Saturday, June 12, 2010

Joy and Happiness

I love all my patients, but some grab my heart a little bit more than others. One of those people is Anne Rose. She is a beautiful 28 year old woman who works in Lifeline’s clinic as a nurse and grew up in the children's home (orphange). During the earthquake, something fell on her leg and she suffered a laceration. It was stitched back together but was not cleaned well enough, and thus became severely infected. She was one of the people who was later taken on the Navy ship that was here for a long time working closely with Lifeline for surgery for her leg. She was immobilized for a while after that and was not able to bend her knee at all, and has since been walking with a cane. She began seeing me last week when the doctors were here to begin therapy to get her knee flexion back again. When we began on Monday, she could only bend her knee to 52 degrees (90 degrees would be a right angle between your thigh bone and lower leg). One of the problems limiting her flexion is that she has a lot of scar tissue. In order to try and break up that tissue, you have to do a massage over it; unfortunately, this is extremely painful for her. The next few days, Dr. Bill came in with me and did a lidocaine injection into her scar tissue to try and separate the tissues via hydraulic pressure. This too was very painful for her (until the lidocaine kicked in) to the point of tears, and Anne Rose is a very strong woman. After the first day we worked together, I knew I had caused her a lot of pain, evident from the tears in her eyes. But she sat up and gave me the biggest hug I’ve had since being here and said, “Thank you my sister. I love you so much.” It hurt me to see her in so much pain, knowing that I was the cause of her physical pain, but we both knew it’s what had to be done. We worked her very hard and pushed her through her pain and by the end of the week, she got to 72 degrees of knee flexion which is pretty incredible.

Dr. Bill and I went with Anne Rose out behind Lifeline to one of the many Tent Cities to visit Anne Rose’s tent. It was about 4:00 in the afternoon. These tents are made out of blue tarp and arched with PVC type supports. The floor is the dirt ground. They were tall enough for me to stand in and probably about 30 feet long, but split in two so two families could each have half. When we walked past the door, you could feel the radiating heat from inside. We went in and were suffocated by the heat. The lens on my camera fogged up, and I couldn’t even take a good picture. I don’t know how to describe the heat that we felt. Maybe 130 degrees?? Their beds sat on the ground and were made from cement blocks, a few pieces of cardboard for padding on top, and then a sheet. Seeing the way some people live here has become matter-of-fact to me. I don’t cry every time I look out into the field and see the hundreds of tents. I say that with shame, but at the same time, I know it would be hard for me to do anything if I was overwhelmed with emotion by the reality of life in Haiti every time I looked up. But when I walked into Anne Rose’s tent that day, reality hit. It’s not just some people living in some tent in some other country as a result of some terrible disaster. No. These are real people, no different than you or I, God’s beautiful creation, and this is how they are forced to live because of the circumstances they are in. I’ve heard many of their horror stories from January 12, and it breaks my heart.

The other night at devotions with the workteam, one of the women was moved to tears by the reality she saw that day in Tent City. We often talk about how happy the Haitian people seem despite their circumstances, but this woman said she didn’t see happiness that day; she saw pain and sadness. Keith, workteam coordinator, responded to her reflections with something that enlightened the group. He reminded us that there’s a difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is based on our circumstances. Few Haitians would say they’re happy with their circumstances. But joy comes from the Lord and is independent of our circumstances. No matter what life is like around them, the people here who know the Lord, have more joy in their life than words can describe. “…weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)