Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Patient Story Series #4: the girl with leukemia

When I was in nursing school, we were required to go down to Mexico every semester for clinical hours.
We partnered with a church near Biola who had a relationship with a church in Tecate, and would send a team down about once a month.
The Biola nursing department provided a few faculty and a prolific amount of under-qualified, over-eager nursing students.

To be honest, I dreaded that Saturday once a semester when we had to get up at 5 am, meet at the church, assign jobs and cars, and start the three-hour drive south.
Some days we only spent 2 hours seeing patients, and we wouldn’t get home until 9pm, hungry and exhausted.

This was especially true after they started making us charter a bus down, and having us walk over the border and be shuttled to the church on the other side.
All because one of the professors went to buy some prescription drugs while we were down there, got in an accident and was held overnight in a Mexican prison because he bought the wrong insurance.
Good one, Professor Johnson.

At the clinic a first and second year nursing student were paired together, and would see patients.
In true Mexico fashion, you don’t see one patient at a time, you see one FAMILY at a time.
We’d see up to 7 people from a family at a time, going through each of their problems one by one.
And honestly, we couldn’t do much for them.
We had a large stash of over the counter drugs we’d hand out, and we’d “refer” them to a doctor if their problem was more serious. 
But we all knew they wouldn’t go.
That’s why they were there, seeing us.
They didn’t have money to see a doctor.

One of the last times I went to Mexico, I was working with a first year student.
We were seeing a family – a grandmother and her four grandchildren she was caring for.
It was the end of the day, other students had finished with their last patients and had started cleaning and loading up our supplies.
We finally got to the last child in the family – a 12-year-old girl.
Through our translator, her grandmother told us she’d been complaining of her gums bleeding frequently, and small red spots had begun to form under her skin.
She was tired, and had very little appetite.
We checked her lymph nodes, which were noticeably swollen.

I called over our faculty who specialized in pediatrics.
She assessed her, and took me aside to talk.
She said to me, “We can’t know for sure without blood tests, but she most likely has leukemia.“
She told me to give them a referral to a doctor.

Being careful not to scare them too badly, I had my translator explain to them that the symptoms she described could be something serious, and she needed to take the girl to see a doctor.

I pray she did, but I confess I’m doubtful.
And even if she did, what then?
Could this woman struggling to raise four small children in a third world country afford chemo or radiation for this precious young girl?

I was struck with the disparity of our worlds.
In my world, anything would have been done to save that girls life.
Facebook pages, fundraisers and benefits would’ve been planned to help pay for whatever treatment she needed.

In their world, those options don't exist. 
There are no children's hospitals, no oncology centers, no facebook pages - not for them. 

I wish I could say I spent the next days, weeks and months praying for that girl. 
Begging the Lord to heal her, to reveal Himself to her. 

I honestly don't remember what I did. 

I have no idea why God chooses to place one person in a position of financial comfort and resources and another in poverty.
But if I've learned one thing, it's that God is bigger than any financial constraints or comfort.
He is bigger than our situations, however dire they may seem - like this shy, awkward adolescent girl's. 

I pray God gives us the strength, zeal and endurance to continue to lift up to Him the needs of those in seemly "dire" situation.
He is greater, so much greater. 


  1. thank you for sharing this.
    it is a critical reminder to take the focus off ourselves (myself). to see things from a right perspective, and to lift up others in prayer.

    love you boots.
    keep 'em coming.

  2. Betsy! Wow!! What a crazy reminder...
    I feel like I need to get out of the country for a while! :) Thank you for sharing.

    Just wanted you to know, I nominated you for a Liebster Award! Check out my blog about it for more details!