Well, now that Dick seems to
be settled in with the Fulps in
San Antonio, we decided it
was time to set out on the
road without him. Daryl has
been itching to try out his new
Toyota 4-Runner, and we
needed to take a wheelchair
back up to Ponciano in the
community of Las Palmas. So,
today, Daryl, Paul Branch, and
Jessica Huwer ( a visiting
nursing student) set out. It
felt strange to be traveling
without Dick. While I trust
Daryl greatly, I realized how
much I have come to depend
on Dick’s judgment when we
are out in villages. It was good to travel once without him. A fringe benefit was that Daryl’s teasing was much gentler without Dick, or perhaps it was Paul’s good influence on him. I do have to admit, too, that riding with Daryl is a bit less exciting than traveling with Dick, but with a little practice, I’m sure Daryl will learn Dick’s tricks for keeping his passengers on the edges of their seats (while clinging to the “sissy bars” for dear life!).
We stopped first at the Garcia home to pick up Guadalupe. She is the mother of a young man we have come to know and care about named David. While in a wheelchair and suffering from a painful pressure sore, David continues his studies, and will graduate in November with a diploma in computers. In addition to caring for her son, Guadalupe is a resource to many of those in her community with disabilities and other medical needs. I am privileged to call her friend.
Our first stop was at the home of
Ponciano, who we had just visited
about a week ago. We’d promised to
bring him a wheelchair, and today
Daryl was making good on that
promise. After adjusting the chair and
comfortably seating Ponciano, Daryl
was also able to show him and his
father some exercises which may help
to strengthen his legs.
Jessica got to practice her nursing skills a bit. It seems that in the villages, whenever anyone with any medical knowledge is present, people come from every direction for help. Today was no different.
Some of the people who came had chronic pain, either from arthritis or previous injuries. These are very difficult situations, since we could easily provide a month’s supply of Ibuprofen, but we are not able to promise to provide this on a regular basis. We just don’t have the funding to do this.
The elderly women we met on this trip seemed to “get to me” the hardest. Since my first mission trip years ago to Nicaragua, God has given me a special affection for the “ancianas” (older women).
The first was Ponciano’s grandmother. She was so frail that it looked as if a strong wind would blow her over. She was in great pain from arthritis, and with the way her hands were bent from this disease, it was surprising she could work at all. At 83, though, she still keeps her own house (in back of Ponciano’s) and tries to cook her own food. We decided this was one person we could help, and did drive to the nearest pharmacy (about 30 min. away) and got her some Aleve and a large can of Ensure. Hopefully, the Ensure will give her a little more strength and energy, since her family has reported she hardly eats at all. If anyone would like to help “sponsor” her by providing Ensure for one or more months ($25), please email me and I’ll give you information on how you can help this sweet woman.
Our next stop was right next
door, to visit another older
woman named Reina. She
also has not been eating, but
we discovered her situation
was much more complicated.
In addition to being diabetic,
she was dehydrated, and
appeared to have
pneumonia. It was a hard
decision that we made after quite a bit of discussion, but we told her family the best thing would be to take her to the local Centro de Salud (Health Center) where a doctor could adequately assess her condition and prescribe proper treatment. Daryl was able to give the family enough money to cover the transportation to and from the clinic and enough Pedialyte to help rehydrate her.
I think we all left this house feeling somewhat confused if not a little defeated. It was tempting to give Reina antibiotics to try to treat her pneumonia. But, with her not eating, she also needed her blood sugar monitored and her oral diabetes medication possibly adjusted. With her level of dehydration, any antibiotics we would have given may have done as much harm as good. I longed to have the resources to take her to a private physician, since we know that some of the public health doctors here have questionable skills and even more questionable commitment to patient care. But this just is not realistic. . .
It was hard to face the reality of where we are living. Most people will have to use public health centers and national hospitals. The care they receive there is not what we would like to see. But, like we saw with Rony, people do recover in these places (at least for a time), even when we do not expect that they will. It’s hard to trust that God knows these people, knows where they are, and knows their need better than we do. It’s hard to feel so helpless in the face of sickness and suffering. Sometimes, it’s hard, too, to remember God has not sent us here for “fix” every need we come in contact with. He has sent us to walk beside those we meet, offering support and helping them in the areas they cannot help themselves.
Our final stop was a blessing and encouragement. Guadalupe took us to visit Naty, a little girl who could not speak. She appears to have some cognitive disability as well. After talking with her mother, we decided I would return in a few weeks, bringing with a communication system for the little one, and would work with her mother to teach her to use it with Naty. We also met a young man there who is deaf, but has developed his own way of “signing” with the kids in his neighborhood. Guadalupe told me there were many more children in this area with similar needs, and I hope to be able to provide some level of support and encouragement to these children and their families.