Friday, January 27, 2017

Hope, Heartbreak & Healing

The Clinic Days

<Warning: A few graphic photos below!>

As a nurse, interwoven in my life are the stories of those I've cared for along the way. After every shift I learned something about life, love, family, things I will never do, and things I pray never happen to me or my family. To glimpse the vulnerability and fragility in the lives of those around us, in people we do not know and may never see again, draws us closer to the human experience and helps us to understand our own fragility and our own blessings.

On the clinic wall it is written: "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:35
Loving others is the greatest commandment ever spoken and what the cross so perfectly and beautifully symbolizes: Jesus' gift of sacrificial and perfect love to all.

While we are far from perfect, loving others is a gift, it is a commandment, and it is why we are here. To serve, to bless, to love, and to be there, sacrificing ourselves for the sake of upholding someone else in their most vulnerable moments.

Some patient stories during our week at the clinic:

***A mother brought in her young child who had an advanced cancerous tumor growing out of his head. She said that they had been to many doctors and that he needed chemotherapy. They had two choices: travel to India for chemo or to America--both of which the mother could not afford. So she thought that if she brought him to American doctors we could help. Unfortunately in the time between his diagnosis and now, the cancer was too advanced. Our medical doctor sat with her and had the difficult conversation and explained to the mother that at this point all she can do is take him home, spend time with him, love him and ensure he is comfortable in his limited days.***

***Another young boy came in with an aggressive and advancing tumor that looked to be cancer on his foot. It was out of our scope to provide any surgical care for him today. So we called over to another hospital and all pitched in money so that he could pay for transportation and a doctor visit. He too could not afford any type of care to get help any sooner.**

It may never feel like we are ever doing enough. We get up only to fall on our knees in anger, hurt, disbelief, thankfulness and in prayer to ask God that we might simply help who we can. It's not our plight to have all the answers or the ability to fix everything but it is our duty to live out our days fully and wholly in love and in service. We should live expecting God's treasures and miracles along the way no matter how foggy or bleak it sometimes looks.

Here are some other patients we were able to care for during our week at the clinic:

**This young girl had a foot deformity and she was unable to wear any shoes on her right foot leaving her barefoot. She often asked her mom why she was different than the other kids. Dr. Tim, one of the surgeons, was confident he could help her and her surgery ended up going very well. She didn't flinch when we had to put in another IV so that she could receive one more dose of IV antibiotics. Two incredible nurses on our team even taught her the "itsy bitsy spider" and sang it to her as they infused her antibiotic. A beautiful moment I have yet to forget. She then quickly learned how to use her crutches and never once complained of pain. Her mother was a kind, gracious and gentle spirit. It was a honor to see this unfold before my eyes.**

**This next man came in wearing a special shirt "cape" that someone in his family had made for him. This mass on his shoulder had apparently been growing for years and he was unable to afford or receive any care. We added him on to our day after we finished our scheduled surgeries.**

Here is picture of the father (Dr. Jerry Smith) and son (Dr. Tim Smith) surgeons on our trip. So amazing to watch them change this man's life. To hear afterwards a father say: "I am so proud of my son. He is an amazing surgeon." They were both truly dedicated and good at their jobs. It was a privilege to provide anesthesia for them. 

Part of the mass they removed from his shoulder!
Praise God! What a difference! Mass is gone!

 **This next lady came in wearing a scarf around her neck in an attempt to hide her huge goiter. In Africa they have no iodized salt (Iodine is needed to make thyroid hormones) so therefore many suffer from thyroid issues and grow these large goiters. She waited so patiently for her turn and was so excited to have her surgery.
This is the goiter and on top you will note the jugular vein!

Thumbs up from me! She is doing well!
And voila! It is out!

In recovery...What a privilege to care for her! Look at that smile

**I took care of another man who was completely blind and spoke no English. So I carefully took his hand and led him into the operating room and onto the table. He had a mass to be removed on his right side. Without a translator or being told what to do , he rolled right over to his left side to expose the surgical site and then closed his eyes and fell right asleep.** It amazed me the trust he had in us. Regardless of language barriers or cultural barriers, caring and love know none. People can feel and understand when others are being genuinely kind.

There were so many other beautiful moments woven throughout our week but I wanted to share just a few.

The ache remained in my chest every night... praying for God to fill me up....the unfairness of it all, the pain, the heartbreak. Oh how I ached for these beautiful people.
Living a life of service is not only enriched with great happiness but also comes with great pain. To live is to hurt at times but to live at all is worth it. It was my absolute honor to learn and serve in Kenya. The best is yet to come... God promised.

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