Sunday, October 28, 2007

Cambodia: Day 3 Sunday

A praise band, worship, clapping, singing, and a sermon from Pastor Don, started off the day. We attended Battambang Asembly of God church this morning and from there we moved into the first day of our medical work. We saw 80 patients in about 3.5 hours, with every thing running smoothly from registration right through spiritual counseling and pharmacy. The 4 of us who were examining patients, moved slowly at first, then picked up the pace as we got used to our interpretors and the types of illnesses that were being presented. We have a medical school graduate and a 3rd year medical student working with us. While the patients were being seen, the construction team put together a play ground set for the church, and the pharmacy guys and gals had everything organized so well, that the flow was quick and streamlined.
And of course,there is always a story or two. She is 24 years old, shy, and quiet. I saw her for complaints of headache and menstrual cramps, but knew that there was more to what she was telling me. With a little coaxing, Chhaiden my interpetor and medical student, got her to tell us why she really was there: she had been diagnosed with leukemia 2 years ago, and she was waiting to die. She wanted to know if her death was going to be painful, and if it was going to take much longer. I looked at her and thought no way she has leukemia. She was healthy, not anemic, and had lived 2 years with a diagnosis that kills within months without treatment. In questioning her more, she said that she had had a blood test that showed more white cells than red cells and they said she had leukemia and that there was nothing anyone could do. It had to have been a lab error, or a mis-interpretion of the values. She had lived for 2 years waiting for the end. I assured her that she did not have leukemia, and that she would live a long time. She simply said thank you, smiled, and walked away. I watched her as she went to get her vitamins and some ibuprofen for her menstrual cramps that I had prescribed, no emotion showing in her walk or face. You would think that the news I just gave here would have been joyous news, but after 2 years of waiting to die, I guess one has to take time to accept that life will be around for a while. I wonder if she was a little disappointed. Perhaps she had prepared herself, and now she has to look further down the road to a life that may not be much better than the death she had been expecting. Living in Cambodia is not for the faint of heart. She was ready for death. For you see, she had with her as well, a letter to her mother and father that she was going to give to us to pass on to them when she died. As she walked away, the letter that was clutched in her hand, disappeared into a trash bin and I wondered what she said in that leter to her parents. But on the other hand, I'm glad that they will never have to find out. Not for a long time at least, if ever...

In all things, give thanks,