Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Jesus Loves Me

I cried for the second time ever at work Monday. Not a big all-out sob, but just enough tears welled up to call it a cry. It didn't help that I was on hour 16 of my shift and physically and mentally worn out.

I just got done assisting with a procedure with this patient where I give her enough drugs to make her loopy enough to not feel us taking two samples of her bone marrow from her hips while keeping her awake enough to follow directions. I was sticking around to take one last set of vital signs and her husband came in after the bone marrow people left.

Now this lady is not all with it. She knows who she is, but she talks nonsense most of the time and says the most hilarious things. Some weird virus is making her this way. We're working on figuring out what it is and what we can do about it. But until then, she basically acts like a 90-year-old Alzheimer's patient instead of a normal mid-50s woman.

So she keeps talking while I'm standing there, just like she has all through the procedure. Except she makes sense for a few minutes. She's talking about how hard this disease is, how sick she is of being sick, how she wishes they could find answers....but that she still has to praise God. "Jesus loves me, Jesus loves me, Jesus loves me" she says over and over while starting to cry. "Jesus loves me and my husband loves me and Jesus loves me....."

Her husband kneels on the floor next to her bedside, puts his head in her hand and silently starts crying himself. Neither of them are paying a bit of attention to me, but I just take her other hand and let my own tears and prayers come.

Life is hard. But Jesus loves me.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

For Obang

I had dinner tonight with a friend whose English I have to struggle to understand and whose story I can barely comprehend. Obang is his name and Ethiopia is his home country. He's been here in Rochester for 8 years, 12 in the States, I think. Long story short, his people are being persecuted and killed off by his government. Many of his people, the Anuak, have fled to go to Sudan. Talk about a place of refuge. Many are in Kenya, like his fiance.

But before I get too serious here, Obang made some good food tonight. I'm not even going to try to spell it, but it was this spongy bread/tortilla thing you use to scoop up a stew-like mixture of meat and veggies. He told me where to buy the yummy sponge-bread, and you can be sure I'm going to get some real soon.

Obang didn't go to school when he was little. He never went until he was 12 or 13 because the government physically blocked the way and set up insurmountable barriers. He has recently started to learn to write his native language through a church in the Cities that hosts tutoring on Sundays. There are only about 100,000 Anuaks to start with, and roughly 400-500 live here in Minnesota.

He doesn't really know for sure how old he is now. By my estimates, he's got to be close to 30, but looks much younger. His skin is the darkest of dark, which make his white teeth stand out so much you have a hard time not staring at them. But you have an excuse because if you stare at his lips you will catch more words. Somehow he and his brother came over here before this pre-genocide started. His brother got sick and needed a kidney transplant. Obang gave him one of his.

The main incidence of genocidal killings started in Dec. 2003. Several other skirmishs and persecutions have happened since. And now Obang has a fire in his body to help his people and raise awareness about what's going on there. He's networking with everyone he can over here to get support, money, and awareness to do something. He and another person want to raise enough money to go to Africa and find some responsible, dependable people who will accept whatever funds/supplies Obang and his stateside community can muster up and do good things with it. Education is his first priority. There are not many schools, and they don't have supplies anyway. Today he went to the Kiwanis group and they gave him $42. It's a start. Besides education, they don't have adequate food and water either.

With all the atrocities occuring in Sudan, the crisis in Ethiopia has been overshadowed. But it's real and it's affecting my brothers and sisters. And it's causing Obang to lose a lot of sleep.

If you want to read a little more, check this out

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Quiet Night

Many times people ask me what kind of hospital unit I work on. The answer is: General Medicine/Nephrology. That translates into kidneys and everything else. Here's the breakdown of my patients tonight:

#1-Male with left groin abscess and a history of pelvic cancer and chronic kidney failure
#2-Somalian male with a joint infection of his ankle-speaks no English
#3-Woman recovering from multi-organ (kidney, liver, respiratory) failure after going into shock from an overwhelming infection
#4- Male with GI bleeding and acute kidney failure, history of heart failure
#5-Woman with some serious stomach bug or possibly ulcerative colitis
#6-25 year-old male with bone changes in his hips causing great pain, plus extensive psych issues including drug dependency, bipolar disorder, and multiple suicidal attempts.

And I have little to do. Its a quiet night on Domitilla 3D. And I'm relishing in that fact.

Thursday, August 02, 2007


In July, I left my home to visit home on my way to what feels like home.

Let me explain.

I left Rochester, MN, (which is where I would probably consider home is), to go to Lebanon, TN (which is where other people would consider my home is). I said hi and bye, and then left to go to a place that really feels like home: Honduras, Central America.

What a strange feeling—to travel who-knows-how-many-miles with one carry-on suitcase and feel like you are really home. I told a few people that. Some looked at me like I was crazy and others said “I know exactly what you mean” before I had even finished my sentence. But Honduras felt like home much more than my middle-class suburban life in Lebanon or my single adult professional life in Rochester.

Maybe it’s the lifestyle. When I try to describe what I feel when I’m deliberately serving and loving people in a developing country, I usually say, “I am more like myself when I’m there.” What I mean is, when I’m there, I am who I want to be and who I believe I am really deep down. I don’t care about materialism. I care about people. I don’t care about fancy food. I want to make sure others are fed enough to live. I don’t care about the latest high tech expensive surgery. I care if people receive basic healthcare. I don’t care that my shirt and pants may not exactly match. I care that others have enough clothes to survive.

Maybe Honduras felt like home because I’d been there before and I recognized places and people more so than the people I was with. But I think it was more than that. While we were working, someone said to me “I can definitely see where your heart it.” Whoa. Did they mean Honduras? I don’t know. I took it as if they meant serving people who desperately need it.

You always hear people say you should find something you’re passionate about and make a living out of it. I’m passionate about helping people in need who don’t have much. It keeps me up at night. I lose sleep and shed tears and skip meals struggling in my mind and in prayer for those struggling in this world. And by them not having much, I mean more than food and clothes. I mean hope. And faith. And a relationship with God. It just so happens that God told us to go to those in need and help them. To feed, clothe, shelter, and teach them.

Honduras isn’t the only place where there are people in great need. I don’t know where God will send me. I also don’t think it really matters now. But I’m listening, soberly.