Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Least Of These

In every nurses career there are patients and family members you simply will never forget. If you are a nurse reading this you know what I'm talking about...the difficult patient, the baby that despite so many obstacles survived, that one code in the ER, the patient that passed away or the family members that faithfully stood by their loved one. I have said it before but these ladies will forever be etched in my heart and mind. Their stories, faces, the joys and the sorrows. Their stories all have a running theme. Pregnancy. Days of labor without access to any kind of medical care and the nearest hospital is a days walk away or further. If they never make it to the hospital the baby will die and the body will instinctively begin the process of expelling the baby. If they make it to the hospital and can actually afford the cesarean they need it is often still too late. After enduring this traumatic labor that results in the loss of a child they now have a hole in between their bladder and birth canal causing them to constantly leak urine. What once was supposed to be a time of joy and bringing forth new life results in death. Death of a child, death of a women's identity, hope, joy and future.

‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?" Matthew 25:37-39

I have not written about specific patients because at this point accurately portraying their story seems like a daunting task and one that I will never give full justice too.I must have sat down a dozen times trying to describe this one patients story. She is fourteen years old. She embodies Mercy Ships line "poorest of poor." Her name is Minette and I will never forget her. 

Her story is very similar to what I just described. Another mercy ships crew nurse that works closely with the local hospital in Tamatave found Minette. The nurses at the local hospital were begging her to help Minette claiming she was the poorest patient they have ever seen. To get an accurate picture of the local hospital and the condition Minette was found in I strongly recommend you read the following post by the lovely Amy Jones Amy, team leaders and surgeons advocated to transfer Minette from the local hospital to the clinic which is not part of Mercy Ships normal screening process. They did not have to fight too hard. The committee saw the poorest of the poor sitting right in front of them and could not delay action. 

I"ll never forget the look on her face the first night Minette came to the clinic. Eyes wide, scared, fearful and full of pain. We started from the basics. We gave her a bath. Lovingly and gently nurses cleaned her skinny, boney, sore body that had been sitting in urine for days. We took all the appropriate steps to care for her medically but we first started with loving her. Looking her in the eye. Telling her we wanted to help her. Slowly explaining everything we were going to do. Gently holding her hand. Giving her tough love through the difficult times of not wanting to take medications, deliberately throwing nutritional supplements on the floor and not even wanting to get out of bed on some days. It was emotionally and mentally tiring care for her at times. The more strength she gained the more her feisty, stubborn fourteen year old self emerged. She would lay quietly in bed while everybody else was singing around her, she would sleep late, miss breakfast and often stayed up late hanging out and chatting with the night shift nurses. She was a typical teenager but none of her life experiences reflected that of a normal fourteen year old. Her total stay at the clinic spanned about three months with many ups and downs, joys and sorrows.  I can't even begin to describe the emotional, spiritual and physical healing we saw over those three months. This loving, smart, fun and humorous fourteen year old slowly started making appearances over the weeks. She would pat our heads, grin and say something in Malagasy, give us a smirk when she was doing something she shouldn't be doing, always wanted to braid the nurses hair or paint their nails, admire our watches and sneakily ask to wear it for a shift. Turns out she knew the songs we were singing the whole time. The day I watched her singing, clapping, smiling and interacting with the other patients was the day I knew that Minette would never be the same and that she in turn had captured the hearts of every nurse and patient that she came in contact with. 

Minette's journey isn't over just yet. She will return to Mercy Ships in April for further surgery. Sadly, I won't be here in April to see her return...add that to the compiling list of reasons it will be difficult to leave this place in a few short weeks. At the same time though I'm joyful knowing that one greater than me loves her and holds her in the palms of His hands. I'm at peace knowing that He who began a good work in her will be faithful to complete all the things in her heart I witnessed begin to grow and blossom. I'm confident that we fed, clothed and loved the poorest of poor all for Gods glory and so that she may know the goodness, love and faithfulness of our God. 

 Minette's story is not completely uncommon here in Madagascar. There are thousands more just like her. Fourteen, sixteen, eighteen all the way up to sixty year old women suffering from obstetric fistulas. Although, the task of caring for these ladies and telling their stories feels overwhelming at times I know it must be done. As with all of our patients telling their stories gives you all a glimpse of what is going on around the world. It gives you knowledge and awareness which at some point will lead to action. That action will look different for each person. It could be as simple as stopping and saying a prayer for these ladies and all the patients Mercy Ships cares for. In this season of my life it looks like volunteering my time with Mercy Ships. Even more simple than all of this would be to just be aware of and reach out to the poorest of poor, the least of these that are surrounding you everyday.  
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'" Matthew 25:40

Shared this video before but I think its worth another share. Enjoy! 

Along with the joy of pregnancy comes worry. In Canada, mother's can be comforted in knowing that skilled healthcare for moms and their babies is available if needed. This is severely lacking in Madagascar. Thousands of women who survive the complications related to pregnancy and childbirth suffer from a terrible injury called obstetric fistula. It is estimated that 2,000 Malagasy women develop fistula each year.Thousands of women have a story like Gisele's and Mercy Ships is working to alleviate their suffering and to bring hope and healing.Learn more:
Posted by Mercy Ships Canada on Thursday, January 22, 2015

Although I am currently serving with Mercy Ships, everything communicated here strictly reflects my personal opinions and is neither reviewed nor endorsed by Mercy Ships. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Mercy Ships.