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Dear Family and Friends,
While all of the children brought to us for care are precious to The Lord, there is the occasional child who unwittingly steals one’s heart. Such was the case at the end of December – when we encountered an 8 year old boy by the name of Etienne on the Children’s Ward. Etienne had been admitted to the hospital following a severe burn which resulted in complete loss of his right foot as well as loss of all the toes of his left foot. As a consequence of his injuries, this child was crippled.
When Etienne initially came to my attention, he was a “bill pender” – meaning that, following a hospitalization of several weeks, Etienne had been discharged but his parent had no means of paying the bill. When this happens, patients are compelled to remain in the hospital environs to “wait for money” – as patients or their care takers petition family and friends for help in settling the bill. At roughly 450,000 francs (almost $800 USD), this was no small challenge.
When we examined the situation, it was still more grim because, once his bill was settled, Etienne would require a prosthesis if he was to ever again walk independently. The cost of a prosthetic device can even exceed that cited for Etienne’s hospitalization.
We enlisted the help of our social workers. These are specialized staff trained to provide help in troubleshooting the dilemmas faced by patients who are unable to settle their bills. No one was quite sure what to do for Etienne.
Then, to our surprise and delight, someone who had heard of Etienne’s plight fronted the money for his hospital bill. This enabled Etienne to be discharged on Christmas Eve Day – just in time for Etienne’s mother to take him home to be with the rest of the family for Christmas
Afterwards, recognizing that we’d failed to adequately address Etienne’s ambulatory status while he was hospitalized, I asked the head of our Physical Therapy Department, Timothy, if we couldn’t visit Etienne in his home to see how he was faring. This we did a few days after Christmas – at this juncture finding a lovely little 8 year old who was being carried about by adults and older children as he had no means of locomotion. It was clear, after we arrived, that the compound was not suitable for a wheelchair. The outside walk-ways and indoor surfaces were all of rough uneven dirt and the entry-way to the house was very narrow, hemmed in by a rocky vertical drop-off. This little guy who was often seen whizzing around the Children’s Ward in the hospital would not be able to safely use a wheelchair at home.
After examining Etienne, Timothy suggested that we take him back with us to the Physical Therapy Department to see if we couldn’t find a walker for him to start to use.
With the permission of Etienne’s mother, this was arranged. We made room in the vehicle for Etienne and his mother as we once again returned him to the hospital – this time as an out-patient. While in the physical therapy department, Timothy searched for a shoe that would fit Etienne’s left foot – in order to protect his tender skin which had not borne weight for a few months. Amazingly, Timothy also found a small walker suitable for this child.
After fitting Etienne out with his shoe and walker, in preparation for the trip home, Timothy shared the Gospel with Etienne’s mother. This particular staff member, who is a gifted physical therapist, is always keen to tell his patients about The Lord Jesus Christ.
And so Etienne returned home with a walker and instructions for its use. The joyful exuberance of this little boy, who could have easily chosen to wallow in self-pity and bitterness following a crippling injury, is very heartening. So too is the clinical skill and spiritual focus of the head of our Physical Therapy Department – who is indeed a gift to the hospital.
With Appreciation for your faithfulness, Julie