"I don't know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you
who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve" Albert Schweitzer

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Crimson Cannonball

Jason Brink recently returned from a volunteer stint with Team Templeton at Hopital Adventiste.  He describes his role as follows:
"I was working on just general maintenance, and just working on keeping the hospital from falling apart.  I was working with Tima Masters, who arrived in the same group as I did, in general maintenance.  When there I told the other volunteers I was on the "Fixing Broken Stuff Brigade."  We did things like fix broken doors, put up towel racks, fix lots of broken cots, and just generally do what we could to improve the basic quality of life around HAH.  I cannot fix bones, nor can I stitch neatly, but I was able to help David make some shoes for Adnisse, and fix the doors in pediatrics Michelle accidentally ripped off.  :P"
L to R:  Tima Masters, Victoria Mulder, Jason Brink
Jason is an excellent writer with eclectic tastes and I spent far too much time last night reading his Crimson Cannonball blog when I should have been dictating my charts. He is also a very talented photographer and you can access a gallery of his images here.  I suggest viewing them in the slideshow mode to optimize the experience.
I wanted to share the following story from his blog and encourage you to spend some time perusing his posts...I found it worthwhile reading.
Today, I made some shoes for a woman who has only walked once in her life.  I was walking down the hallway on some errand when I was met by one of the orthopedic surgeons.  In his hand he held two shoes, the type you would tie onto the bottom of a cast to make it possible to walk.  He asked me if it would be possible to cut the shoes down, to fit smaller feet.  I examined the shoes, and asked if I could see the patient who needed them, to get a better feeling for her disability.  He had mentioned she had a congenital birth defect that had never been corrected, but nothing could have prepared me for the sight that greeted me when I walked into the room.  In the hospital bed (and she is one of the fortunate long term patients who gets an honest-to-goodness bed) lay a woman with a smiling face and bright eyes, her name was Adnisse.  Her younger sister, Mali, was at her side.  Adnisse was draped with a light sheet, but underneath the sheet I could see the ugly bulky shapes of external straighteners. The end of the sheet was pulled back to reveal her feet...two twisted and broken clubs.  
Adnisse is 22, though I would have placed her much younger than that.  She was born like this, and for her entire life has known nothing other than the floor.  Her knees are knobby and misshapen from being crawled on her entire life. Her legs are in external straighteners, elaborate braces with screw points that go down to her bones, in an effort to stretch out her knees so that she can walk on them.   Two days ago, Adnisse walked for the first time.  To visualize what it is like for her to walk, imagine standing up on your feet...but imagine walking on the top of one of your feet, your entire foot inverted.  Then, imagine walking on the side of your other foot, but turn it inward to point at the heel of your first foot.  Her legs themselves were nothing more than sticks, atrophied by 22 years of disuse.  
I stood there, holding these two shoe blanks, looking at this girls feet.  I took some mental notes about what I would need to do, and took the blanks down the hall.  I walked down to the end of the hallway and sat looking out at the tropical rain and thought about this girl.  Adnisse: 22, father killed in the earthquake, mother paralyzed with a stroke, only her little sister to sit by her side and sleep at her feet.  I sat and watched the rain and thought about this...I wept.  This girl, so happy and brave, and drawing the shortest of the short straws in a country of nothing but short straws.  For a while I just sat, my gut twisted by the immense unfairness of everything this girl has been subjected to.  All of this, and I had been chosen to make shoes for her.  
I sat there, staring out at the banana trees and watching the rain as I worked on her shoes.  For the rest of the afternoon I whittled away at the shoes, cutting them apart, tearing out their stitching to break them down to component parts, and then slowly beginning to stitch the new shoes together.  I am not good at sewing, but I wanted this girl to have good shoes, so I worked at it all day.  Once I had resewn the shoes, we padded them very well and took them down to her room.  As we walked in, her sister was toweling down her feet with cool water and trying to rub a cramp out.  They were both happy to see us, and we got to put the shoes on her feet, lift her out of bed to stand on her feet with a walker, and watch her take a few steps into the hallway.  You could see the strain in her face and her body as she struggled to support herself on her walker...a slow painful shuffle down the hall with her new shoes.  She said they made her feet feel better, and that it made her feel more safe than walking with her feet on the bare concrete and tile of the hospital floor.  The shoes still require some modification, but they were a success...I helped a girl take her first steps in shoes of her entire life.

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