Friday, January 26, 2018

Hope in the Midst of Tragedy

Life here in Ecuador is to be enjoyed each day.  That is what I have learned from my experience here this last month.

In church I sat next to a woman and her 18 month old son during one of the nine nights of prayers before the town fiesta.  The service finished at 9:00 and I heard the next morning that the child had died later that evening.  He choked on a piece of hard candy.  The mother has been widowed twice already and the child who died was born within weeks of the death of her second husband in a mining accident.

The same week a 14 year old girl was laughing with her friends at school, went home, took the food out to the pigs, and then hung herself from the roof of the pig pen. 

The following week was the funeral of an elderly neighbor and the one month memorial mass for my friend and neighbor’s mother. 

The town only has 500 families so this is a lot of tragedy for one month.  Nothing in life is for sure or guaranteed. Living here has taught me that every day should be lived to the fullest and one should do all one can each day to serve others.  Today could be your last opportunity.

We are in the middle of changing the clinic to a new status.  Thus soon more people working here, more services offered, surgery offered again so things will be different.  We may have a laboratory or maybe not.  We may turn into a specialty clinic or a day hospital. We may have a new nurse and lab worker.  We have started the reconstruction, which is hard to see the nice exam rooms divided into small cubicles asked for by the health department.  By April we should know which of these changes will be coming about. We should confirm plans following the health department inspections.  Thus lots of changes, but lots of hope too, to be able to help more people with added services.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Hope For What Is Possible

Remaining positive and cheerful when so many things are uncertain and not going well is very difficult. 

·         Carmen has had three months since her accident without regaining movement in her legs and only movement in two fingers and upper arms. She is resistant to working toward being in a wheelchair and losing hope to be able to walk again one day.

·         The clinic I have worked at for 15 years is getting less and less patients and the future is not clear.  Surgery has been prohibited here by the health department
·         The people in the parish are planning to protest and get the new priest removed.

·         Lots of people are resistant to new changes in the parish and causing conflicts and division.

Guadalupe has been such a great place to live and work.  The priest, religious sisters and the medical volunteers and I have formed a united team.  Everyone was supportive and kind to each other.  Not any more.

So many people were atended to in the clinic and so many eye surgeries helped people to see again or the ENT surgeries to help people hear again or breathe easier.  The work I enjoyed was 16 hour days with hundreds of people coming daily.  Now there are about 10 people a day.

Everyday I need to see and experience all that brings joy.  The children that come to the clinic,  the school children who are so polite to always greet me on their way to school, the beauty of the river and mountains, the patients so gratefull for the medical and dental care they receive, etc.  These are what I need to concentrate on.  

Whenever the future is uncertain hope for what is possible and working to make a better situation is what I have learned.  A good friend once told me to not accept circumstances but to make bad situations better.  A priest in my youth told me that God does indeed open a window when the door has been closed was shown to be the truth.  Thus I am taking a day at a time and know that things will work out.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Overwhelming Generosity

I want to share an experience of a very sad accident but the overwhelming generosity of people.  Carmen the 30 year-old cook for the volunteers and Sisters for the past 6 years fell at night last week into an uncovered drainage ditch and partially severed her spinal cord.  She was completely paralyzed for a week until surgery and now can feel painful stimuli to her feet.  We have hope she will recover some movement in her legs. 

She was transferred to a local hospital for rehab but returned to the distant hospital due to pneumonia.  She is still numb from the chest down and fighting the pneumonia at the writing of this blog.  She is the single mother of two children. She is a very nice woman and a good mother.  Almost daily she would “sneak” me leftover food from lunch so I would not have to cook my own dinner. We are all so shocked that this could happen.

She had health insurance only until the end of the month as she lost her job last month.  The mission has less income and half the employees were let go last month.  She was transferred to a private hospital so she could have the operation she needed.  The expenses were supposed to be paid for by the health insurance she has until the 30th of this month but they only paid some of the cost.  She had a $600 bill after a week (nothing by US standards of health costs but a lot to people who earn $300 a month if they have work).  She had also co- signed a loan for a friend who did not pay back the loan so Carmen lost all of her severance pay to pay the bank loan.  Thus, she is without work, has no money, no health insurance soon and rent and food to buy for her children as well as a very long, expensive rehabilitation time.

This is where the incredible generosity of the town of Guadalupe comes in.  The people made photos of Carmen with her neck brace in the hospital bed that I am including in this blog.   
They put the photo on cardboard boxes and walked the streets in the nearby larger town.  They collected $834 in coins in one day which is pretty incredible for a small group of neighbors and kids.  The mother of one of the Sisters Carmen cooked for lent her the total amount to pay the hospital bill.  Also, one of the husbands of a friend of Carmen, who has a job has offered to pay the first month to continue her health insurance.  There is a box for donations here in the Clinic and money is put in everyday.  The volunteers have also been extremely generous. Carmen has never lacked for someone to stay with her in the hospital.  The whole town is pulling for her.

Time and time again in mission I see the overwhelming generosity of materially poor people but people so rich in: concern for others, willingness to give the little they have and so giving of their time to help others.