There has been much reflection over the past few days since leaving Benin about the mission, the people, and our team.
To summarize: Empathy, Love, Gratitude, Humanity
Sister Monique was so very instrumental in making everything just WORK! Her persistence, organizational skills, Empathy and Love were so very inspirational.
All the needs we have taken care of from organizing fresh fruit and bread, laundry service, taxi service, tour arrangements, made to measure African dresses, skirts and OR hats. Her phone was always in her hand arranging for one thing or another even before we could ask. Throughout all this, she was also head of the Brazilian medical team comprised of 1 doctor and 3 interns. I truly enjoyed our talks and her genuine concern for everyone on this trip, she is a very special person and someone I hope to see again someday soon.
I am so appreciative to all the surgeons who allowed me to enter their Operating rooms and took the time to explain procedures and answer my questions. I was able to observe a mastectomy which I had undergone myself in 2008 and have always been curious about the procedure. The patient was only 24 years old and I remember thinking how incredibly difficult it must be to not have access to products such as prosthesis and after surgery treatments due to their inability to afford them. I was told that the type of surgery is often based on the patients’ ability to pay for post-surgery care and treatment. Often lumectomies are not elected due to the fact that often radiation and/or chemotherapy are recommended as a post-surgery treatment and not affordable for most.
I was also fortunate to be able to hold newborn babies, just minutes old which was such an incredible feeling. To watch a newborn open their eyes, trying to focus and take in the new world in which they had just entered only minutes before was magical. I have two children of my own and remember the flooding of love when I looked into their eyes. This experience was no different and they were not my babies but I cherished every minute, I think I have found a new career as a baby whisperer!
I often joined the surgeons in the evening during their rounds so I could find out how the patients that we had come to know we’re doing. I was amazed at how respectful the families were when we entered the wards. Often there were 6 beds in each ward and between the beds were family members sitting or sleeping on the floor. These family members were charged with caring, feeding and cleaning the patient. Upon our entry into the wards, all the family members would jump to their feet. The gratitude of the patient and the family was very evident and not once did I hear anyone complain of pain or needing more medication. They were filled with gratitude. It became apparent to me that these people have been marginalized for so long that they would not speak unless spoken to and if you simply acknowledged them with a hello or a smile, they absolutely beamed. This was probably the thing that made me the saddest, it wasn’t their unclean and basic living conditions or that fact that construction workers had no shoes and worked barefoot, it was the fact that the people have been oppressed, overlooked and unnoticed for so long that a simple smile or hello was greeted with such appreciation and big genuine smiles, I wanted to cry.
The simple joys that western civilization takes for granted are not lost in Africa. A caring hand, love of family, the joy of children playing soccer together, attending church and have a belief that God is taking care of them. I found all these things so incredibly grounding and uplifting that I wish those who complain about not having enough could have the opportunity to walk amongst these lovely people for a day or week to truly get a perspective that would benefit all.
If you have an opportunity to help with a mission such as this or provide some funds to help others you will be helping our global community and help humanity in ways we all can no matter how big or small.
Thank you to all the doctors who provided free surgeries who changed and saved the lives these people. They would not have had the money to do so without them.
Bless this team and all they did during our mission, I am grateful to them and the opportunity to be part of it.
What the world needs more of is Emphaty, Love, Gratitude, and Humanity.
Sarah Daly, MBA ( aka Den mother )