Thursday, September 25, 2008

Dominican Republic: A week to remember

The first thing I felt was the heat and the humidity. The second thing was the sense of anxiousness that something was going to happen. The first was real, the second would eventually come. Tracee, Lauren, Shelby, Deanna, Krystle, Jessica, Sue, Kelly and I arrived and met with our local team members, headed by Dimas and the week began. In five days we saw just short of 2000 patients, traveled to 5 outlying projects, some as remote as dirt roads, no electricity, and little tin shack houses. The heat was unbelievable, the humidity sticky and unrelenting. But we prevailed.

We saw and treated many different types of diseases, from parasites, to flu, pneumonia, arthritis, breast cancer, HIV, and just old age. Each of us had our own experiences, shared and some not shared. What we did feel was an unrelenting need from the people we treated to be heard. Simple. But not really. With hundreds of patients waiting to be seen, and the heat taking its toll on us, the pharmacy backing up, running out of medicines, dealing with issues in Kenya, Ethiopia and Swaziland by emails coming through on my phone, it was a difficult task. This little 4 year old boy, mentally handicapped was brought to us by his father, also mentally hadicapped, and was the boy's only caretaker. All he wanted to know is if he was doing a good job taking care of his little boy. To this little child who was born with her intestines hanging out and the local physicians telling the mother that they could do nothing until the child was much older. And the child living with this everyday, on the edge, waiting for the loops of intestine to twist and get infected, when it could have easily been fixed at birth. There was not much to do for these 2 patients we saw, other than to listen. And it was like that for many. Simple complaints of "cold and cough", when really all they wanted was to have someone tell them that they were well. And we did that. Over and over again, almost 2000 times, with smiles on our face and love in our hearts. We were there as servants. And I for one am glad that we were. There was no better place to be in the world at that time, then to be there. With them.
And then on the very last day, at almost the very last hour of our time in clinic for the week, we saw this patient. He was having a severe anaphylactic reaction. His airway began to close, his eyes swelled shut, and he was going down. We always prepare for things like this. Krystle gets an IV in before we know it. Benadryl is given, albuterol nebulizer is administered and an epi-pen is thrust into his thigh. Without any of that he would have died. Period. And after we caught our breath, we wondered why. Why did those particular people who we saw come to us, why did we do the things we did, and why did the memories we form, happen. We didn't ask for them. They came to us. We went and it happened. And that's how it is every time we go somewhere, no matter the country. There is a purpose, a happening, a moment, that was there for us. A learning experience, a move towards getting us closer to what we believe in, a time for us to again remember who we belong to. And that is always alright with me as I need constant reminding, simply because it helps me feel that He is always with me. And that is the third feeling I felt on this trip. And still feel it. Do you?

In all things give thanks,