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2+2 : A tale of two hospitals and two orphans

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to practice nursing 50 years ago? You know, back when they calculated IV drop rates using a wrist watch, and back when all the nurses still wore white caps. Come to Peru, and work with me at Goyeneche Hospital and you can experience all of those things for yourself.

I remember in nursing school when Dr. Otten used to say things like, "In the olden days we did this..." and we all would roll our eyes. But here, today is a day of old. What is an alaris pump? How does a computerized charting system work? Imagine trying to explain these things to nurses who have never used them. That is what happens every time one of the nurses asks me how nursing is different in the States. Don't even get me started on the patient to nurse ratio (in some places it's one nurse to an entire floor). And yes, I did learn how to calculate drip rates using a wrist watch. But no, I will never wear one of those white caps.

Aside from technology, the hospitals here and at home have another major difference. Resources. In the US, regardless of a person's economic status they receive the medical treatment that they need. Here, if the patient's insurance doesn't cover it, they have to go out and buy it on their own. Last week I was talking to a mom who did not have insurance. She needed to buy a medication for her daughter's breathing treatment, but the family had no money. She was desperate and crying and asking me what we could do. I had no answers for her. Usually, if the family does not have a medication we will use some from our stock on the floor, but we were out of that specific medication. There was nothing we could do.

 And then there are the babies without parents.

Yes, I know this also happens in the states, but I have never seen abandonment on this scale.

This week we had two little girls who have no parents. I'm going to tell you about the worst case first to get it out of the way.

Mary is 12 years old. She has Cerebral Palsy. She was abandoned by her mother as a young child. Supposedly her father takes care of her. Supposedly. She came to us with pressure ulcers, pneumonia, a UTI and sepsis. Her hair is matted and hasn't been brushed. Her arms are emaciated. She doesn't have the strength to fight this infection. Her prognosis is death. It is only a matter of time. I have been praying that she passes away in comfort, and that her broken heart could be healed of her abandonment at last when she is in the arms of the Parent who loves unconditionally.

Tania is 5. She lives in an orphanage. She came to us with a UTI and pneumonia. When I first met her, she did not even have the energy to cry she was so wrung out. But with IV antibiotics and breathing treatment she has made a quick turn around. Yesterday she was walking around her room with a card that had animals on them trying to pronounce their names. Our conversation went like this:

"Que es eso?"
"Es un cuy."

"Que es eso?"
"Es una llama."

Because Tania does not have parents staying in the hospital with her, the other mom in the room has taken over her parenting. She asks me questions about Tania's treatments, wipes Tania's face, and berates the orphanage director for not visiting Tania every day.

In my mind, I picture CHOC (Children's Hospital Orange County), where we have the resources to give every child a coloring book and crayons, where there are alaris pumps and monitors at the bedside, and where social services is a functioning system rather than a dead end. I wonder what Mary's prognosis would be there. In my mind, I know that this line of thinking is not going to help. Instead of comparing Goyeneche to CHOC, I need to do what I can do today, right now. I need to brush Mary's hair and teach Tania how to say "llama." Because Jesus didn't teach us how to run a functioning hospital, He taught us how to love, and that is what I'm here to learn. Life is beautiful, like Mary's eyes. It's also SO difficult, like Mary's life. But through it all, He is there.

And I try to say this and mean it, "Blessed are those whose strength is in You." Not in technology, not in a functioning system, not in resources, not in health. In. You.


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