Tuesday, April 29, 2008

the view from A ward

I was a bit intimidated when I received my report sheet. 9 of my 10 patients were male and only 2 of them were children.

One of my goals in nursing was to only take care of women and children. Men sometimes make me feel intimidated and moderately uncomfortable.

I really like working weekend night shift, especially when I have the ward to myself (which I did). There generally is not a lot of work to be done until 10 pm, so you have time to really hang out with the patients.

I grabbed a rolling chair an plopped myself between the two rows of beds that my tenants were stationed at. Their ages ranged from 19 to 43; they were all plastic surgery patients.

Bed 11 was a 19 year old who had acid poured over his head when he was 4. I'm pretty certain it was done be a rebel solider. You can see a distinct melted circle on the top of his bald scalp, and melted skin drips down the sides of his face onto his arms and chest.
His name is Joseph and he is a sweet guy. Today when I was visiting the ward he beat me in a game of uno.

Bed 12 is a 21, just 6 months younger than my brother. He has bright, gentle eyes that are filled with determination and grace. His spirit is so sweet that I nearly broke down in tears after talking to him. I got him crayons at the beginning of the shift and he spent the entire night coloring.

His name is Gaye. Gaye grew up during the war, he was four when it started. His father died at the beginning of the war; he didn't ever know him. Gaye has three older siblings. During the war he and his sister remained with his mother while his other two siblings were sent off with his uncle. When the war was over, after more than a decade of separation, they found each other again. He said it was happy but also sad; his uncle had been killed. He also lost a grandfather who became sick during the war and died because there was no doctor to go to.

Gaye told me about the day rebel soldiers came to his school looking for new recruits. They pulled up to the schools walls with trucks and guns and took his best friend, who was later killed. A man grabbed his school uniform but the sleeve ripped off his shirt and he escaped. He also reminisced about when he was captured by a ten year old a child solider. The boy was flogged and detained him but he managed to escape.

Gaye is almost finished high school; he is a very smart and bright boy. His older brother is a nurse but he wants to be an accountant. He hopes that one day Liberia will be strong and will help other countries like they have been helped. When he speaks of his goals, he say "I am determined," and you can see the truthfulness of his words glistening in his eyes.

Gaye had to stop going to school last July; he was hit by a car. The bones in his leg are splintered and there are now large, infected sores that have overtaken his foot. I imagine walking was a rather arduous task (he is now ambulating on crutches).

At home, he would had some pins placed in his leg, gone through some rehab, and been on his way. But here, where there is no health care system, breaking your leg often turns into a lifetime of disability.

But Gaye is not discouraged. "I am determined," he states as he flashes his charming smile.

Bed 17, Cooper.
Cooper was a translator on the Anastasis during a previous outreach. He gave me a list of his old friends he worked with before but I didn't recognize any of their names. About 1 1/2 years ago he was in an argument that ended in a cup of acid being poured down the front of his body. His face, arms, and chest are badly burned and disfigured. He told me he use to regularly lift waits, "But now I am weak. After 1/2 hour I am too tired."

Cooper told me one of his war stories. He spent three days squatting on a one room school house with three hundred other people. He said you couldn't move to the left or right because someone would take your spot. You had to stand still in your crowded space; for three days. Finally, starvation forced him to leave. He needed food and water . His mother begged him not to leave the school, concerned that he would not return if he left. In leaving he risked being killed or worse, being forced to join the rebel army.

Cooper left and ran into a friend who took him to a village where there was food. His friend had become a soldier. He told Cooper he could not leave the village, he would have to become a solider too. Somehow he was able to convince his friend to let him go and he returned to the school house with the food. Everyone put their hands out and begged him for just a mouthful.

Later in the evening Cooper asked me about movies I had seen. He named a title I didn't know. To possibly jolt my memory he stood, and started waving his arms in the air singing, "O happy day, Oh happy day." Apparently that was a song in the movie. It made me smile.

Bed 18 was Mr. Sassy. Or that's what I called him :)
I had brought a few photo albums to show the boys club my family and friends. He called me to his bedside and pointed to a photo,
"I want to take this girl," he said with a sly smile. I looked down at his finger, he had meant to pick a photo of me but instead he was pointing to a picture of my mom.
"That's my mom," I said, which made the other men brake out into a fit of laughter. Bed 18 look confused, "That is not you? Your mother is young. You favor her."
His smoothly planned pick up line had backfired. We all had a good laugh at his pride's expense.

Bed 19 is "the Reverend". He is very involved at his church ( I think he's a pastor). Every night and every morning he prays "sermon prayers" for the ward, the patients, and the nurses. Hearing him pray made me want to be converted and I am already a Christian.

He asked me all sorts of questions about my faith and we had some very theological discussions. He said, "It is nice to see a young women strong in the Lord." I told him I work with the youth at my church and requested that I testified before the youth at his church. I hope it really happens.
The Reverend likes to read, so I littered the ward with K.P. Yohannan pamphlet's that all the patients that can read have been diligently working through. Before he went to sleep on Sunday he told me "I am going to pray you marry a strong Christian man." He's praying the same thing for my friend Ali. Seeing the way he prays, I think we will probably both be married by June.

The weekend was great. My fears were unqualified.
I felt like I was Snow White and the patients were my seven dwarfs. It was pretty sweet.

My heart was really broke for the men as I gained a first hand account of the sorrows they experienced. I was able to sit on an empty bed and tell Joesph, Gaye, and Cooper the story of Joseph. How he was sold into slavery; was injustly accused; and then falsely imprisoned. All while he was trying to follow God. But then one day, after 14 years of trials, God revealed the plan He had all along, and Joseph was used to save entire nations. What man meant for evil, God meant for good.

They really listened when I spoke and I could tell they really believed what I was saying. They believed God could take their sufferings and use them for His glory. Gaye sat there with his hopeful eyes and said "I am thankful that God spared my life and I am determined."

It was so humbling. I complain over so little. I doubt God so easily and have had such and easy life.

James 2:5
Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which He hath promised to them that love Him?


Journey said...

Oh, Megan, Cooper's movie is "Sister Act" with Whoopie Goldberg- I love the "Happy Day" song. Thanks for sharing!

Renee said...

You can take me back to my first days in Liberia....when one of my foster sons was flipping through a magazine, that in those days people use to rent and he had rented it, he suddenly yelled for me to come and see. I had been taking photos and brought my camera and snapped his picture as he was so excitedly telling me that there was a picture of his favourite movie in the magazine - Forrest Gump. Now, about 7 years later, we still refer to that moment of pure joy and I have the photo - which is one of my favourites.

They will all be in-love with you there Meg - the boys/men that is - and you handle everyone just right! No worries!! They need your care and concern just as the girls/women do and will impact you as deeply.

As always, your entries make me so happy and thoughtful...Thank you.

marzbarz said...

Megan, I love this entry. Like, I want to print it out and share it with everyone. Thanks for your madly fantastic journalism skills and for sharing your reflections with others.
Love, Marla