Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The most profound moments in my life have occurred in Haiti.  In the mountains - at our open air clinic - are the 2 most significant ones; and mainly because they were the first. I can share one picture. No explanation needed. It was at this clinic that I learned to 'suck it in' and not burst into tears. The suffering and  misery in the mountains is hard to describe. It's huge. Observing the Octopus of poverty that wraps its tentacles around every fiber of your being, your family, your health, your very life - for generations - is shocking. Unimaginable.

The second picture would be too much for most people to handle, so I won't show it. I'll just tell you about it: A man hobbled into our clinic. He had a gaping wound on his shin....It started out as a cut when he was doing something with his machete. It progressed from a machete slice to a good portion of his shin missing exposing muscle, tendons, tissue, nerve endings. I'd say it was almost a foot long gouge and the whole front width of his shin. It was the ugliest thing I had ever seen. It took my breath away. The shock to me was so deep that there wasn't even a hint of tears. I was NOT prepared for that. I'm pretty sure I held my breath for the whole hour we tended to him. This is the kind of thing that makes your knees weak. But you have to deal with it and do whatever you can to help. After all---that is what we showed up to do. To help and not buckle under the degrees or situations of extreme poverty.

I happened to be doing wound care that day. Thank God I had help. Not sure I could have handled it on my own. The man was in extreme pain and everything I did hiked his pain level up beyond any kind of endurance that we are familiar with.  But he did endure. It's probably all he's ever known. It's what extreme poverty is all about. Endurance. We had nothing to give him to deaden or numb his leg. I'm pretty sure we were all thinking the same thing. This man is going to lose his leg. The worst moment for him was me cleaning the wound out and then having to pour Hydrogen Peroxide over it. I knew it was going to be bad when I did that and I have to say I held the bottle over the wound trying to gather up the courage to pour it out. I fully expected the man to pass out. I thought I too might pass out. I know my hands were shaking. My chest was tight. He did not pass out. He did, however, grab both sides of that leg and let out a sound that came from deep down inside him in response to the Hydrogen Peroxide hitting a ton of exposed nerves.( Mountain people are more tough than any people I have known). There was a group of people standing around us praying. Two of those people happened to be from PBS, Florida. It wasn't enough for him, or I, to deal with the wound...let alone to have a cameraman filming the whole process. Unnerving; to say the least. We finally got the wound cleaned out and bandaged up and found some extra strength Tylenol, or something for him. Nothing much, but hopefully it would at least take the edge off of the pain for him. We had him lay out on a bench and moved on to the next person.

At the end of the day we loaded this man up in the back of the truck to take him back to our camp. We needed to get him cleaned up and ready for transport to the hospital in Les Cayes the next morning. The guys bathed him (and it may have been the first bath he'd had in ages) and everyone contributed a piece of clothing for him and shared their sheets for a bed for him in the church and took turns looking in on him. The cameraman spent the most time with him. He told the leader of our group that the man kept repeating the same thing over and over again. She asked him what he'd been saying. He repeated to her:   kidonk sa a se renmen an menm. SO THIS IS LOVE! I did lose it then. An elderly man experiencing LOVE for the first time----in his life? No words. That's hard to wrap your mind around. For the rest of the trip I would tear up every time I thought about what he said. And 6 yrs later---I still tear up.

It took me a long time to process that first trip to Haiti. I'm forever thankful that John and Todd were able to come with me. It was life changing for all 3 of us.

PS. The man did not lose his leg. He walked into our clinic the next year with an almost totally healed up wound!! Amazing. All he really needed this time was food. He got plenty of that, along with hugs and love from all of us. We all enjoyed that reunion and the continual smile on his face.

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