Burmese immigrant gives back to community
As the nation celebrates its independence, a modern-day story about the struggles of 'coming to America'.
Right here in central Indiana, on the south side of Indianapolis, live the largest population of Burmese-Chin in the country. And one man makes it a personal mission to make them feel at home.
With a simple hello, Muang Shane, or Shane as he likes to be called, checks in on a new mother at St. Francis Hospital's south campus.
Holding her newborn son, she has questions. And in her native language, he offers answers.
She is among the thousands of Burmese families who've emigrated to Indiana. And as Shane explains, "They have no one to turn to. I try to fill the gap."
He's a nurse, but his nametag reads 'medical advocate' at the hospital. And Shane works every day to live up to the title.
"The best thing for me is when I walk in a room and I speak to my patient in my own native language. Their eyes just lit up," explains Shane.
His passion for patient care comes from his own experience. A native of Rangoon in what was once Burma, the 31-year old grew up in a time of turmoil.
"I remember coming home from school and hear gunshots, hear bombs going off," recalls Shane.
One of three children of a physician, he has vivid memories of his mother's challenges providing care.
One particular night would shape his life forever.
"When I was six years old I remember her operating from candlelight to remove a bullet from this guy's back. He can't make a sound because he didn't want to alert the police or military regime. That's when I knew I wanted to help people," he said.
Shane's mother, wanting better for her children, sacrificed everything, including her medical career, to come to the United States.
The family settled in Brownsburg, Indiana.
Shane was 13 at the time.
"I didn't speak a word of English," he recalls.
Shane admits it was a difficult transition. When he moved here, he says he could "count on one hand" the number of Burmese families here. Now there are about 8,000 to 10,000 Burmese-Chin who've emigrated, mainly on the south side of Indianapolis, making it the largest community of Burmese in the country.
And Shane knows exactly how they feel.
"The number one problem is the language barrier," he explains. "It's difficult for them to navigate the medical field."
So at St Francis, Shane sees every Burmese patient like the new mother.
On her big day, he makes sure she and her new son are ready for life outside the hospital.
More than a translator, he is a connection.
"Not only am I their liasion," he explains, "I'm also their financial counselor, social worker. I do every little thing they need."
He is someone who understands where they came from--and their struggle to find a new beginning. Working to make their new life a little easier.
"There is nothing better than helping your own people," he admits. "To me it's the best job in the world."