Day 13


“Erik, I think I am going to need some help.”

“Okay,” I said as I rubbed the sleep from my eyes. I heard Dan outside my room rustling around. I opened the door to find him at the sink of the bathroom looking in the mirror and holding tissues to his face. Dan likes to get up early and ride his bike before many people get on the road. Unfortunately, this morning Dan took a bit of a spill.

I went over to Dan and took a look at his face. He had a huge gash on his upper lip right under his nose.

“It looks like you are going to need some stitches.” The gash in his lip was quite deep. It looked like the flesh of his lip had been peeled back by the road. Luckily, his teeth were okay and the cut had not gone through his lip. He had scratches all over his face and on his hands and wrists. Dan had been smart and had been wearing his helmet. Safety first!

Guillermo, our neighbor, had helped Dan up our drive and was still there in the doorway. I told him we needed stitches, and he said we could possibly get them in Panajachel, at the Center for Health. Guillermo called the emergency services for us to take us there. They arrived 15 minutes later, and the volunteer paramedic was, go figure, an American.

They took us down to Panajachel where we hoped to get Dan stitched up. The paramedic had only lived in Guatemala for the past eight months, but had been a paramedic for over twenty years in the states. He was the only one in unit that spoke English. What are the chances?

We arrived at the Center for Health, where Dan was able to get stitched up by a Guatemalan doctor who was educated in Cuba. At the end, we asked if we could pay, but it was all free. No payment necessary.

Needless to say Spanish classes for the day were shot. I sent Dan back home in a taxi, and I ran a few errands in town. When I finally made it back to the house in Patantic, I realized I had lost my cell phone. We needed some other supplies for the house, so I headed back into town. I thought I might have lost my phone in the ambulance so I headed for the station. On my way there, I ran into Pedro, and told him all about Dan’s accident. Pedro quickly offered to help and we hopped on his Moped. For the next couple hours, Pedro and I raced around town on his bike picking up necessities. The phone turned up at the fire station, and all was resolved. Pedro came up to Patanatic to check on Dan, and was sincerely sorry for him.

It is an odd way to start your day, to wake up to your roommate clutching his face asking for help. We are lucky it wasn’t any more worse, it very easily could have been. Dan still has all his teeth, and there seems to be no brain damage, yet. No just joking, he is all there.

Health assessments were waiting for me at 2 so I headed to the office. I still doubt the effectiveness of my assessments. They seem to be very futile. I have no medicine to offer, and I have very little education to offer. The communication barrier seems insurmountable. Jorge and I had a long talk this evening and decided that something needs to change. We have decided to cancel the health assessments with the families. There are problems on many levels. Language primarily. On the other had, we have asked the entire family to come; mother, father, and children. But there winds up being only one member from each family. The past two days have been very frustrating.

I am not frustrated in my knowledge as a nurse. I feel competent for the most part. What I am disappointed in is my inability to communicate. There is no doubt that I desire to serve and to help, but I don’t have the adequate capacity to just yet. We tried out something, and it didn’t work. So we need to make adjustments. I am holding on to the fact, as my father reminded me, nothing is wasted. Even though this aspect of our work is not functioning, it hasn’t been wasted. I am learning with each person.

After I left the office, I headed over to the house where I visited the sick boy yesterday. He seemed to improve a little although he sounded more congested today. Unfortunately, his whole family seems to be sick and the house is quite crowed. There is a saying here: Mayo de mal. Everyone gets sick in May. I am planning on returning again tomorrow, hopefully to find the family in a little bit better condition. If no improvement by Thursday, we will need to seek further action.

I returned home quite discouraged. It was a hard day. I began cooking dinner for Dan and I and had the chance to speak with Jorge for quite a while. We planned out the next few days and will try to adjust. If one thing doesn’t work, you try another. Jorge was very sorry to hear about Dan’s accident.

Cesar heard about the accident and came over to our house to see how he was doing. It was right as Dan and I were sitting down to eat, so we invited him to join us. I was excited to share the Guatemaloteca salsa I had made. Cesar approved of my skills and seemingly enjoyed the dinner. I was pleased with myself as I was able to understand most of what Cesar was saying, although I am sure he speaks very simply for us.

I will do assessments again tomorrow as the word has already gone out to the families. After that, we will have to figure out something different. Just another day in Guatemala, what in the world could tomorrow hold?

Day thirteen, and I’m still breathing.