Saturday, June 6, 2009
Transition from WHERE there is no doctor... WHY there is no doctor??!!
"Let us be the ones who say we do not accept that a child dies every three seconds simply because he does not have the drugs you and I have. Let us be the ones to say we are not satisfied that your place of birth determines your right to life. Let us be outraged, let us be loud, let us be bold!" ~actor Brad Pitt
"You can not comfort the afflicted without afflicting the comfortable." ~Princess Diana
On my very first medical mission trip to Haiti and fresh out of nursing school, I was introduced to this handy dandy book called "Where There Is No Doctor". Over the last several years, I have gotten a lot of invaluable information from that book that has helped us as we have navigate our way through numerous medical missions trips since that first trip back in 2005. Many consider "Where There Is No Doctor" their health bible when doing medical mission work. I carry it with me on every trip I take, and refer to it often. The information provided in this book is simple, straight forward, and easy to read. The finest academic medical preparation can not prepare an American health care workers for medical mission work in developing countries... we rely too much on our equipment, advanced technology, and almost indisposeable and readily available resources that when we are overwhelmed and struggle, to say the least, when we are throw into an environment without the comforts of our health care system. So books and resources like "Where There Is No Doctor" have attempted to bridge that gap and help ease the transition from modern medicine to the primitive medicine that exists in third world countries like Haiti. But as awesome and helpful as this book has proven to be... lately I have been thinking short term medical mission trips are as helpful as trying to put a band-aid on a sliced open pulmonary artery. And I am feeling that instead of relying on "Where There Is No Doctor" we should start asking "Why There Is No Doctor"??!
Our church and the teams we have sent have sponsored three medical clinics in Haiti in the last six months. We have seen over 300 patients in our make shift clinics (many who had never been to a doctor and who willing to wait all day to be seen). We treated a variety of ailments from bladder infections to malaria to severe malnourishment to tuberculosis.
The purpose for our most recent trip was an emergency tuberculosis clinic. We tested over 100 people in one community and had about 17 positive tests. In the course of trying to find follow up care for those who tested positive, we traveled one day to a hospital about 2 hours away from the orphanage where we worked. The road to the hospital is ROUGH terrain.... but worth every bump along the way because I have been forver changed by what I saw that day.
Anyone who has watched any amount of late night TV has surely seen the commercials for organizations like Christian Child Fund depicting what life is like for starving children with swollen bellies promoting child sponsorship programs... and although through our travels to Haiti, I have seen some children who could be classified as severely malnourished, NOTHING could have prepared my heart for what I would see in that pediatric unit in that hospital! We saw children who were completely emaciated and literally wasting away. I watched a father painfully feed his almost unconscious lethargic son a protein fortified formula with tears in his eyes and I have have never prayed so earnestly for healing in my life.
As a nurse, as I watched auxiliary nurses move from patient to patient with no hand washing or gloves, it almost killed me to see the lack of infection control that existed in that ward. I think our beloved Florence Nightingale would be turning in her grave at some of the practices there. As a mom, my heart broke in a million pieces, as I saw the looks on worried parents faces at the children's bedside. But as American, I felt a kind of indescribable shame, as I watched children dying of COMPLETELY PREVENTABLE AND TREATABLE CONDITIONS.
Coming home and trying to process what we saw and experienced has left me with more questions than answers. Like why are some American actors more active is fighting the diseases and injustices of extreme poverty than some American Christians are? And what is my piece of this puzzle and where is my responsibility in it? But most of all why is there no doctor? And how can we right the wrongs of health care in developing countries?
"When a poor person dies of hunger, it has not happened because God did not take care of him or her. It happened because neither you nor I wanted to give that person what he or she needed." ~ Mother Teresa
"It's the greatest poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish" ~ Mother Teresa