Pablo is 13 years old. He has never been able to walk because he was born with spina bifida (essentially no nerve supply to his legs). His mother has put him on her back, wrapped him in her shawl and taken him wherever he has needed to go. He has not been able to attend school as a result and cannot read or write. His family learned of the ´new ‘wheelchair clinic coming with something that would allow him to be able to move about on his own and let his mother be more independent to care for his 3 younger siblings. It is about 5 hours by walking and then bus and normally they could not have afforded it. Faith In Practice however is helping to pay (mainly through the generosity of the donors to the Share The Mission pages of the volunteers) so they can go to see the American doctors and their chairs that bring mobility and freedom. They arrive curious and anxious, full of hope and yet not too much in case they are disappointed. They are relieved to be greeted by the warm smiles of Kristel and Josue (our veteran directors) who register them without hesitation. Kerstin, our wound nurse has volunteered to help do the history and physicals and puts Pablo through the most thorough examination of his short life with Claudia happily translating for him. He is directed next to the PT, Ira (stepping back into clinical work from his chiefly administrative role back in Montana) who greets him with a smile the firm handshake of confidence. Expertly sizing Pablo, the message is sent to Judy and BJ to assemble the appropriate chair.
He and his mother’s smiles are irrepressible as he is seated in his new, sky blue collapsible chair for the first time. Tears of joyful thanks appear as they realize their hope has become reality and God has helped make this a blessed day for them both. It is not possible for even the seasoned therapists and translators to not get caught up in the emotion: Ease their way.
Few team members are doing only the work outlined in their initial job description. Kerstin is now wound care nurse and physician assistant to the clinic doctor. Jesus (whose clinic in Pasco, WA all chipped in to help him afford to come on this trip he has dreamed of joining to give back to those less fortunate) is both translator and wheelchair assembler. BJ Moore (Chief Information Officer of Providence) was initially somewhat daunted by his new role but has emerged as a master at wheelchair assembly. Judy is now both our chaplain and a woman to be respected for her skill with an impact driver assembling the chairs. Laura is both team coleader and pharmacist. Each one when initially asked if they could step outside their comfort zone and help the team care for our Guatemalan patients has said simply, ¨Tell me what you want me to do¨
The day ends with our team´s-tired smiles of knowing accomplishment. Stories are shared of patient´s trials and their later smiles, laughter and joy. Almost 40 patients have had theirs and their family´s lives liberated and changed today and we, too, feel grateful.
By Joseph Austin