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,