warning: beat tired- hence lots of typos, non-linear thinking, etc-.
been doing alot of “social work” which i put into quotes here b/c this is hard to place or refer patients out when there is no place to go- the biggest of 3 options is the street. That has been frustrating & difficult- so i have been mixing in doing psych work/counseling. This morning as i was scrounging around for some morning coffee a nurse grabbed me- usually they just look at the masking tape on our chest that has our area of expertise written on in sharpie marker… “did you hear about our gun wound patient”? i had been sleeping when he came in so no i hadn’t.
In all the time i have worked at the tent hospital i have never entered the ICU- and surgery area which is clearly marked “do not enter”- until today. THere i met the man who changed my life- let’s just call him “Jean.” Jean is a chaufer for one of the big NGOs here. LAst nite he went all day w/out eating… he went out to get something late nite in the NGO SUV when a man tried to car jack him. Jean ignored the man and tried to keep driving- but he was shot in the upper spine. he lost control of his car b/c the result of the gunshot is that he is now paralyzed- he careened into a pedestrian, who is now also in the ICU- about 3 feet from where Jean lay. After both victims were brought there, the other victim’s family came into to visit the pedestrian- he had to have his leg amputated and he still remains unconscious. the prognosis is not known but there is a real chance he may pass on. I was told by doctors that Jean was more concerned about the man who he hit than the fact that he is now parapalegic… he was concerend about the other man having his leg amputated- i have been told over & over that “In Haiti if you have a major handicap you are 3/4 dead.” Some ever choose to forgo amputation when they know that they face death instead. they prefer it. Jean cried as the other victims family looked at him deliberating on whether to amputate or not- they chose to do it.
I had no idea if i could do anything to help Jean- this is out of my league. I did the best i could to just be there for him- hold his hand, validate his feelings and tell him over & over that the other victim’s situation is not his fault. WHat made it hard/extra painful was that Jean was full of grace and poise even though his life would never be the same. He acted less upset than i would if an airline charged me a change fee- if i could have an ounce of Jean’s patience I would be a much better woman. I held his hand, that he coudl not move, as he thanked me- even though i do not think that i really did anything for him. Jean told me that he wanted me to come see him and meet his wife sometime when he is out of the hospital. He spoke good English since he is used to driving many international NGO workers. He is 55 has salt & peper hair and a face of an angle b/c he is one.
I am not a religious woman, but i believe in speaking people’s culture when in Haiti- many here are very religious & because of their dire situation they of course look to faith for hope, and some sense of reason. I called a female AMerican Catholic CHapplian over to pray over Jean. As she put her hands on him, and asked the grace of god to intervene and to work through the doctor and people working on Jean’s case, Jean repeated her words. When she asked God to stop his suffering i almost lost it. LIke last time i was here i had to choke down tears to continue functioning. First time around, I pressed through a few days of that & as a consequence never cried since. I thought i could handle most things now- but this again brought me up against a wall of tears. As the catholic chaplains spoke i cleared my eyes of tears, held Jean’s hand and truly prayed for him.
I do not know why bad things happen to good people. there is no reason or karma in this word. Jean is one of the most graceful polite people i have met in my life- and now he is paralyzed. I learned from his family that Jean is a hard working, and has always had a pleasant kind peacful tempermant even when he was little. I wish i had a fraction of his tempermant. I wish i had some his patience. Is it b/c i grew up in such an easy world and he grew up in such a hard one where nothing is a given? One moment and your life can change so much. SOme people who are selfish/greedy are rewarded for it- others who are good do not get good in return. I do not understand. It is something i grapple with constantly- Haiti makes me hyper aware of his. I could cry all day but we all have to carry on with the job we came here to do. I can cry later- i think.
Jean has woken me up- changed my life 4ever- i will try not to be such a brat- try not to control that things go my own way- try to be more relaxed- and appreciate all the things i do have more- including my youth, family & health.
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