Monday, February 9, 2009

24 Hours in the 28th of August

(The past week I have spent over 100 hours in the hospital with Papa, 24-hour shifts, and night shifts. It was an amazing learning experience that really helped me appreciate my education, and enhanced my understanding of how Brazilian healthcare works. The following snippets are a small selection God's blessings.)

"Oi! Senhora!" A hospital employee waved Papa's cane at me. "You forgot this."
Embarrassedly expressing thanks I retrieved the cane and turned back to the wheelchair. In strongly accented Portuguese Papa was praying for the tropical giant. The transporter was the largest Brazilian I had ever seen. On our way to the new room when Papa commented on his height he said that he was 1 meter and 95 cm. Yet in spite of his strength he was battling a force stronger then himself, the addiction of nicotine, and for this release Papa was praying.

"Wait here please," the man disappeared around the corner and I wilted onto an empty seat near Papa's wheelchair. The hallways of the government hospital 28th of August were lined with gurneys, make shift IV poles, and people waiting with their loved ones. There was a muted drone of voices, punctuated by the hospital staff scurrying in and out among the masses, and framed by brown uniformed security guards at the entrances. God, it would be nice to be inside a room tonight – instead of this crowded hallway.
Minutes later, two sisters I meet at Graças'clinic rounded the corner nearly stepping on us. They were both nurses who worked at this hospital come to find us after their shift finished. Familiar faces, greetings, and helpful assurance.

Shoving a plastic sack under the metal frame I tried not to feel the roomful of nearly 20 pairs of eyes watching us. This was the 3rd room that evening and it was nearing midnight. The communication system of the hospital is still a mystery to me.
"Where is my cane?" Papa looked up at me with bewilderment as he transferred from the wheelchair to the bed. "I've got to have my cane."
"I don't know, I'll go look for it." I dumped his sheets beside him and retraced our steps through the crowded halls where we waited and could not find it anywhere. God, a cane seems small, but I know that you know where it is… and ummm… it's nearly midnight.
I barely sat down to explain temporary defeat when Martin, a German patient with a broken arm from our second room sauntered in swinging the renegade cane.
"I thought you might be looking for this." He grinned at my relief, "He left it in the bathroom."
Papa smiled with appreciation, "You just helped to answer my prayer."

The small room was lit by a small light on the side, and now after 1 p.m. most of the 10 patients in the room were beginning to drift off. There was barely room for a plastic lawn chair to fit between each bed. Nearly 20 people in a room less then the size of 2 hospital rooms in the States, and one bathroom at the end for us all and all the beds in the hall. Protocol seems to be if you need another place for someone you just tape a number up on an empty section of a wall. Papa smiles, squeezes my hand, and closes his eyes.

I zeroed my hearing onto the guards voice, trying to make my neurons synapse faster to decipher what he said . . . something like "do you need something?"
"No, I'm just waiting."
"You're not a Brazilian are you."
I shook my head, wishing that it wasn't so obvious.
"Where are you from?"
"The United States"
"Do you speak English?" He asks in English, grinning at his own attempt. "Sometimes I just feel the need to speak English."
Then he switches back to Portuguese, "Jesus loves you. You did not come to Brazil to become weaker. God is with you, and He will bless you."
Then he disappeared down the crowded hall. God, you knew that I needed to hear that. Thank you.

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