when 'purpose' depends on the lesson


It's 1:21 am and I certainly should not be blogging right now. Oh, the grammatical errors that will surely ensue! Truth is I think I drank coffee too late in the day (I blame the time-change) and as an almost 26-year-old I believe that I am no longer young enough to tolerate caffeine at any old time of day. It appears that blogging is what happens when the house is completely quiet and I can't hear a thing but my own thoughts. 

Initially I was just replying to an email but it quickly turned bloggish.

The email I was writing was an update about Kelinise. Kelinise is an 18-year-old with Type 1 Diabetes that has been in the mix for about a year now. We've written about her a few times, here and here. The sender had stayed current regarding our friend but had just re-read the blog post where I let it all out, so to speak, and wanted to know what sort of response I had gotten when I wrote that post, several months back. 

I believe she's not the only one who would love to know how this sweet girl is fairing. 

I wrote: Blogging is a funny thing. The night I wrote the post I knew we needed more support to be able to meet all of her needs but adding that to the blog post was more of an after thought. I wrote that post more quickly than I've written anything, before or since (usually it takes me awhile). But when writing about Kelinise the words just came because her situation is so moving. I am really grateful for the relationship I have with her. I consider it a huge privilege that I get to interact with her on this level and be the one that's there for her in sickness (i guess that's the nurse in me). But I agree with you. I'm starting to see more and more of what God is teaching me through her. And it has a lot to do with grace and faithfulness (His). 

She came over today. I had a few things for her, including some shirts my mom sent for me that were way too small (what size does she think I am?! Maybe it's my massive muscles that prevented me from wearing that blouse...I'd like to think so anyway...) and some protein powder. But I also just wanted to see her.

I had kind of gotten used to seeing her everyday when she was in the hospital for a week at the beginning of this month. It wasn't her blood sugar this time. She suffered through a night of vomiting and brought herself to the clinic the next day. In consultation, she may have mentioned to the doctor that she had seen blood and he had appropriately admitted her to the inpatient adult unit. Thankfully, all her lab results, including her blood sugar, were normal. I know this not because that information is freely shared with the patients or family, but because I snuck a peak in her chart when no one was watching... (let's keep that between you and me). She really did look terrible that first day. It was full blown dehydration (sunken eyes, parched skin, the whole bit). But by 7 am the next morning she looked 10% better than her normal self. IV fluids can have that affect on people. 

She continued to look 100% for the next 6 days. The doctors must have been extremely preoccupied with the rest of the medical and surgical patients because Kelinise and another diabetic comrade were left for days without any orders for discharge. Gosh, they are patient. 

For a week I made a daily appearance at the hospital. Not at 7 am as much. An in with the orderly and the Haitian practice of freely exchanging cell phone numbers meant that I could call anytime other than between 8:00 AM and 8:30 AM (unit mopping time) and either of the hospital orderlies would pass their phone to the pit la (child). If she was doing okay, which she was, I could take my time. 

It's true, I could have left her with enough money to buy food for more than one day at a time but let's be honest, I like the girl. It's something special to have a spot next to her on that bed and sit there and, I'll use the word "chat," since gossip is frowned upon, with the candor of sisters who actually like each other. 

Sitting on patient beds, which by the way is not allowed, feels a lot like using the lavoratory in first class. It results in a harsh look from security which might be fine for some people, but is less tolerable for me, a person who finds rule-breaking uncomfortably painful. However, the security guards have grown soft on the matter of late and I've been taking advantage of it, for the good of the gossip. 

It totally throws the other patients. I watch them out of the corner of my eye. Some stare on with admiration and others just can't figure out how this little arrangement came about or what this little arrangement is. But they all like her. And they end up liking me as well. It's because I'm a soft spoken American and I speak Creole. At least I always get some points for that.

But back to why the other patients like Kelinise. They're encouraged by her. I believe seeing her manage, gives them strength. They see that she has no one by her bedside while they on the other hand have at least one if not three relatives at their beck and call. They need toothpaste? Relative #1 materializes with toothpaste in minutes. They need soup? Relative #2 buys the vegetables, cooks the soup and again... minutes later, materializes with a bowl of somethin'-somethin' that has precisely however much salt or bread or obscure ingredient the patient desires.
I'd say "I don't know how they do it!," but I do. They buy the vegetables from the vegetable vendors outside the hospital. They prepare the soup in an area alongside the hospital designated for that purpose and they serve the soup in serving dishes they've brought from home. You may see Haiti as disorganized but trust me, there's nothing more orderly than the rules and ways of hospitalized patients and their caretakers. There's order to most everything here. Here being Haiti... It just doesn't appear the way you're used to seeing it. The hospital might not be sterile but it certainly is structured.
Part of that structure is the gen moun, the "having someone."

