I can’t help but feel humbled by the privilege I have to serve.
~Major Mig Lavenbein
Sunday, January 31, 2016 – we started our day by worshiping at the San Pedro Sul Corps (church). We were blessed abundantly as we were lead in worship by the youth of the church through singing, drama & interpretive dance. The people of the church welcomed the medical brigade “home,” and said that in the 16 years that they have been coming, it always feels like the family is complete when they arrive.
Following worship we quickly changed into casual clothes and ate lunch, and then set up our first medical clinic. No amount of words I write will be able to paint a picture worthy of our first day with patients at the clinic.
But first I want to rewind to Saturday night, when I arrived. Upon flying into Honduras, the line to go through customs was HUGE. I, of course, was at the very end of the line feeling deflated, because I saw other Salvation Army people near the front of the line. Suddenly a man approaches me and says “I’m Dr. Russ Raymond,” and he moves all of The Salvation Army people RIGHT TO THE FRONT OF THE LINE!! This guy immediately become my hero!!
I hand the immigration officer my passport and form that I had filled on the flight and she asks me to please give some Kevin guy who had gone before me his form. Apparently he had forgotten to take it with him. I think to myself, “I guess, but why can’t this Kevin guy do things for himself?”
I walk over and I say “Hi Kevin” sort of in a question, but sort of in a statement. “You forgot your immigration form and I have no intention of being your personal assistant this week, so you’ll need to keep track of your things.” I have no idea whatsoever what possessed to be such a smarty pants. I’m going to say the lack of sleep and flying alone to a foreign country played a role. Perhaps I can suggest that I hadn’t a drop of coffee either. What I do know is that Kevin jokingly answers back and says “Well she should have given it to me.” We joked around for several minutes and I immediately liked him.
Now every doctor gets an interpreter. Many doctors like to keep the ones they have been working with because they have devolved a system. The doctors met yesterday, and among many of the things, they selected their interpreters for the week. Imagine my surprise when I was informed that Dr. Kevin Polsley selected lucky me to be his personal assistant and interpreter this week. I’m thinking no one really wanted the newbie. They drew straws and he lost. Poor guy!
I had a great time with him in the field Sunday and he was only a tiny bit bossy (just kidding!) What I learned about Dr. Polsley during the medical brigade’s first clinic is that he is a kind and compassionate man. He treats every patient with a tremendous and profound amount of respect and dignity. Nothing seemed to small or too silly to him. He patiently waited while each of his patients spoke, often in such quiet voices, to then have their concerns translated. At one point we had a whole adorable family whose 3 year old kept playing with all the “doctor tools” and kept touching Dr. Polsley’s phone. The whole family was beyond cute! Dr. Polsley just smiled at the little future doctor and told the mom that his daughter touches his phone all the time. His kindness quickly put the mother at ease. I might add that his Spanish is on point.
We had a woman who complained of arthritis. She told us it got worse after her mother passed away. She was tearful and I wanted to cry with her. I had to mentally say to myself, “Do not cry. Do not cry.”
Every patient that came through today was triaged. They all came in with their information written on their form. They have things like their weight, blood pressure, their chief complaint and a list of their medications. My doctor could have simply read the form in front of him and moved the patients through quickly, but I loved what he did. He read the form and then he would ask “What can I do for you?” The form already had the reason they were coming to the clinic, but he wanted to make that one-on-one connection by asking the question. He took the time to make each person feel valued and important.
I’m a firm believer that regardless of how talented or how educated you are, how you treat people will speak volumes of who you are as a person. My doc is hero and he hasn’t a clue. He is a gentle man full of compassion and integrity. In fact, so are all the doctors on this trip. They all treat their patients with same tenderness that Dr. Kevin does.
Isn’t it wonderful when we are treated with dignity and respect? When we are valued? When others treat us as though we are of grand importance? It’s a pretty amazing feeling. That must be our challenge. To treat others with that same feeling we embrace and long for ourselves.
PS: I discovered that my comb is missing. It must not have ever made back into my bag after the TSA agent tossed it. Apparently he added it to his comb collection. Well played, Mr. TSA Agent, well played.