Friday, August 31, 2007

Day #4 Dominican Republic: "Say it isn't so..."

Called the police today. Had to. By 11am we had a mob brewing and a crowd getting out of control. We shut the clinic down, the cops dispersed the mob, we closed the doors to the clinic, had a team meeting, prayed... and then we had lunch.

Everything was going well until there was a lapse in crowd control. We were in a church with a lot of people getting through the doors and the team surrounded by people wanting to be seen. The crowd outside over ran registration and those with numbers began to panic and started to enter the church demanding to be seen. By then I was outside with Yolie trying to make sense of what was going on. It didn't look good to either of us, and that was when I told someone to call the police. They arrived pretty quickly and took control for the most part, but there was still chaos. We were witnessing first hand, desperation from people who had nothing, who wanted to be seen, who needed medicines and who knew that there would not be another chance. Could we blame them? Not really. The team was calm, and since most of the team are seasoned Medical Mercy members, they knew the drill when I announced a shut down. Details aside, we got things under control by 1:30pm and saw 400 patients today.

Marien is 5 years old and not a sponsored MoM child, but we were seeing her as we do the whole community in addition to the sponsored children. She is the only surviving triplet born at 7 months gestation, 2 months early according to her mother. The other 2 triplets were still born. She is healthy, bright and loveable. And here's the catch: according to mom, when Marien was delivered, she was breathing, but just barely. The doctor said to the mother "Take this parasite home to die." What? I asked the mother to repeat what she just said. "Take this parasite home to die." I got another interpretor to verify the translation of what the mother was saying: "Take this parasite home to die." Say it isn't so...but it is the truth the mother said. I had to stop for awhile and simply hold Marien. What a world we live in.

They buried Pastor this morning right around the time that I was examining Marien. I have been thinking about him alot since yesterday and now have Marien in my mind. A life taken, a life given. The one taken from neglect. The one given as a grace from God. Or am I being too harsh? I have to believe that the people here are inherently good people, with good intentions, and virtues. I believe all that, is hidden under the hardship of living in poverty and abondonment. Sometimes we do things to survive that are not very pleasant and we witnessed that today. To come here with the intent to show the love of Christ is a hard taskmaster. These past 2 days have proven that. But there is something more that we intend to do and that is to make ourselves aware of who we are, not what we are: vulnerable, fallible, and weak souls, who struggle every day to do the best we can, knowing that He is in control of everything. Just like the mob today, the Pastor dying yesterday, and Marien living as a human being and not a parasite. And for all of that...

....we give thanks always...He is in control and we believe in Him. Simple as that.


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Dominican Republic Day #3: God said no....

The Pastor was large in height and size, but gentile in heart and mind. He came to see me the day before yesterday and I spent an hour with him watching him struggle with the pain. It had been 2 years since he had felt the tingling in his legs, and then the numbness, making it difficult for him to walk. He said that the pain was unbearable and that on Sundays when he preached, he leaned on the pulpit and leaned on God for strength to get through. I watched as he struggled to get to his feet when I entered the room. I watched as tears came into his eyes when he talked about the last 2 years.

After the tingling and numbness started, he went and saw several specialists, including an orthopedic surgeon and a neurologist. He had a CT scan of his back which was read as a herniated disc between L5 and S1 and a nerve conduction test on his legs which revealed little motor function or nerve input. He was told that there was nothing that could be done and that he would be paralyzed from the waist down very soon. He was given a prescription for Decadron (a steroid) and Vitamnin B6 which he was told to inject himself with in each ankle every other day, as that would help delay the paralysis. He did this for 2 years. He spent all that he had on tests, medicines, and syringes, leaving nothing for him to support his young wife and son of 4 years old. The Pastor was 46 years old. He had just started a new church and MoM had found a sponsor to build the school and structures to support over 100 Forgotten Children. His ministry was moving forward but he wasn't.

I examined him, confirmed that in fact he had severe neurologic injujry to his legs and that he was close to being paralyzed. I asked him to get me all the medical records he had and that I would meet with him again after I reviewed everything. We prayed and he was carried out to a waiting car.

Yesterday, I spent an hour going over his CT scan, his nerve conduction tests, his reports from the orthopedic surgeon and the neurologist, and found that the herniated disc was in fact treatable. I don't beleive that the doctors cared as the Pastor was a poor man, with little to offer in terms of payment. As I was putting everything away I came across a chest xray. There was no report. It revealed a very large heart with a large aorta. No one had told him about this. He was not being treated. But his wife did tell me today that he had thought that there was somethign wrong with his heart and a yer ago got an electrocardiogram on his own but never had it read. I was ready to see him back and make arrangements to have him get additional studies and help for his heart and surgery.

This morning when we arrived at Hosa the place where we saw 410 children today, Yolie from MoM came and asked me when they could bring Pastor to see me. I said anytime, and when he was called, I was told that he was excited and happy that we were going to meet again. He knew that I had news and that we could help him. His wife called a taxi, and as they waited for it, they prayed, sang hymns, and talked about how the pain and suffering would stop soon, and their ministry and love for the Forgotten Children could continue. As they prayed the taxi arrived. Daisy, his wife, later told me that as they prayed, Pastor called out "Daisy" and when she opened her eyes, his hands were curled and he was blue. He collapsed. The taxi that had been waiting to take him to news of a way to make him better now took him to the hospital where he was pronunced dead half an hour later. I found out when we got the call a few minutes later. I was at the hospital soon after.

