Yesterday, after two fairly challenging days back to work at the hospital, I expressed to our team mate as we prayed together a sense of thankfulness to be back to the front line. I do feel that way about medicine. For a few hours daily I am face to face with sickness, putting my hands and eyes and ears to work, trying to discern problems and pull children through the harshness of this world, fighting for life. There is something very basic and clear about that, the sense that this is reality, that the good of healing is unambiguous, that the power to confront a small part of the evil infecting our world is a gift. I like staying grounded in those hours of front-line resistance to the work of the enemy.
But today I am bowled over. Five hours straight of undiluted pain, and the restful break is forgotten, and the sense of purpose and wholeness of returning to my daily work seems difficult to grasp. Just a sample: Congolese twins who BOTH have sickle cell disease, with dwindly little bodies and crying out when their mysterious bony swellings are touched; new diagnosis of AIDS in a child; an 11 year girl cheerily answering my questions two days ago now in great discomfort as what is probably a massive tumor fills her abdomen (maybe lymphoma, maybe I will be able to get her to Kampala for treatment, maybe not); over an hour negotiating phone calls with everyone I could raise in positions of authority in the health system to agitate about the fact that we are short on ARV (medicine for AIDS) supplies and patients are going to suffer; a 4-ish year old boy who seems to have a broken leg after a drunk man clubbed him for disturbing their traditional dance (?witchcraft) last night; a girl who was possibly bit by a snake during the night as she was fine yesterday but awakened in pain and progressive massive swelling of her head and neck, thankfully still able to breath; a woman who came to Uganda years ago as a refugee after her husband and relatives were killed by rebels in Congo, delivered a baby this past week, received no antenatal care for the pregnancy, does not know the father of the baby, has had her last three babies all die, is mentally impaired (would I be too?), and is being looked after by a kind neighbor who brought mother and hungry baby to the hospital. Those are just a few of the cases that stood out from the dozens of others with malaria and diarrhea and anemia . . .
So being able to rescue anyone is so far beyond me today. Only the bleeding body of Jesus could affect such a rescue (Gal 1:4), though at times in this forgotten pocket of the world the bleeding atonement seems to seep in too slowly.