Saturday, March 30, 2013

Three months in

The last couple of weeks has felt like a perpetual roller coaster.  We have had so many difficult cases.  There have been many deaths.  This kind of comes with the territory and the job, but it is still hard.  I keep asking myself whether I should have done something differently.  There are cases which just tear at your heartstrings.  You try and try and try.  They look like they might possibly make it, but at a certain point people just lose hope and dwindle away.  Somewhere along the way there is an invisible line, I think.  The art of medicine consists of doing everything you can before that line is crossed.  After the line, I think it is simply to help people die well.  I'm not sure I know how to do either of these things well.  

These disappointments are offset by the happy cases.  One of them is a 12 year old boy named Bulo, who took a bullet in the head.  He  lost a good chunk of his skull and he came to Nyankunde after more than a month in another hospital  He had a large amount of brain that was exposed, and pushed out like a hideous mushroom.  To make a long story short, we have nearly succeeded in closing his scalp and getting the brain back inside.  This kid is so incredibly brave that it makes me want to cry.  He is never without a smile.  He is learning how to make the left side of his body function again, and this is hard work.  When I think of the suffering he has undergone, I find it hard to comprehend how he could be so funny, so courageous and so positive.  The human spirit has a capacity for hope that is simply unfathomable.  Either that, or the bullet destroyed the negativity center of his brain.  

We alternate between these happy results and the many crushing defeats.  I think that in the end, the only way to make sense of it all is to believe that God has a mysterious plan and to count ourselves fortunate to be part of it.  We have to be willing to do everything we can possibly do, but then step back and let events take their course.  Medicine is a funny thing.  We seem to believe that our job is to never let anyone die.  The human mortality rate, last time I checked was somewhere around 100%.  Anyway, it certainly passes the time and staves off the boredom.  

In our spare time we have been developing a farm.  It was a garden, but I think we're a bit past that.  Actually what we've been doing is paying some workers to dig the soil and plant things.  Still, it is really cool to see these little plants push up through the soils and push towards heaven.  It is satisfying to imagine the bountiful harvest we will reap.  This is one of the great blessings of living in a place like this.  We are going to eat food which grows out of our own ground.  So far we have planted spinach, eggplant, beets, carrots, corn, watermelon, squash, lettuce, okra, cabbage, peanuts, corn, etc.  I really don't like half of these things, but I am looking forward to eating them.  Every morning I look at the little shoots and marvel at the progress.  

This next week we are going to take a little trip to Uganda.  We've been here for three months and we haven't had a day off.  I think it will be good to get a little change of scenery.  We are planning to visit Murchison falls, then drive to Kampala and then Jinja.  This is going to be a real adventure.  Travel by road in Africa can be a little tricky.  Anyway. we are looking forward to it.  

Thanks so much for your support, your love and your prayers.  We feel so blessed to be here, to work alongside the Congolese and to show love to people who have suffered so much.  It feels like a calling, and it makes all the stuff seem like it is worth it.

Warren (for both of us)

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