"Always something different"
What a difference a day makes! ---8:32 am--- I never know what to expect when I arrive at the Maternidad. This morning was no exception. I had just sat down to continue work on the virtual tour of the clinic when, Sister Maggie, approached with “do you want to see something very special?” I have come to know that answering that question in the affirmative could mean your going to see one of the orphans in the yard or for a 30 minute ride to some barrio, however, sensing Sisters obvious excitement I quickly agreed. We strolled toward the maternity ward while Sister excitedly told of the seven new births since leaving the clinic last night at 9pm. She was particularly excited to show me one of the new children. Donning a gown we proceeded into the neonate IU where Sister directs me to an incubator containing a very tiny baby. Not significantly larger than my hand and on the respirator necessary to sustain his life, he was born last evening in a somewhat unorthodox way. His mother reported that while sitting at home she had a pain, followed immediately by the spontaneous birth of her second child. Home alone and tending to her toddler she managed to get a cab to the Maternidad from San Luis. During the 20 minute ride she tended to her toddler while holding the newborn, still attached to the cord, between her legs. Minutes after arriving the cord was cut, the placenta delivered and the baby weighting 88 grams was intubated and placed in the incubator. Were it not for the Maternidad, this child would be dead. Migal Santarico Avila, born January 27, 2004 is yet another one of the thousands of miracles that take place here every year. --- 8:49 am--- Still buzzing from the excitement of the story and viewing this intimate struggle for life, Father Jules, approached and asked me to document the “emergency baptism” of Migal. Once again donning the gown, Father and I enter the IU where I was able to document the most incredibly tender moment I have ever experienced. As the water fell on the tiny forehead, my tears fell on the viewer of my camera. This is the picture that resulted. What a difference a day makes! Again I struggle against my inadequate vocabulary as I try to put into words what can only be felt. It was only one second in time. A second as delicate as the powder on a butterfly’s wing and as powerful as an ocean storm; intense power and complete humility! I witnessed, one single second, when the universe stopped spinning and the humble was touched by the divine. I witnessed the smallest and most fragile, most innocent and most humble of human life being united with the awesome power of God. To realize God Himself was reaching out to this child. And in choosing the person of Father Jules to complete His work made the experience no less awe-inspiring. At no point in my life have I ever been so filled with such humility, respect, and joy. Father next blessed the young life as those who witnessed, prayed. -----9:15 am ---- Still in a state I can only describe as emotional exhaustion. Sister Lillian asks me to go to the Posta (outpatient clinic – the tours coming I promise) to see a woman who’s daughter is having a problem recovering from a broken leg. Upon arriving Juana, our home visit nurse from the first day, pointed out an old woman. Dressed in the traditional garb of the mountain women of Peru, the woman explained that her daughter had broke her leg over a year ago and was still not able to walk without falling. To make matters worse this young woman was the only one in the house capable of providing an income for the family. ----9:30 am---- Only an hour had passed since I first arrived at the Maternidad and now I was on a collectiva (small van) packed with 21 (I counted) others including Juana and the old woman, heading to her home in San Jose. When I go on a house call I simply let go of my expectations; the realm of possibilities you may encounter are simply too great. As the van circled its way up the small mountain I witnessed hut upon hut, unimaginable poverty. The view however, was spectacular. The valley below with the squalor in miniature appeared as a view overlooking some wonderful What a difference a day makes! California mountain valley. And while walking to the woman’s house was truly beautiful it required care. Walking down the side of a sand mountain requires a bit of finesse. ---10:14 am---- The walk from the van to the old woman’s home took about 10 minutes, almost straight down. Upon arriving we were greeted by the inhabitants of the house, including, the old woman’s daughter, two ducklings, a young turkey, several Note hill incline chickens in a cage, a few cats and two dogs. Being a very gracious hostess the old woman brushed the dirt from several old chairs before asking us to sit down. Using my best Spanish I was able to determine the young woman, Gloria, is 29-years-old. She broke her femur two years ago and was in a cast for 8 months and on crutches for a year. She had not received any physical therapy after the cast was removed. After completing an evaluation, I was able to determine she had significant residual weakness in the left leg. This was particularly problematic because leaving her home required going up or down the mountain. Secondary to the weakness she was trapped in her home. Having assessed the problem, I turned it over to the personal trainer, Me! I can’t prescribe exercise in Peru without a licensed PT present so I put on my ACSM HFI (health/fitness instructor) hat and established a fitness program Gloria could do on her own. There was no way Gloria could get to a clinic and no financial resources even if she could. So, necessity, being the mother of invention, I filled a small, plastic grocery bag with sand until it was adequate to insure improvement in her strength. Three sets of 10 reps to positive failure with instructions to increase the volume of sand as tolerated. Next, a few closed chain exercise, several reviews of the protocol and a kiss on the cheek (traditional greeting) and were climbing the hill toward home (the picture doesn’t do it justice). We are going back in two weeks to check on her progress and modify the program. I hope to get her up the hill before I leave. What a difference a day makes! ---12:27 pm--- We arrive back at the Maternidad and off to lunch; always an interesting event. Today were playing, “is that chicken?” Not really, the lunches here are tasty and well- balanced. However, my stomach is still very marginal. --- 12:49 pm--- Finally some time to work on the half dozen computer related projects I have going. I may even get to this weeks chapter but no promises. ---2:50 pm--- We have another new baby, he is 3 days old. His mother, a drug addict, had planned to abandon him, but some unknown saint persuaded her to bring him here. The mother failed to give him a name so the staff named him Angelito “little angel.” Angelito will become the newest addition to the ever growing orphan’s center. Originally, built for six orphans, Angelito makes 20 children living here now. Physically deformed, he has no legs and is missing several fingers. Again, without this center Angelito would quite possibly be dead. Certainly, he would have a very bleak future and because of his challenges it will still be rough going, but he will not go it alone. ---3:30 pm--- Well, it’s time to go to work in the Physical Therapy department. Good thing the morning was slow or I’d be too tired to work with the kids. Please excuse the sarcasm. After work tonight I have plans to catch mass, and than off to my “special place” for dinner. We’ll talk more about my dietary adventures in Peru at some later date. Well I hope you enjoyed sharing the day with me. All the things I just described. You were all there with me. It was you who sent me here and your prayers that keep me here. I miss home tremendously; if I ever finish the next chapter you’ll see that. But the work we, you and I, are doing here is worth the sacrifice. Please continue to keep the missions work in your prayer. God Bless you and yours Peace Bill