One of my challenges in caring for the patients here in PNG is to try and understand a little of where they are coming from, what challenges they have, what their cultural beliefs are, etc in order to better care for them. Through the years, I have learned that where a person comes from can have a big impact on their ability to followup regularly. Cost of transportation, road blocks, fights along the way can all be barriers to those traveling long distances, so trying to get them to seek care closer to home is sometimes necessary. Knowing that most people get their water from the river, which is also used by some as a toilet, leads me to talk to patients about boiling water before drinking it, especially if they are having repeated bouts of diarrhea. I know that one of the ways that people get out of fights or when they are feeling stressed, is to faint and pretend to be unconscious. When they come to the ER, there is something more important that being given a clean bill of health and sent home, there is a reason they needed to come to the hospital, a reason they needed to escape whatever what going on at home or at school and so sleeping in the hospital for a night, having a chaplain come and talk and pray with them is sometimes the best medicine. I have learned many things about life in PNG and about the challenges to providing and receiving healthcare, but one thing I haven't seen much of, until recently, is abandonment.
A 20 something year old woman, whose frailness made her seem so much older, slowly make her way into my exam room. As she was sitting down, I was looking through her records trying to get an idea of what was going on. I discovered that she hadn't returned for a followup visit a few months ago, and was thinking her current poor health was likely directly related to her not coming back. Inside I started to get a little upset, knowing how we spend time explaining why followup is really important and why some medicines can't be skipped, and yet she did skip her followup and meds. Thankfully, before I let my internal feelings express themselves, I asked her how she was doing, and after she told me, I asked why she hadn't come back when we had asked. She didn't want to look at me, she was ashamed and spoke too softly for me to here.
Her watchmeri chimed in and explained how she was abandoned by her family. Her dad left her mom, and subsequently stopped helping her too. She felt like no one cared about her and loved her so she thought she would just stop taking her medicines, not followup and eventually die. Before that happened, her neighbor intervened, feeling sorry for her and brought her to the hospital.
We all are looking for love, for acceptance, for someone who cares about us and will help us and look after us. Our family does that for a while, but there are times when we still are looking for someone else to fill our needs and Christ is the only one who can do that. Ps 145:17-18 "The Lord is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made. The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth."
Thankfully, our hospital specializes in showing compassion and love as Christ showed us. Pray that we may love more and more and care for those who need our help, who are abandoned, who need to know of Christ's love for them.