Due to upcoming elections in Togo they have asked us to do multiple smaller screening (30 screenings 400 patients a day) compared to our usual one time large screening (up to 5000 at once). I was told going into the screenings that we only are able to do surgery for about 25-20% of the people that we see. But this year we have added limitations with only 3 operating rooms in use and the fact we will only be here for 6 months vs the normal 10 months.
This morning I went to my second day of screening. We left the ship around 5am and traveled about 20 minutes on a ‘paved’ road and then followed a couple dirt roads to our final destination. As we approached the screening site, even though the sun had not yet risen, you could see the outlines of hundreds of people waiting to be seen.
We were all excited to see so many people waiting to be seen but we also realized that there were way over 400 people waiting outside the gates that we would have to turn away until another screening. One of the head nurses asked if I could go be the pre-PRE screening nurse and go outside the gate to screen through those that we could potentially help and those that had medical problems that were not surgical issues.
As I opened that gates and walked outside my heart couldn’t believe my eyes. There standing outside were another 400 people that waited hoping that we could help. With a translator and escort at my side I started the slow and heart wrenching process. “My son cant walk”, “My daughter cant use her arms”, “I was burned in a fire” “I was in a moto accident.” Person after person. Story after story. Struggle after struggle.
I saw HUGE goiters, but they weren’t big enough. I saw massive hernias, but they weren’t large enough. I saw so many adult men and women that had extensive orthopedic issues but due to age were unable to get surgery (only pediatric orthopedics). By far, for me, the hardest things to say no to, was the 6 children that I saw that had severe cerebral palsy and would not be able to walk even with a surgery. These kids will always be dependent upon their families for not just getting around but for all activities of living (eating, drinking, clothing, toileting, etc.)It was so hard.
It was so hard to their struggle and to get a glimpse of their pain but be unable to help. I wished I could have at least sat with each one and prayed with them but then I looked up and saw the hundreds of desperate faces and prayed that God would be with each person here, that God would comfort them whether we told them yes or no. That God would pour his love upon them and let them know that each one is his precious child…
As we wrapped up the screening I walked in the gate feeling broken and torn down.
I tried to reflect on the morning but my mind felt empty and my heart hurt. I looked up to see a Mama and her baby walking towards me. This was one of the people I was able to say yes to. I walked over to say hello and as I looked down at her little baby with a cleft lip, the Mama held out her appointment card with a big smile on her face. Thanks God!
Even though we have to turn away SOOO many people I know that God has already picked out every single patient and family that we will help. Instead of focusing on all the tear filled faces that I had to say No to, I need to focus on all the hope filled faces that we were able to say YES to.
God is so good, all the time!
A matter of belief
4 years ago