Day 4 – 8/21/08

Yesterday my prayer was that God wouldn’t let me forget the lessons of the day. God must’ve heard that prayer because he reinforced them in amazing ways today. Today was supposed to be the day that we packed our bags and moved from La Ceiba out to the hospital (about an hour and a half away). Our intention was to complete some business at the bank and then go back to the hitel and get our stuff. While we were at the bank with Dr. Renee, Norma called. Norma is the head nurse at the hospital and she said that she had a critically ill child that had to be transported to San Pedro Sula (about three hours away) immediately and she needed someone to go with her. She didn’t need medical help she just needed an escort because it was entirely unsafe for a woman to be on the roads after dark. We talked about it and decided that I was the best person to go with her. For those of you who don’t know, I was an EMT/Firefighter for 10 years and I have done medical transport before and I was really excited to get a chance to a) drive in Honduras and b) see the San Pedro Sula hospital. After seeing the hospital that we saw yesterday, I wondered if it could get any worse than what I had seen. I would get a chance to find out. For reference, La Ceiba (the hospital we saw yesterday) is a town of about 70,000 and San Pedro Sula is a town of about 300,000. So Normal pulled up and I hopped in the back seat of her Toyota SUV and off went. Mom (named Marina) was sitting in the front passenger seat holding the little girl. I learned from Norma that the little girl, named Chelsi Yanira Bautista was suspected of having Lymphatic Lukemia. Her white blood cells were at 50,000 (normal is around 10,000) and here platelets (critical for blood clotting) were zero. She was bleeding from the nose and mouth. Norma had taken her to see a Pediatrician in La Ceiba and he indicated that she might not make it to San Pedro Sula alive. Needless to say, we were in a hurry. Norma and I layed hands on the girl and prayed that God would spare her life and that He would heal here. Not long after I got in, Norma asked me to drive and I gladly accepted. I will tell you that I have never experienced anything like that drive in my entire life and I may well never experience anything like it again. I passed on the right, I passed on the left, I went in the middle, and I drove faster than I’ve ever driven. I’ve explained several times how maniacal the driving is here anyway. I got to stand out as the chief maniac today as I swerved through traffic and perhaps even surprised a few Hondurans. All I can say is Steve, you would have been proud of me (inside joke). What a rush. After about two or two and a half hours of driving like this, we found the hospital in downtown San Pedro Sula (remember this is the downtown area that neither of us had ever been to before of a town of 300,000 people) which is nothing short of a miracle of God. Norma’s nursing scrubs and medical badge got us through the locked gate and up to the emergency room. We pulled right up to the front doors of the emergency room and Normal rushed mom and baby into the chaos of San Pedro Sula hospital. I think that this may be one of the busiest hospitals in the world. I saw every manner of emergency walk right in the front door. I saw one man carry what appeared to be his dead father in the front door. I saw three people carry a woman in that appeared to dying right there in front of me. It was incredible. There was a mass of humanity outside the entrance – concerned family members. Only the emergency cases and maybe one family member were allowed in the doors. Red Cross Range Rover ambulances pulled in and dropped patients off and then took off to go get the next one. Honduran Bomberos firefighters broght patients in. It was a sight to behold. And in the midst of it all, here I was sitting in a Toyota SUV with my hazard lights on. It didn’t take long for a security guard with a machine gun to wander over and ask me what the heck I thought I was doing parked in front of the entrance. He seemed to indicated that had better get moving. I managed to get enough Spanish out to tell him that I was just the driver and that I was from the Hospital in Balfate (name of our town) in Colon (state) and that I was waiting for a very important doctor (forgive me Lord for stretching the truth). This made all kinds of sense to him that I was just a poor driver that had been told to wait for a very important person, so he left me alone. Eventually Norma came back out and we went off to find the poor mother some clothing. She had left her tiny village to take her sick child to the hospital and now here she was in the biggest city she had ever seen without a dime or a piece of clothing other that what she was wearing. So off we went in search of a clothing store. We searched downtown San Pedro Sula (think downtown – heavily populated – impossibly thick traffic – Central America) for some inexpensive clothing for mom. Norma and I pooled our money and purchased clothing and a few supplies for mom and headed back to the hospital to give her some cash and the items that we had purchased for her. This time I got to go into the hospital with Norma. Wow. The