Monday, July 18, 2016

The hard job of a jungle nurse

A sweet two year old girl was brought to me by her parents and I didn't even have to see much of her to know that much was wrong.

I was sitting under some palm trees, plantain plants, and surrounded by the sounds of the jungle.  We had come to a 2,000 person city to visit a local pastor we knew.  He had asked if I could bring some medical equipment and supplies to help out some of the local community.  Mike was  going to preach, and this is what I do after all.  In Honduras, I started just the same - with a box of medications and supplies, riding a bus an hour out to a small community and set up shop.  I've put on medical clinics on soccer fields, dirt floor houses, under trees, and walking house-to-house.  Eventually I constructed a permanent clinic in the community.  In the almost 8 years I had been in Honduras, I had seen over 10,000 patients.  My little clinic saw more than 2,000 patients a year alone.  So, doing things with little to nothing is nothing new to me.

I've taken out toenails on a kitchen floor, started IV's on dying patients in their hammock of their home, put  in more stitches in more circumstances I don't even remember them all. I can pack a whole lot of "stuff" in a little space.

So...I took a look at this little girl.  I talked sweetly to her and did those silly googly faces that parents just can't help  doing when you look at a little kiddo - come on - you know what I'm talking about :-).  Then I asked the parents for a history.  She had had a traumatic birth, and was born limp, not breathing, and the doctors thought she was not alive.  Bottom line - she had been deprived of oxygen for quite some time.  This little one had severe cerebral palsy.  When I assessed her,  her eyes rolled back in her head, she did not have any grip or muscle control at all, she drooled, and had difficulty with secretions.  She did not respond to voice.  The parents looked at me expectantly then asked me a very difficult question - "When was she going to be 'normal'" (their words).  I asked them what they had been told.  They said that the doctors told them that she would get better and one day be 'normal' (again - their words).  So, they were here,  expectantly waiting for me to tell them the good news.  My heart sank.  My heart beat fast.  What to say?!

I had worked in a pediatric oncology hospital for 13 years, so I was no stranger to difficult situations - being the nurse when the doctor told parents their child was not going to make it.  I've been the nurse of the child who doesn't survive our efforts from CPR, I've held the hand of dying people, and helped bring new life into the world.  One thing that this sweet family was holding on to was hope.  And I was going to be the one to tell them  that their sweet girl was about as good as she was going to get.

So I started with - All things are possible with God.  That they clearly loved her dearly.  That all life is precious.  Then I started with the hard things.  That their life was going to change - that they lived in a country that had zero resources, and they were going to be expected to do everything on their own with very little.  I advised some physical therapy and gave them some ideas of what to do.  I talked about ways to feed her, and to start thinking about a wheel chair so she wouldn't be confined to her house her entire life.  I looked into the faces of the parents...there was profound sadness, grief, and shock.  This was not what they were expecting, and the reality was settling in.  What could I offer?  A touch, comfort, and some love.  That was all I had...And then I prayed.

And then I saw my next patient.  I had many more people waiting for me.  My job is hard.  It's emotionally exhausting working in a country with limited to no resources, where children come to me starving and emaciated, where 1/3rd of the country has malaria, and children are orphaned from the consequences of AIDS.  But I am here to be hands and feet, and try and help just one person at a time in whatever way I can.


Kathy Tufts said...

This made me weep. Grateful that God has a wise and compassionate nurse there in you, but praying for strength and wisdom for you.

timetoshare said...

Love you so much. Praying for you all and all those God sends your way. ❤

timetoshare said...

Love you so much. Praying for you all and all those God sends your way. ❤