many dads worry about their daughters because they may be too close to terrorists? Boko Haram, an Islamic Terrorist movement, is based, among other places, in northern Cameroon.
"I'm sitting here (Thursday) with my shoes and socks off, propane heater with milk and cookies," Neil said. "And you think about what she's doing. She is an inspiration beyond words."
Then there's Paulla, her mom, the ultra successful girls' basketball coach at the high school. Two state titles in tow and now this season, 16 wins and counting, into tonight's second round of the state tournament in Cromwell.
Paulla uses many life experiences to teach her players the same things she taught her daughters. She has the perfect touch: This is sports. For win or lose, not life or death. This is about being part of something bigger than your own self-interest.
"I talked to (principal) Mark Friese and asked if it was OK for the kids to read the blog. It's tough reading, but it's reality," she said. "We need perspective. So when the kids complain about the floor not being swept or it being too cold in the gym, I say, 'we can get through it. Read the blog.'"
This is opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.
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