Thursday, March 23, 2006

Tour of Samaritan’s Purse Hospital (Thursday, 23 Feb.)

After the welcoming ceremony at the Cathedral, one of the first things they wanted to do was to give us a tour of the Samaritan's Purse Hospital. Before this trip, when I heard they had a hospital, I thought to myself, “Oh! It must not be so bad. They have a hospital.” But the reality I saw – compared to my expectations – was quite pitiful.

Put aside the notions you have as a Westerner of what constitutes a “hospital.”

By virtue of her nurse training, Deborah has worked extensively at the hospital, and she and the hospital administrator led our tour. I gather there is a simultaneously cooperative and “distant” relationship between the hospital and the Diocese, but I never did figure out the dynamics.

You'll find it helpful to read Mike Kinman's thoughts when he visited this hospital last year. And he took many more photos of the facility than I did. One nice bit of contrast is that a site he photographed in the very early stage of construction is today a very active, operational nursing school.

At Samaritan’s Purse, they have begun to provide daily food (a porridge called “Unimix”) to infants – a great stride forward for them. Imagine my shock when I finally realized they don’t provide food – any food! – to patients. Patients are dependent on family members to kill/find/buy food, prepare, and bring them meals. If you do not have family/friends to attend to to you while you're in the hospital, then you’re toast!

One scene that still haunts me was in the men’s surgical ward. A patient there had been in a coma for a week, but the doctor who gave us the tour was very proud that this patient had suddenly regained consciousness and begun speaking 2 days ago. Sitting on his bed were two male relatives (sons?), giving him water, but also gazing at us with the saddest, pleading eyes – not like pleading for us to help – but sad and pleading with love for him. I was struck by the heart-breaking tenderness of their presence with him and their gazes toward us.

That was the first of many similar experiences I had. These folks do not beg! My sense is that they are accustomed to being very self-reliant (within their family units) and proud. But when Westerners like us come sashaying through, they do give us a look that melted my heart. It’s not one of “Give me money” or “Give me food.” What struck me was just the plain, simple look of “We are your brothers and sisters.” There wasn’t so much an entreaty in those looks as there was a desire for compassion. And that was heart-breaking to me, time after time.

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