pediatric ward of this hospital sees 250+ kids every day. Their were people everywhere. Unlike yesterday, there wasn’t that dark, medieval dungeon feel to the place. It appeared as if people were getting good medical care. The doctors and nurses in that hospital deserve a special place in heaven for ever having worked there, because they were hugely overwhelmed with patients, but they did their best and seemed competent. We finally found Marina (Chelsi’s mom) sitting in a chair in a hallway. I’ll never look at hallway in hospitals the same again. They should just build public hospitals in Central America with only hallways, because that’s where all of the patients end up and it seems that’s where all of the treatment is done. There were cots on either side of the hallway with two children per cot, head to toe, and mothers hovering over them with washcloths swatting away the flies or holding up an IV bag, or stroking a child’s forehead. Through one window at the end of the hall, I could see at least a hundred people in one waiting room just sitting and standing there – the waiting must have been endless. It was both a miracle and testimony to the competence of the medical staff that our little Chelsi was seen immediately by the doctor. Her critical condition was accentuated by the fact that the sclera (the white part) of each eye had turned into one big blood blister. One had simply to look into her eyes to know that she was dying. Her mom held a bag of platelets (another miracle). While the most skilled person I have ever seen with stuck an IV in her arm on the first shot (no veins at all – no idea how he found it). We left her with a kiss and cash and some clothes and a Dios Te Bendiga (God Bless You). As we made our way our of the hospital and into the car, it was the with the most overwhelming sense of awe at what I had just seen. I felt so fortunate to a) get to see the inside of this hospital and the incredible volume of patients and care and b) to be involved in helping this little girl. We had no idea whether she would live or die, but we knew that we’d given her every chance that we could give her. God was in charge, we left her in His hands.
**Update 1 – 8/22 she is still alive. She even slept a little bit last night.
**Update 2 – 09/03 (from Norma) I just spoke with Chelsy’s mother and the nurses are on strike at the hospital so patients aren’t getting all the care or treatments they need. Chelsy is not eating very well due to upset stomach. Please keep them in your prayers.

We were now faced with the prospect of getting out of San Pedro Sula during rush hour and then a 3-4 hour drive home at night. I thought that since I didn’t have to drive like an ambulance drive on Crystal Meth, that I’d actually be able to relax and enjoy the drive home, and at times I did. But most of the time, it was the absolutely terrifying experience of driving in Honduras at night. You come around a curve only to find that there are two cars abreast coming right at you as the one idiot tries to pass the other around a corner. And you don’t DARE move over to the shoulder because there are innumerable bicycles on the shoulder and you can’t see any of them (no reflectors). Once I drove right up on a group of bicycles in my lane with no reflectors. I barely missed hitting them. Once we drove by some teenagers lying down on the shoulder with their heads right on the white line – not sure but that was almost certainly drug related. This is really a scary place to drive at night. Through it all, I was blesses to have the most wonderful visit with Norma. A mature lady in her 50’s, originally from Montana, she is a living breathing example of what a woman of God is all about. She’s planted churches in Guatemala and South America. At 40, she attended nursing school. She has planted a church in a small village close to the hospital and it sounds like a thriving church. She and I visited about the condition of the church both here and in the states. Because of her closeness with the Hondurans, she is a treasure trove of information on how the local Hondurans’ views on faith, society, and gringos. She probably saved me a year’s worth of mistakes just telling me about her church and the believers there and how they view maters of faith. I also had the privilege of being stopped at one of the many check points operated by the policia – Honduran Police. She coached me through my responses. Because of her confidence in me I now feel very confident driving here – again, a tremendous gift. And so we arrived at the hospital around 11pm. Another missionary (thank you Renee) had picked up my dad and helped him buy groceries for us for the week and took him out to the hospital. The way the team works here is so amazing. When someone calls an audible (we need to take this kid to San Pedro Sula), the whole team responds. Ok, I’ll ride with her. Ok, I’ll get your dad and take care of everything here. Wow – thanks. Every hole in the schedule gets filled up with someone who is willing to go out of their way to help. It is like being part of a really good football team. What a blessing! This is how the church is supposed to work! Thank you Lord so much for the privilege of seeing it in action!