Our yearly medical team arrived last week. We went to the remote village of Gros Marin and set up a true rural clinic with no building, or church, or other facility. We treated patients daily with chickens running around our feet and kids running and playing, and my dog Lucy perched up on her throne as the queen of the clinic. We did this with a few chairs, tables, tarps, medications, prayer, and our willing bodies. It was different from our clinics in the past, more peaceful and comfortable. We saw a lot of the usual headaches, back aches, arthritis, reflux, and high blood pressure. I’ve done this for many years and I will have to agree with those who bash short-term mission trips and say we don’t really help. I agree a little with those statements. Does it really help anyone by us handing out tums and tylenol and vitamins to everyone? Maybe not. I can say that to the hard working man that has crippling back pain and has never felt relief, that Ibuprofen was a blessing. Or to the woman who has had a urinary tract infection for months and is just on the verge of becoming septic and very sick, we might have saved her life with antibiotics, even if she is not aware of it. But yes, to satisfy those who feel we don’t make a lot of difference, you are right, we really don’t to MOST. Many years ago on a medical trip a doctor told me something that will always stick with me. We were treating a toddler that had 106 temperature and his oxygen was low. We had to get this child to the hospital quickly. We could lower his temperature with tylenol and a cold bath, but we did not have oxygen, and for those that are in the medical field, you know a low oxygen level on a child is bad news! We arranged for the child to go to the hospital and the team threw their money together to pay for his tests and services. When the week was over, I was having a conversation with this doctor and he said to me, “Crystal, all 30 of us paid a plane ticket to come here. We paid for a hotel nightly, and food, and transportation, and translators, and fuel, and medications. We are looking at around 45K. What could we have done with 45K? Built a clinic? Built a school? Fed a village? But all that money was worth this one thing. We saved this child’s life. And that’s worth 45K.” Those words will always resonate within me. I understand all the money that goes into these trips. But I also understand, and I always tell my teams, that you are here for 1 person this week. With every team, I tell them, all the money paid to come, their time away from their job (where they are not getting paid that week), the time away from their family, and living in conditions that they are not used to, it’s all for 1 person that God is going to put in front of them this week. I have never been one to be concerned with numbers. It makes no difference how many patients we saw in the clinic. It makes no difference how many kids we get sponsored. I’ve always felt its more about helping that 1 that God put in front of you. Everyday I am focused on that 1, not 100. I also believe that I am responsible for whoever comes to my clinic. God sent them to us that day. If they need help, we have to get them the help they need. We can’t turn away people because we don’t have the resources. I mean, what are we really here for if we know the help can be obtained, but we don’t make a way for them?
Jose-Merie is a 25 year old lady with a heart murmur and needs to go to a hospital for an echocardiogram and a workup. Her life will likely end at a young age without some treatment.
John is a 7 year old boy who gets very tired and can’t play well with other kids. He has to stop and rest a lot. He stays sick a lot too. I listened to him and discovered the loudest heart murmur that could almost be heard with my hand and no stethoscope. Without a proper workup, John will also die at a young age.
Smeralda is a 12 year old girl who is falling behind in school. Her mother reported that she does not make good grades and she does not know what is wrong with her. Smeralda rolled her eyes at her mom and told me that she can’t see the chalk board and her mom won’t listen to her. She told me that she understands and is a smart kid but she just can’t see. I pulled out my phone and found some Creole words and gave it to her and told her to read them. She read them perfectly. Then I took the phone a little distance from her and she was not able to read. Smeralda has been labeled as having a learning disability and all she needs are glasses! Glasses will impact her life. She could go on with that label and continue to fall behind and eventually quit school and lose her self-confidence and grow up uneducated and end up becoming someone’s maid or sex slave. Or we could send her to get glasses and she will grow up a normal educated young woman who can do anything she wants to do. Could be the president one day…stranger things have happened!
And then there’s Solome. Solome used to be the town doctor but he is elderly and frail and does not get around much anymore. He was in a motorcycle accident years ago and his leg is deformed and he can only walk with crutches. He walked 3 miles on his crutches to get to our clinic with a complaint of knee pain. He is a tall man and his crutches are much too short for him. He has to lean forward and bend his back to use them. The padding under the arms has been replaced with cloth taped down. A new pair of crutches that are taller and have better padding will make a world of difference for Dr. Solome. We tried to pay for a motorcycle taxi to take Dr. Solome home when he left the clinic, but he refused and said he could walk.
On day 2 of the clinic, a young lady sat down in the chair with a complaint of her right breast swollen and draining. She stated that she had breast cancer and the doctor wanted to remove the breast some time ago but she did not feel it was necessary and continued on with no treatment. I assisted her with removing her shirt to view the breast and I was mortified at the sight. I have spent 16 years treating critically ill patients and have seen some pretty nasty things, but this topped them all! Her breast was much bigger than the left and it was mangled, with pieces of flesh missing. It looked like an animal had come and just eaten off of it. It was draining and bleeding. I immediately grabbed Oslin and told him he needed to take her to the hospital. That breast needed to be removed. Although my gut knew it was too far gone to save her life, I hoped with surgery it might make what time she did have left be more bearable and comfortable. Oslin took her to the hospital and was back by the end of the day with a report from the doctor that he could remove the breast and the cost. Valerie is 35 years old. She has 5 children. In the past, she was treated by a witch doctor for her problem. She is currently in the hospital. She is too weak for the surgery to be performed. She has an IV and is getting antibiotics and wound care and has received a blood transfusion. There is still a plan for surgery, but the doctor wants her to be a little stronger first. The cancer has spread to her lung and Valerie does not have a lot of time left on this earth. I am 5 hours away from Valerie. I spoke to her on the phone this morning. She says she feels good. She likes being at the hospital because they feed her and let her rest and she is not having to work or take care of kids. This hospital visit is a break for Valerie. It is a refuge. And she is hopeful. I told her gently that her time left on earth was very short. She stated that she understood. I asked her if she had a relationship with Jesus. She said no. She said she knew God loved her, but did not have a relationship with Him. I muted the phone and I broke a little. After bringing myself back together, I told her I would come to visit her tomorrow. As I’m writing this blog, preparations are being made for me to travel to visit her in her time of need. I will let Valerie know that God does in fact love her and that He sent His son Jesus for her. For her sins, for her sicknesses, for her healing, for her hopelessness. I will hold her hand and give her my word that I will make sure her children are cared for after she passes. I will lead her to the Lord and I will tell her she does not have to fear death anymore. This place called earth is just a land where we are all held and given a choice. The choice to serve God and be with Him again one day, or the choice to live in sin or however we want and serve ourselves and then our destiny is hell and utter misery forever. If you choose Jesus, you have nothing to fear. Death is going to come and we will be with Him. Isn’t that what we are all working towards? Why be in fear? What’s there to fear? Fear of the unknown? Fear of pain? Fear that your children will not be taken care of? I hope to alleviate all these fears for Valerie. I want her to know that God sent us for her. That he brought her to our clinic and He loves her!!!!! Maybe God will heal her, I don’t know. I guess He can choose what He wants to do. But He sent our team to help her this week because He loves her. She was so precious to Him that 10 people paid a lot of money to come for a week and put together a clinic where she would come and we would take care of her until she passes and then take care of her children. I am committed to seeing that her children grow up and have everything they need.
A lot of folks received tums, tylenol, and ibuprofen. And they walked away and continued their normal lives. But to these 5: Jose-Merie, John, Smeralda, Solome, and Valerie, our love, Christ’s love, will change their world’s forever.