Each day I try to go through the hospital several times in the early morning, during the day and in the evening. I try to encourage the people who are waiting for surgery and their families, and then to check on the progress of those who are recovering from their procedures. I have become quite close to several of these strong people, and our visits buoy the spirits of both of us.
We have never asked people about their experiences in the earth quake, but some now want to be able to express themselves about the disaster. One of my special friends is an elderly lady who has required two surgical procedures, with her leg in traction between them. She has endured pain and discomfort with strong perseverance (that’s the word she used). She has a beautiful smile, which she usually shares with me each time I visit. If not, I know that she is suffering.
Once, when I went to see her, the bed was gone, but her son, who has not left her side, indicated that he wanted to talk, so we went out the ward door to a breezeway, and sat on a concrete bench. His mother comes from a small community on the north side of the Artibonite River. She had come in to Port Au Prince with her family to prepare for the daughter’s wedding. When the quake hit his mother was buried in the rubble of a 3-story apartment building.
Miraculously, her sons found her and carried her to a nearby house. One of the sons drove to three hospitals to seek help for her broken leg, but he only found bodies of people which had been carried there by distraught families. The son returned to report to his mother, who was coming out of the initial shock of the quake. She told her children to take her home. Why? They asked, and she told them about the hospital across the river where she had gone when they were young, to have an operation.
The sons drove around buying gasoline, for which the price had doubled, and started on the road to Deschapelles and Hôpital Albert Schweitzer. On the way, she told them about the hospital and the American woman who visited her every day.
I met her the day after she arrived, when she stopped me to ask me when she would have her operation. We talked a while, and she asked if the American lady was still there and I explained that she was not, but as the American lady was my mother, she had taught me how to care for our patients. That earned me the first of her beatific smiles.
She said that she will be my Mami, and I am honored with the relationship.
Later today, she will have her second operation and will be on her way to recuperation, and I am certain to be graced with another of her smiles.