Friday, April 29, 2011

a chart review

i know her name.  
i know her age. 
i know she came to the hospital to have a baby, and she found out she had HIV.
i know they sent the hospital social worker to see her, to see how she handles the news.
the social worker's note documents tragedy. 
father of the baby died 4 months ago.  (street violence?)
two more little ones, ages 1 and 4 at home. 
year-old babe should get HIV testing.
patient's mom and stepfather died in the past year.
no other social supports. 
patient seems she safe to take home this new life?

the babe's chart is somewhere else, but i remember the hospital's collective sigh of relief when he came back negative for the virus.  

i know all these facts. but i don't know her. 
i don't know the joy she feels when her new babe wraps his hand around her finger. 
i don't know the agony of figuring who gave her an infection science has only figured out how to suppress but not cure.
i don't know the guilt that builds, realizing she could have passed the virus to this new life.
i don't know if there is anything in life that has made her resilient, that gives her hope, that strengthens her in the face of these injustices, if there is a god she clings to.  

i hope for her.  
that someone would come alongside her in this now increasingly difficult journey. 
that year-old babe would be virus-free. 
that echoes of hope, bouncing off unknown walls, would strengthen her soul.  
that she would know she is loved. 

and, as always, that hiv would end.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

from far away

it's difficult to be distant from places of suffering, to know a close friend is grieving the death of a sister on the other side of an ocean, to know that in a world where i wasn't sick myself that i would have been there already.

i know how the funeral will go.  it will start at midnight.  it will be dark; the family's homestead has no electricity. the dim light from candles will shine through the windows. no streetlights will lead the way to the home.  the milky way will hang overhead but offer little light. everyone will gather in the main room; the casket will rest in the front. the voices of those grieving will escape through the door - singing songs of praise to god.  just before the sun rises, the singing will stop.  a pastor will speak a eulogy.  friends and family will read pieces of scripture.  precious in the sight of the lord is the death of his saints.  i am convinced that neither death nor life...can separate from god's love.  the singing will restart as the room empties, and will continue down the winding road to the malanda cemetery.  the pallbearers will dig a hole as the rest of those grieving collect rocks from the side of the mountain.  the sun climbs over the edge of the mountain.  the singing remains. there is no one like jesus. i walk, i search, i turn around, but there is no one like him.  the casket is lowered into the ground, and earth covers it.  the collected stones form a pile, marking the grave.  and then those grieving sing their way back to the house where they feast and celebrate the life of the lost. 

across the continent of africa, the sun rises over those grieving the lives hiv has taken.  funeral directing has become a lucrative business as the death rate soars.  and we wake up this morning to yardfuls of easter eggs.  i wonder what it means that jesus has risen.  i wonder what the good news is for the continent of africa.

i light candles and send my SOS's to the heavens, begging for hiv to please end soon. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

a message from swaziland

"The global HIV/AIDS epidemic is an unprecedented crisis that requires an unprecedented response. In particular it requires solidarity -- between the healthy and the sick, between rich and poor, and above all, between richer and poorer nations. We have 30 million orphans already. How many more do we have to get, to wake up?" - Kofi Annan

it's good friday. 

i figured i would think about death at some point today.

a message from an expat in swaziland is my inbox when i wake: zandile's sister died this morning.  she collapsed and died as they arrived at the hospital.  she has two girls, now double orphaned.  they are surrounded by strong family.  zandile will cherish any words you send.  are you coming soon?

i pick up a sympathy card at a christian book store.  i know zandi deeply believes in god.  buying the card is an act of faith for me. asking god to surround you with his love, it reads. 

to get to the card section of the store, i walk past a series of book displays: so long, insecurity. fat-proof your family. lady in waiting: what do to while waiting for mr. right.  my stomach ties in knots.  two more children are orphaned in swaziland, adding to the other 100,000 across the nation.  none of this is represented by any of the titles i pass. 

now i sit with this card that wishes god's peace to my friend who just lost a sister and added two children to her own three.  what to say? my eyes flood with tears.  i'm deeply sorry for your loss.  i hope the peace i struggle to find in my own life may be overwhelming present in yours.  may your land produce enough food to feed two more mouths.  may there be money to pay their school fees this year.  may the god who claims to be the father to the fatherless be that to your two new children.  may the HIV that hides in your body be restrained by the medicines the swazi government graciously provides you.  may you live long and well.  may you not leave your now five children orphaned.  may you know you are loved. 

and may hiv please end.  soon. 

Friday, April 15, 2011

an introduction

i've been told over and over, "you should blog these stories."  these stories meaning...the stories of working at an urban hospital. the stories of being a medical professional and having a chronic illness.  the stories of hiv in a developed nation in 2011.  the stories from a life in swaziland.

these stories of my life seem incohesive and scattered. the common thread is a struggle to make sense of the tragedy and joy around me. to acknowledge the doubts and to somehow believe there is hope. to maybe even see god.

so for everyone who has encouraged me to blog these stories, this is for you.