Monrovia Mission Day 1 : Morning reflection

The two buses that we are given to us: one has no head lights. So we can’t leave before sunrise and we better be back before sunset. The other slides back randomly even when we are driving forward.  Which one to board this morning?

I am lucky. I drive with surgeon Kondrot in 2 small trucks. One truck to carry his surgical tools and injectables and supplies. The other small truck is for us. I just feel awfully bad for the rest of the team having to drive in the two buses and can only pray that they can move around without any problem.

Triage is critical as most people have untreated conditions that need to be addressed before we can do surgeries on them. They might have uncontrolled high blood pressure or in a diabetic crisis. One time a man came and he was so weak. He has walked for days and had not eaten and his blood pressure was too low. Then another person has cataract but also wanted us to look at his tumor on his chest. You are a doctor, you treat everything don’t you? No, we don’t. We only can check on his eyes.

We were told last night that there is a school for the blind here with about sixty students that have a condition where the black of their eyes are all changing from black to yellow and the white of their eyes is also yellow. Nobody knows what that condition is or why it happens. In other words no diagnosis. We hope to stop by the school to look at them on the way back from clinic one of the day this week.

5 AM: Up and ready to go. Pack up our personal gear.
6 AM: breakfast.
6:30 AM: loading the bus.
7 AM: clinic set up
8 AM: first patient

That’s the plan. And plans are made to be broken, as it is now 6:17 AM and we are the only two in the restaurant in the breakfast area. There is no breakfast ready and there is not one single team member up in sight. I bet the whole team is still sleeping as jet lag can hit pretty hard on the second day.

I am excited and worried. The first day is always full of surprises. We never know what we are up against until we get to the clinic. Once on a previous trip,  we had to hold the line of patients for one hour because we got to a clinic in the jungle and it was so dirty we could not possibly see any patients in that filthy room. I had to spend an hour cleaning, sweeping and making sure it’s clean enough for Ed to work out of.

Every medical mission trip teaches me so much and I have grown so much personally. I must admit, only in a short 2 days, even before we start clinical work, I have already changed. Liberia has welcomed us with such warmth and friendliness it makes us feel immediately at home. Even though I stay in a very nice hotel, I did get a glimpse of the harsh life of the Liberians out on the street. It humbles me. One thing I notice: I clean up my food plate. I don’t dish out too much food. We have buffet style dinner every night and I only take what I can eat and eat everything I have on my plate. I am aware there are others around me who do not have any food to eat so I can’t waste food. I also become less picky. I eat what ever is served. No more healthy green smoothies to start the day. No organic kale and organic spinach. No organic anything for the rest of the stay here in Liberia. By the way, we were eating vegetarian for a while now but it seems there are very little vegetables being served here. Practically none on any of the menus. So we eat chicken and fish like everybody else.  I always eat white chicken meat only before today. No skin. No dark meat. I have eaten chicken four times here already and all four times I ate nothing but drumsticks! There was no white meat served No complaints. They are actually very good. Is it not amazing? I smile and I am just happy to be so alive and so much healthier than so many other people around me. I am healthy, I have water to drink when I am thirsty and food to eat when I am hungry, what is there to complaint about?

As this first clinic day is starting, I know I am very jittery and worried and anxious. I focus my mind on a prayer to start my day in peace.

A prayer of St. Francis of Assisi for a calming moment:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
Grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Born a Buddhist, I also pray to the Buddha to look over us.

And I pray to all the Gods above to bless us with a successful day as we start our week of work.

Beggars are not choosers. We will take any blessings from all the gods above to help us through this tough first day ahead.

I already just realize right now that Ed has no dilating drop with him in his boxes of medicines and drops. It is going to be tough to do an examination for the eyes without dilating drops. We need a miracle. We will need some divine intervention, some way, somehow to get him dilating drops. Oh well, the day is really starting.

We know what we can do. But we are only mortal humans. Sometimes, it takes much more than we can dish out. Often times, we need miracles to help us through the day!

If you read this post today, please pray for us and our team. And pray that all the people that will come and wait in line to receive care will be healed of whatever ails them.

6:30 AM. We are now joined by four more team members. And still no breakfast. We are only thirty minutes behind.

And here is the good doctor waiting for his breakfast and the first four brave and awake team members in the background.

And with this, I have to check out of the computer and go load the two small trucks and make sure we don’t forget anything so we can have a successful clinic day in Monrovia.

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