As Americans, most of us don’t know what it means to be patient, to wait. Well, ok... maybe I cannot speak for all Americans. But for me, I have never learned the art of waiting, or for that matter never really had to. Even here in Honduras, I usually don’t have to wait the way the majority of the population has to. Let’s be honest in the age of Amazon prime, fast food, advanced medical systems (even as broken as it is), online banking and bill pay; your life feels pretty stream-lined State-side.
Here…you wait. Yep, you wait 4 hours to see a doctor, 6 hours to get a medical test done, 2 hours to pay your rent at the bank, a week to get your internet fixed. Months before you can get that new shirt you ordered online. And that is really nothing in comparison to what some of my patients have waited for.
I was blown away by a recent conversation I had with the father of one of my 7 year- old patients who we have been working to get accepted into a Children’s Heart program/foundation here in Honduras. His son, Elkin, was born with Transposition of the Great Vessels: which means the two main arteries of his heart are switched and the normal “circuit” of the heart does not function so his body is getting “bad blood” or deoxygenated blood. Little Elkin, was born a twin. His twin brother was born completely normal. Elkin due to the nature of his disease is small for his age, is unable to run and play like normal 7 year old boys, and constantly has blue lips and fingers as his little body is fighting to get enough oxygen. It is really quite something that he has survived this long under the stress his heart and body put up with everyday. His parents have tried multiple different doctors and avenues to try and get their little boy seen by the right people to try and offer a solution for their boy. They have been shuffled through the system all over Honduras, only to be turned down, or given empty promises or directed to another person who smiles politely and says, “we will see what we can do.”
So…due to a total “God-thing/divine-interaction” Roger, our Honduran partnering physician, went to a vitamin training course put on by the foundation that we receive our vitamin grants through. There, he met and connected with some of the doctors that work for this Children’s heart organization. So, when Elkin and his dad walked through my clinic door some months ago, I knew exactly why God had orchestrated Roger’s connection with these doctors during that training! We made an application and referral for this little guy, and than waited and waited, for months we heard nothing…mum was the word. Finally we got word from the organization, a small and simple: “they were reviewing his case.”
So with this little glimmer of hope, I called Elkin’s dad to tell him the update. I was so apologetic and so frustrated, that after months of waiting all I could offer this dad of this little boy…the words…”they are reviewing his case.” Much to my surprise; the dad was elated! He couldn’t believe how quickly we had heard something, he was so surprised that someone was actually taking an interest in his son’s case, someone actually was following through on their word. After 7 years of waiting…a few months was like a blink of an eye for this persistent dad. As I hung up the phone, my whole perspective of waiting was flipped on its head. I had no idea what it meant to wait, I have never had to wait 7 years while literally putting my son’s life in the hands of one person after another that you barely know. All of a sudden, in comparison, waiting 4 hours for a doctor appointment didn’t really seem like waiting at all, it felt more like a chance to catch up on a good book and answer some emails.
It is beautiful to watch Hondurans a lot of times waiting, they are talking to each other while they are waiting, they are being communal, rarely do I see them tapping their feet, rolling their eyes, and checking their watches every 5 minutes. And the kids, how a little 3 or 4 year old boy will wait quietly for hours with his mom completely eludes me. My three year-old little guy would never in a million years make it more than 20 minutes having to wait quietly by my side!
Because when you wait, you slow down, when you slow down you start noticing things around you, and when you start noticing things. You start to realize life is not about you, that you are just part of something bigger, much bigger and better than simply you. That we are all pieces in this puzzle, and we are connected in more ways than one
Update: Elkin has been accepted into the program. However, due to his age and complexity of his heart deformities the surgeon doesn’t feel comfortable performing the large surgery to completely correct his heart. He is scheduled in February 2016 to receive a procedure to help him and alleviate some of the stress on his body from his heart deformities.