An everyday tragedy

Source: Orthodox Missionary Fraternity

May 11, 2016

Mission doctors in Northern Cameroon Mission doctors in Northern Cameroon

In early August, during the monsoon season, my phone rang after midnight. I woke up a bit anxious and heard the familiar voice of a woman that had been working as a cook for years. Among tears and cries of despair, I understood that her daughter was somewhat ill and she was taken to the “Emergency department” at a hospital on duty …

I stood up, got into the car and after a while I found myself in a maze of two merged hospitals, trying to find the “Emergency dept” … Eventually, following the directions of sleeping guards and nurses, I got into a circular room with camp beds separated by folding screens, where the fifty inpatients were waiting for either the attention and care on the part of the two doctors, or, some of them, for the death certificate in order to be moved to the morgue … Somewhat shocked and somewhat touched, as this situation slightly reminded me of my homeland, I found the former cook and her bedridden daughter …

—What’s up? What’s happened?
—We don’t know, she said. She lost consciousness… She came round, but she cannot walk.

I went to the reception and asked the nurse for more information.

—“Father, if she doesn’t have lab tests, nobody can tell what’s wrong … Pay no attention to her mother’s words … In short, for tests to be done, they must be paid in advance. The mother said she had no money, therefore we cannot do anything ...”

We talked for a while, I paid the fee, and they immediately took blood from the patient and sent the sample for analysis … I stuck around for an hour and a half. The nurse came and apathetically announced:

—The patient has AIDS! She is in urgent need of a blood transfusion ….

Another shock! She shortly moved to her post but she turned back again …

—Her blood type is not available in the blood bank of our hospital. You should look for it at another hospital, or wait until tomorrow morning, when we may find donors willing to give blood. Only If you pay them, of course …

God helped and while I was looking for someone to tell me where I should go I came across a trainee doctor, who greeted me with a “Bless Father”. I was surprised, but he explained that he had studied in Moscow and so he figured out that I was an Orthodox cleric. I explained my problem to him and he offered to come with me, so that we could find the blood unit we needed …

We went from hospital to hospital, waking up the guards to let us in, finding the person in charge to learn if there was a unit of this blood type … In the fourth hospital in a row the Lord allowed us to find one! An additional delay to find the cashier didn’t seem like a hardship because we had the joy of achieving our goal …

CC BY-NC Medici con l’Africa Cuamm CC BY-NC Medici con l’Africa Cuamm

At daybreak, we returned to the hospital. The transfusion started and instantly the patient opened her eyes. When she saw me, she clutched my clothes and started crying:

—Don’t let me die, don’t let me … Once I get well, I will be in church everyday … Pray for me … Don’t let me die …

I tried to reassure her ... But what can you say to a 20-year-old girl when you know she has little chance of survival?

I left troubled by dark thoughts and in deep pain for the reality which had unwrapped in front of me the night before. I had certainly seen tougher situations, but this one hurt me in its own way…

The girl’s agony lasted for 12 days with constant transfusions … Then she passed away in tears and grievance …

—I wanna live. Why don’t I get better?

Who could possibly answer these questions? Or who would dare turn these questions of a young human being into self-criticism?

I think what matters more than anything else is to hold the hand of the perishing person till the end, so that they feel they are not alone … I have wondered time and again how many people must have left and how many leave daily, just because there was nobody to pay for their medication!

How small is the value of human life in the Africa of poverty and deprivation!

†Gregory of Cameroon


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