Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Unselfish Love

 Photo Compliments of the Talented Photographer Natasha Kanji

"Doctor,  i de hambok mi plenti!" That is how he began as he expressed in the local language, Pidgin, how his symptoms distressed him. The patient was a 44 year old man. His cheeks and eyes sagged and had that hollow look seen in a person who works hard and eats little. He had his best clothes on, yet he wore just a t-shirt and slacks. A belt cinched tight around his waist held up his pants  that were many sizes too big for him. Although clean, he still smelled faintly of dirt and perspiration that is so characteristic of the farmers here.

The man sat across from me. Between my limited Pidgin and his limited English, we managed to communicate. When he said, 'i de hambok mi' he was using the common Pidgin word that means to distress, worry, bother, even cause physical pain. 

"At night,  doctor,  I get cold and I shake. I no sleep fine. I feel hot and then I feel too cold. All my skin de hurt me." (skin means body in pidgin). "When I get hot and cold, I have headache." 

As he spoke, he used his hands to indicate that his head, neck, back, arms, and legs gave him pain. He continued with his symptoms. 

"I don't have appetite. I am weak. I can't work fine." 

"How long have you had these problems", I asked. I expected the normal response which is usually 2 to 4 days. That is the most anyone can tolerate shaking fevers, headaches and severe body pains before seeking medical attention and relief!

"Two weeks, doctor", he answered.

I wasn't sure I understood him correctly. "Two weeks?" I repeated. 

"Yes, doctor, two weeks."

"Why didn't you come sooner," I asked.

"Well, doctor, you know how it is. My children go back to school. They need uniforms, and school fees, books and paper and other things. I have to buy them first. I no get money to go for doctor."

Although our fees for consults, lab tests and medications are priced as low as we can offer and still cover costs, they were still high for him. Consults cost about 4 USD and a malaria test costs 2 USD. Medication is anywhere from 1 to 2 USD. Not much for American standards. Not much for many of the educated and working Cameroonians living in the cities either. But for a farmer who barely makes enough to feed his family, the costs are expensive.

My heart went out to the man. Having had an episode of malaria with high fever, severe body aches and incredible fatigue, I could not imagine how he managed to work for the past few weeks. Malaria tends to have a cyclic fever, often peaking every 24 hours. Hence the night fever people speak of. He suffered long with these symptoms in order to make sure his children had all the necessities for school. It was a sacrifice of love in my mind. 

I suppose he didn't even think twice though. He was just doing what any Father would do for his children. His children were his priority. Although he was an uneducated, poor farmer, he wanted his children to go to school and do more than farming when they graduated. 

The patient's blood test revealed many malaria parasites as suspected. I was able to give him medication to cure his malaria and help his fever and pain. 

"I thank you, doctor!" He beamed. He accepted the medicine wrapped up neatly in the traditional tiny medicine bags with both hands. Accepting gifts in this way shows respect and great gratitude. It is the proper way to receive a gift. Giving or accepting a gift or money with only the left hand is still considered impolite by almost everyone here. 

"You are welcome, my friend. I will pray for you. Take your medicine now. You will feel better soon," I reassured the man.

The patient left with a smile. 

I pray he has a peaceful sleep tonight with no shaking fevers. May God grant him healing in body and soul. His self sacrificing love was  a demonstration of the kind of love  Christ has toward us and wants us to have for others. I pray that I can be focused on Christ rather than myself so that I too may manifest the same spirit of love.

"When you do things, do not let selfishness or pride be your guide. Instead, be humble and give more honor to others than to yourselves."  Philippians 2;3

Photo Compliments of the Talented Photographer Natasha Kanji