I spoke with Daisy. She said that Pastor was the happiest she had seen him in years, knowing that we may be able to help him. He couldn't wait for the taxi to arrive. I struggled with whether I should tell Daisy what I found: that there was a good chance that surgery would work and that he would walk and the pain and suffering would be gone, and that no one picked up on his heart condition and that I was going to make sure he was treated. Would that make it all worse? Would it be better if she didn't know? Or would she feel comfort in knowing that we would have been able to do something for him? I told her. She listened, tears falling. We cried, prayed and parted ways. I ache knowing that Pastor could have been helped. I ache for his young wife and his 4 year old son. I ache for the ministry that now will be void.

God is in control. He is all powerful and all knowing. When the taxi came to take Pastor to come and see me, God said "No". I will never understand how this all came together. The timing of it all. The meaning of it all. But then I'm not supposed to. I can however, shake my head in wonder as to why God does what he does, and harbor a little anger. He will understand. There will never be a moment when I will feel entirely myself again. We change after something like this....and that is what God is intending all along.

This trip has not been without its ups and downs. This story is the worst of it all. It is a story that must be told, simply because it was clearly God directed and God driven. And for that we must be thankful. Pastor may have suffered more if he had not been taken. Maybe. I don't pretend to know the answer,but I do know that the love He has for us is unconditional. At a time like this, I pray I can have the same for Him.

When I saw Pastor in the hospital , he looked peaceful. I held his large hand and looked at his gentile face. I could see his smile. For whatever reason, I felt a deep love for that man 2 days ago when I meet him. I don't know why, but I did. There are few people in this world who touch my heart and make me sing. He did that the other day when I realized that I could make him feel better. I should be singing now as Pastor is there with our Lord. I can't right now, but know that I will soon. The story will stay with me always, in a place in my heart and mind reserved for those special memories that will be brought out from time to time when I need them the most. The story is told. The memory is sound. The love is present.

If you live in the Dominican Republic, it is said that it is better to be dead than sick. How very sad that is. For Pastor, it may hold true. Know that I have a new fire, a new drive to have Medical Mercy make that saying go away for our Forgotten Children here in the Dominican Republic. Pastor has shown me the way.

In his memory, give thanks,


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Day #2: Dominican Republic

We're tired. Over 500 patients today with a final number of maybe 568 people searching for help. Hot and crowded. Tomorrow we expect to see more. I'll add pictures and stories later but for righgt now know that we are beat.

In all things give thanks,

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Children of God: Day 1 Dominican Republic

We started our medical clinics at the Child Development Center 001, named "Ninos de Dios" or Children of God. Very fitting. We traveled about 50 minutes out of Santiago to a rural city called Moca, and worked in the school. We didn't go into the barrio or slums where the children came from. It was a little too dangerous to do that. I may try and get the team into a barrio over the next couple of days, but they are cramped, narrow, full of drug trafficking, prostitutes, and crime. A place of Forgotten Children.

We saw 350 of His children today, and it was a great start!! The local team has done an outstanding job of getting the meds packaged, the tables, chairs, water, registration, interpretors, medical students, interns, dentist, spiritual counselors, and patient flow working without a hitch. Dental hygiene was the hit for the children, and the pharmacy ran like clock work.
It is very hot here, humid, and, overcast. The patients we saw were varied in complaints from joint pains, to severe vitamin deficiencies and sever anemia. We saw a little girl who had her fingers sliced open and had been taken to a local hospital to be sewn up with old silk thread and not told about follow up. When we saw her, her fingers were on the way to dying. We sent here to a better hospital and had her fingers saved. We saw a boy with severe vitamin deficiency and what I think is a variant of Marfan's Syndrome. The local people gave him a nick-name: "The Fish boy". He gets very high fevers and they have to put him in tubs of water to cool him off, thus the name "Fish boy". More rashes, scabies, and malnutrition.
We are moving along well, on this first day. We seem to be surrounded by Him. It's all good.
In all things give thanks,

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Dominican Republic

We leave tomorrow night for the Dominican Republic. Five days of clinics, new places never seen before, and a country that just went through the effects of a hurricaine. It's wet there to say the least. There is a local team there now who is frantically getting everything ready for us: packaging medications to treat over 2000 patients, getting tents, transportation, housing, food, interpretors, and everything else. Wellington, the Field Director and Yolie, MoM's director for Central America's missions are heading that team. The 12 members of the US team are ready to go:

Kelly, Nicki, Paige, Troy, Tyler, Lisa, Aimee, Daniela, Erin, Placido, Lara, and I

Look for updates next week as we start a new medical mission in a country of Forgotten Children. Remember Proverbs 14:31 during our trip: "Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker, but those who are kind to the needy honor Him." We go in His name.

In all things give thanks,


Thursday, August 02, 2007

Things are moving...

...a little slower than usual, but it's all my fault. I got back from Swaziland and went right into pediatric critical care mode for 4 weeks straight. I'm finally catching up on stuff and catching my breath.

We leave in a few weeks for the Dominican Republic, a new country that we've never been to before, but are excited about. There should be alot for us to do, alot for us to see, and alot for us to remember. The crew from Mission of Mercy has been coordinating everything for us, and a few of the "home team" from Colorado Springs will be joining us there.

So here's what we are to expect: vitamin A deficiency, TB, some HIV, worms, Dengue fever, falcemia ( a from of sickle cell anemia), and a host of other diseases. We'll try and see about 1500 or so patients, have clinics at 5 of the Child Development Centers (CDC's), and make plans for ongoing medical care after we see just what they have there.
Start the prayers...'cause here we go again...
In all things give thanks,