In my job as a nurse, every day brings me face to face with the people who wear their scars on the outside. They come into the outpatients tent and bare their wounds and their scars, and trust us with their stories.
- The small girl who we wrap up every other day in bandages, who comes skipping and smiling into our tent, giggling at things her mother says, giving us high fives and curling up in a nurse's lap when she's tired. At every dressing we hear her cry, and every time we say goodbye she thanks us for all we do. We are trying to teach her to trust again. I think we're getting there.
- The young woman waiting on a diagnosis, who comes in full of hope and dignity. Dressed as though she is showing up to work, impeccable other than a tumour that mars her physique. We dress her wounds and pray and hope alongside her.
- The old man with a face that droops and sags on one side like a stroke victim with a little too much skin. Tales to tell of an overwhelming tumour that threatened his life and is now gone.
- The small boy who runs around the tent like the ball of a pinball machine, half his face swollen and misshapen, he is oblivious to any deformity, and in love with everyone around him. He hangs off of the nurses and the day crew, riffles through drawers looking for toys, and giggles at the least provocation.
- The middle-aged woman who has a freshly-drawn scar at the base of her neck, asking if her goitre will grow back. Smiling and happy to have her blood drawn to make sure her thyroid levels are okay.
- The young man who stretches out his burn-scarred arm to show where the scar has been stretched too far and is now a wound. Bashfully grinning and admitting to games of basketball that may have been a little more than his arm could handle.
- The family member who sold a cow or a field so that they could pay for the transportation to get their son/daughter to the ship, even when everyone else told them not to. And now they look with pride on the changes, the healing that has taken place since they were brave and came anyways.
Every day we see 30 or more patients come through our doors. Every story is different, and yet they are all so similar. They involve pain, strength, courage, hope. They involve journeys across country, and overcoming barriers. They include naysayers who told them no one would help them, it's all a lie, you're too broken.
We do our best for them. But our best isn't always good enough. Some of the wounds are slow to heal. Some of the tumours are the wrong kind and we just can't do surgery on them. Some of the babies are too small or the patient is too sick for surgery. And all too often these are the patients that steal my heart and leave it scarred. We see some of the more broken ones very frequently, trying to make them ready, strong enough for surgery. Waiting for a yes or no for surgery after a biopsy. Trying to heal wounds after surgery. And in the waiting, or the prolonged healing, we grow attached. We pray and we hope... and sometimes we end up crying with the patients.
There have been a couple of "no's" this week that were rather difficult. Pray with me for these people and their families. That this time with them would be the seed planted for love, hope, a God that loves no matter the circumstance. Pray for miracles.