The not having anyone? Kelinise bears it without blinking. She packs her own bag and straightens her own sheet and carries her IV bag with her to bathe herself and buy her medication. If she leaves home for a clinic visit but thinks her condition might warrant a hospital stay she buys a sliver of ice before leaving and washes out a plastic juice bottle to transport her insulin to the hospital, so that she has it at hand for her evening injection. To my friends with Type I Diabetes, that may sound like your normal. Of course, of course you would travel with insulin. But in Haiti.. if you are ill (excluding less socially acceptable conditions such as HIV) you have someone to do "the packing" and "the bringing" for you. 

Sometimes I'm her someone.   

But I'm so lame (permission to use the word). I tried to cook and bring her oatmeal like a true Haitian the morning after she was admitted but it was freezing cold by the time I made it to the hospital. I didn't put her through the torture of eating cold oatmeal complete with condensation dripping from the top of the tupperware (although, in admitting this I may be subjecting myself to condemnation from Jenn, the food police, whom I did not previously inform of this food-wasting infraction). Ok, maybe I don't know how they do it.. Boy did Myrlande the machan (food vendor) love me by the end of the week. 

Can I be honest and say that visiting the hospital was something of an escape? Visiting Kelinise everyday was a no-brainer. The hospital felt like home. There I know my purpose even without a job or a title. Even when my purpose is simply to arrive, to be there. I can fetch, and hand-hold, and small talk my way through an entire day and I never get confused. 

I sometimes get lost in this phase we're in right now with Second Mile Haiti. It's an organization that will one day be a ministry but is currently in the "building phase..." But sometimes I'm fine. Today, for example, I was fine. There was a goal: finish and send the newsletter. It was a pretty concrete task and we all (meaning Jenn and I) had decided it was kind of my job. So I didn't get lost today. 

But some days I have a hard time figuring out what is my role and what isn't. What does a nurse do with no patients? 

In Haiti as in ministry, you wear many hats. But when hat wearing is still somewhat theoretical (i.e. the ministry doesn't exist yet) daily duties are just a little more confusing, for me anyway. 

Some of you that know me well, knew me from my old job (a nurse of many kids), or understand what my future roll will be. You remind me that soon I'll be back in my element with little bodies to nurse and mothers to walk through the scary stuff. I'll be teaching and nurturing and empowering and I won't be one bit confused about it. 

Let's be clear, I'm not overly anxious to get there. I appreciate this phase and love it like I love a person. It's a brave new world and we're marching to the beat of faith. I am learning a lot in this third month of our second year as Second Mile Haiti. It's right where God has me and I have my heart bent to learn what he's teaching, i'm just job-title-less at times. 

Today, I did the only "nursing" thing I'll do for days maybe (unless of course Jenn asks for cough medicine through a syringe again... She's a weird one when she's sick but I am happy to oblige). I calculated the amount o carbohydrates in a scoop of protein powder and taught Kelinise how much she could take without causing her blood sugar to sky rocket. I mixed it up for her and made her drink it. She's quite capable of mixing and pouring but I did it this time to fulfill my need to "nurse." And she didn't mind. Then I had her step on the bathroom scale we have in our living room. We keep it there because our neighbors like to weigh in from time to time and that saves them the awkwardness of having to ask. I was happy I remembered to weigh her. The last time I mentioned anything about Kelinise she weighed 80 pounds. Not ideal for an 18 year old, not ideal. 

Today she weighed 93 lbs. She looked at me like the scale spoke English or something. I think she was just a little surprised to see such a sizable improvement. 

She's eating regularly. We have help with that. And she's living with her brother in a really healthy environment. He's a sweet kid (er..20 year old). I think he has some people in his life who notice the same thing about him that people notice about Kelinise. That is, he doesn't have anyone. And he shoulders it. He makes no excuses. He tries. 

Some professor of some class is letting him sit in on the lectures even though he hasn't paid any tuition. This is very generous and will help him when, at the end of the year, he makes another attempt to pass the government issued post-high school test that could lead to a certificate.  

It's complicated, their family. Sort of, I mean I could give you the basic run-down or you could refer to the older posts but basically, Mom had a stroke. Dad now lives with a woman who is anti- kids-from-wife #1. All the older siblings are busy trying to take care of themselves. Dad is busy trying to take care of the 6 younger siblings he had with wife #2. That leaves Kelinise with a chronic illness and Kelinos, her brother, with a bright future ahead of him and no means to pay for it, all by themselves, an hour's drive from any relative in a house that belonged to a sibling that has long since left Haiti. Yeah, I guess 'complicated' is the appropriate descriptor. 

So we dabble. We dabble in their lives and maybe it's dabbling. But in dabbling I'm loving and I sure am learning. 

God thank you for protecting and sustaining these two lives. You whisper to their spirits and I see them moving closer to you. Thank you! Richly bless them with spiritual gifts, sweet Jesus.

Kelinise and Kelinos. They are good kids, indeed. 

And I'm not lost, just learning something new.