Aug 28, 2010

cutting patterns

Why are you here? It's a question I get asked almost daily, and it's a question I ask myself all the time. The easy answer is how I physically got here: what were the steps that led me to this point in my life. But the more difficult answer has to do with WHY I chose to say yes.

I remember talking on the phone on a Saturday night, coming home after a long day out somewhere. I drove into Liberty from downtown Kansas City, sat down at my huge square table with my computer, and checked my e-mail. I remember the e-mail from Mission of Hope, asking if I would consider moving to Haiti. I remember reading it through and thinking to myself "No way. I could never do this."

I had just finished filling out my application to license as a nurse in the state of Colorado. I had just received recruiting e-mails from hospitals in Denver and Colorado Springs. I was Craigslisting cute apartments I would rent and live in on my own. I was planning backpacking trips and flights to Canada and moving away from Kansas City.

After all of that, after all of the pieces were falling together, there was no way I was supposed to go to Haiti.

It wasn't until my mom and dad began to point out the steps in my life that had led me to this point that I started to see. Since when has God been confined to our plans? Since when would I have been able to take myself to Kansas City or William Jewell? If I had followed what I would lay out as the right plan, I would probably be leading the most bland life.

But the question remained: what was I supposed to do? Was there a right or wrong? I came to the decision that there wasn't a right path. I could go to Colorado and live in an apartment and work as a nurse and build a new life in a new city with very few friends. Or I could go to Haiti and live in a community and work as a who-knows-what and build a new life in a country with very few friends. Was one right? Not in my mind.

I don't know what I think now. I certainly walked very definitively down one path and away from the other. I knew in my mind that it would change me and that there would be no way to go back. There would be no retries with this decision. There will only be other paths down the road, but there would be no changing the steps that I took, nor changing how they would alter me.

Why did I chose to come? I don't ever have a good answer to that question. I was told I was called here - otherwise I wouldn't be here. I don't know what I think about that either. And really, does it matter why I chose to come, or simply that I chose to come?

Am I glad I chose Haiti? I think so. Most days I know so. Today I am glad I decided to come to Haiti. Last week I wasn't so sure. I looked at one-way plane tickets to fly back to Colorado, as a matter of fact. Today I made a rough timeline for my time in Haiti through September of 2011. That is not a definitive, simply a thought.

Regardless of whether it was right or wrong or simply another branch in the tangled road I am walking, I have changed. I could never have known the amount of pain I was going to witness. I could never have imagined the sadness and anger and frustration. I could never have guessed the depth of beauty and joy I would experience.

I take pictures of my feet a lot. Today I took a lot of pictures of my feet. My feet show the dirt and blisters and tan line of Haiti. They would never look like this if I was standing on the side of the road in Denver. I'll never know what my feet would look like there. But I like the looks of my feet here. I guess that means I'll stand here a bit longer.

Aug 18, 2010


A more recent conversation with a short-term team member:

Team Member: Oh wow! So you are like a real live missionary?

Me: Um, well, I don't know. I guess?

Team Member: You know what really gets me going? When missionaries live in big houses with big screen TVs. [SIDE NOTE: that is very specific, lady] I mean, aren't there better things they can be spending their money on? I mean, I have a big screen TV, but I'm not a MISSIONARY.

Me: ....

You know what really gets me going lady-who-shall-remain-nameless? Your double standard. Your condemnation. Your big screen TV. If you really believe the Gospel and want to see it take hold of this world, I think your attitude needs to change, because right now you don't get it. Thanks for coming for the week. Go home now.


A look into my last "day off":

Drive to a tent city to drop off our two prosthetics patients = 1.5 hours

Drive to the airport to drop off a team member = 1 hour

Drive to Carrefour to drop off two of our orthopedic patients for ongoing care = 2 hours

Drive back to the Mission = 2 hours

As far as post-quake injuries, orthopedics is the name of the game. Want to know how many places are still doing orthopedic surgeries on a regular basis?


Two places, one a tent hospital, have the capabilities to do orthopedic surgeries. Imagine the amount of people needing ongoing, follow up care. Imagine the amount of external fixation devices needing to be removed. Imagine the bone infections that are popping up now, requiring days of IV antibiotics.

Imagine dropping off your two patients, young girls with their whole lives ahead of them. Imagine seeing them look at you and ask when you will return to pick them up. Imagine their looks of sadness to realize that you are leaving them there, to find some way to get home the 3+ hours on a tap tap with a broken tibia. Imagine the frustration for being able to do so little to help.


A patient from last week:

20 year old from a local village has had a mass growing on his leg for over a year. He comes in to have it looked at. Some doctors call it cancer. The next doctors call it benign and cystic. He needs pathology to look at it. There is no pathology in country. I have another doctors appointment scheduled for him next week for a third opinion. If it is discovered he has cancer, the reality of treatment is grim. He would need to get to the States soon.

He calls me almost daily asking if I know what he can do yet. He asks me if I will go to his doctor's appointments with him. He is scared, and so am I.


A joy from last week:

Andre, an older man, ragged and smelling strongly of marijuana, comes to the clinic for a follow-up appointment. He gets his external fixation removed. He wears the same hat every day and has to remove it for surgery. As soon as he comes to after surgery, he asks me for his hat. I put it on and a complete look of satisfaction comes across his face.

Andre leaves and says he will come back tomorrow. The following day he shows up with a big bag of corn. He gives it to me as a thank you. He's got a grin missing most of his teeth, still smelling of marijuana, a salt and pepper long beard, and his conductor's hat on. Once again he asks me for money because he is hungry. I tell him to eat some corn, and he laughs. Then I give him a few dollars for a tap tap home and off he hobbles.

Between that and Haitian radio that plays Celine Dion and Colbie Caillat, you can't help but enjoy life here sometimes.